Last Monday, as part of a day off for CELEBROMACY, I went to see PACIFIC RIM, since I was out of town during the weekend and couldn’t get away to see the movie.
Wait or not, damned if that movie isn’t the best action flick of the summer.
If you like to get your thoughts about movies aurally, you can go here to listen to me chatting about the movie with the Shoot the WISB crew: http://skiffyandfanty.com/2013/07/20/05-pacific-rim-2013-a-shoot-the-wisb-discussion-w-michael-r-underwood/
The biggest thing about PACIFIC RIM, for me, is that it 100% delivers on its promises. In the trailers, the selections we were shown promised a very few things:
1) Giant Mecha punching Kaiju
2) Idris Elba yelling inspirational stuff.
And on those counts, it delivers in spades. A lot of people have called PACIFIC RIM a ‘big dumb action movie,’ but in my opinion, it’s quite a bit smarter than the average action movie.
I liked the movie so much that I bought the tie-in comic (good as far as tie-in comics go), the film score (excellent), and ordered a Gipsy Danger action figure (which will join the red Angry Robot and the dinosaurs on my desk).
Spoilers from here on out.
Like many Science Fiction films, it has a gimmie – one thing that doesn’t particularly make sense, but if you accept it as true, the rest of the film holds together. PACIFIC RIM’s gimmie is “giant mecha are the best weapons for fighting the kaiju.” Most everything else, I buy. I buy the idea that it takes two minds to handle the neural load of controlling a Jaeger. I buy that when the tide turned, several government leaders would come up with an idea as stupid as the Great Wall of Cowardice. And I believe that a gangster like Hannibal Chau would do exactly what he did, both in bargaining for salvage rights and trying to drift with the Kaiju.
Several people have remarked that the movie is reminiscent of XCOM. I agree, and totally approve.
Plus, that enables the teamwork and inter-reliance which is so important in the film.
This isn’t a movie about one guy being so awesome he can save the whole world. It’s a film about the entirety of humanity banding together to protect one another by funding the Jaeger program. It’s a movie that says “We can survive what the universe throws at us, but only if we work together, if we believe in one another, and if we step up to face the things that threaten to destroy us – rather than hiding behind walls and hoping they’ll go away.”
Bits I especially liked:
- How distinct each Jaeger felt. They all had their own fighting styles, drawing from the design of the machine and the personality of the crew. Cherno Alpha was the ultimate bruiser – it was tough, slow, and moved with an undeniable sense of weight. Crimson Typhoon was faster, sleeker, and moved like a martial artist. Gypsy Danger was solid, but flexible. Striker Eureka was a high-performance machine, top of the line, but looked less sturdy than Gypsy or Cherno.
- No romance. Raleigh and Mako are fast friends – they get each other and can count on one another. The bond they form is more big brother/little sister than that of a romantic pair, and even in the very end, when the Big Kiss seemed inevitable, the writing defied expectation and kept the as friends.
- Idris Elba. Dude has gravitas to spare. He owns the hardass military commander role and manages to round it out enough to be more interesting.
- Smart fighting. Both the Kaiju and the Jaeger pilots adapt to one another over the course of the story, often over the course of a fight. Gipsy Danger’s team survives the Hong Kong fight because they learned from Cherno, Crimson, and Striker’s defeats – they go immediately for the EMP spines, learn to dodge the spit, and know to expect the tail. A lot of action movies don’t bother showing their heroes learning and adapting during a fight – and the ones that do tend to stand out to me as especially compelling – good action writing can be just as revelatory of character as any other part of writing, and it’s always good to see a film that makes use of that opportunity.
- It’s an optimistic movie with consistent thematics of the importance of teamwork, interreliance, and confronting problems instead of hiding from them. I also appreciate the fact that the film has a Mexican director showing a film where the solution of ‘let’s build a big wall to keep out the elements we don’t like’ idea is seen to be patently ridiculous and totally ineffective.
- The world felt lived in, rich, and I found the worldbuilding compelling enough that I’d gladly have watched a whole extra film about what happened in those five years between Yancy’s death and when Marshal Pentecost finds Raleigh at the wall.