Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pacific Rim (2013)

The colossus, he blocked out the sun and darkness fell all around. Step aside Harryhausen, del Toro has brought giants back into the fold for a new generation utilizing CGI and a whole lotta destruction porn. A love letter to an obvious stream of cult Japanese creations, mainly Godzilla and various other 'Kaiju', alongside the other far eastern love of mechs or mecha.

Mission status: a crack or trench has emerged on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, some kind of portal to another dimension it seems. From this hellish region came the kaiju, huge monsters that have slowly ripped through our civilisation bringing us to our knees (but only in countries around the Pacific? What about Europe? They OK?). To combat this invasion humans build the Jaegers (why are they called this?), colossal robot mecha piloted by two humans, and for a time all was good. But the alien creatures appeared more frequently and became stronger, they started to defeat human defenses, so in a clever decision human leaders decide to scrap the Jaegers and build big walls...yeah that'll work.

Only then does one man come up with the sheer genius idea of dropping a nuke down the portal to try and break the connection between dimensions...seriously no one thought of this when the whole issue cropped up?? Nope they thought it easier to build implausibly massive robots and then big walls. Wouldn't the robots presumably take yonks to build? In the mean time the monsters destroy humanity? Oh and did anyone ever actually stop to think if these colossal time consuming constructions would actually have any effect on the monsters at all?? Doesn't the whole thing seem like a colossal gamble??..Meh maybe its just me then.

Now I will start off by admitting I obviously know what this film is aiming for, its a complete fantasy thrill ride and basically wants to show off big robots fighting big monsters, I see that. The film is a homage whilst at the same time being somewhat of a hyper B-movie in the same vain as 'Independence Day' was. There is a semi serious take to everything but at the same time its a hokey rollercoaster sci-fi ride that delivers exactly what you'd expect, exactly what you pay for and it doesn't try to hide that fact. In short if you go into this wanting a serious realistic approach then you're not gonna get on with this...but we all know this right?

The whole notion isn't exactly original lets face it, the usual mankind on the brink of destruction by an unknown alien force, this alien force has no real intentions other than to wipe us out and move on to the next world (heard that before right), time to call in the buff heroes who swagger a lot. As the film started I did find myself enjoying it, the giant mechs look good if somewhat stupid at the same time and the white mechanical suits worn by the pilots were super cool and much better than the black suits later on. I loved the detail on the suits as the pilots locked into them, really well done and I loved the massive scale of detail on the Jaeger hangers/command base. There is so much going on, clearly a lot of attention to small details with different types of personnel, equipment, machinery etc...It really feels like they have tried to create a full universe where everything has its place, everything can be explained, everything links to something and is functional. At no point did I ever see anything that I felt was just there to look good, everything seemed to have a purpose.

As time went by I started to grow slightly bored, there is character development and dialog/backstory but its dull, the characters aren't really very interesting to be honest and pretty much everyone acted really really badly. Why on earth they cast the folk they did I don't know, I liked how most of the cast were unknowns (to me) so kudos for trying that because its normally the best option. But Hunnam was awful and merely tried his best to be the new LT Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell, Kikuchi was the worst of the lot and appeared to have no acting skills at all plus she was really annoying and Elba seems to have this aura about him at the moment where everybody thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread for some reason (Cumberbatch much?). The other cast members were very hammy, did the scientist guys really need to be such stereotypical nerd-like goofballs? Oh and its a del Toro film, this means Perlman is in there no matter what...basically playing Hellboy without the makeup.

Then we came to the crux of the film, what its all about, fighting big monsters...big errr neon monsters, why did they go down 'The Phantom Menace' route? Yep I can't deny the fights at first were pretty cool, I was interested in the big flashy CGI...but only for a while. After I had seen the first couple fights the later ones became very similar and uneventful. I have to say I didn't really like most of the monster designs as they all looked a bit Star Wars prequel-ish, I don't understand the obsession with blue neon these days, at times the fights just looked like a big dark, wet, strategically lit CGI cluster (why no daytime fights?? What happened to the daytime??) and the giant mechs were just completely daft. When one pulled out a giant sword from nowhere just because one of the pilots happened to have a thing for katanas (she's Japanese so of course she does)...I groaned.

What I can't get my head around is the fact these mechs move the way they do, because they wouldn't. Yep I know its not meant to be taken seriously but really! These things would be so heavy and slow, one movement would probably take ages yet these things run and move like a regular human! and then there are the silly little moments like making the mech slam its hands together in a martial arts stance before battle...really? You'd probably damage your mech doing that. I'm also pretty sure most of these monsters would be much more agile and faster than the mechs and would defeat them easily every time. If the creatures are of reasonable intelligence I'm sure they would see a punch/hit coming a mile off. The mechs are powerful but (would/should be) too slow, it would take time to do things and then reset.

Also the idea that the pilots control them by being hooked up to each other via the brain seems soooooo unbelievably risky and unstable, god knows what you'd find out about the other guy, doesn't matter how well you know him/her. Wouldn't it be more sensible to make the controls more open for more potential pilots? surely doing it this way is just restricting yourself big time, you know there will be problems in the future with numbers through death, just seems idiotic. I must say I did like the cockpit interior though, a mass of LCD HUDs in various colours which looked both impossibly confusing yet ultra slick and cool, unsure how the hell those guys could see anything out of their windscreen though.

Their movements would cause tonnes of destruction in itself just by walking, wouldn't dropping into the ocean, walking and fighting in the ocean cause tsunami's? When they fight a monster in Hong Kong I'm pretty sure they caused massive amounts of damage just walking through the city, then we have the 'Man of Steel' issue, why didn't they try and move the fight out of the city? Yes I'm being picky but these things are obvious.

There aren't many fights actually believe it or not, the film is quite dull whilst you wait for the fights but then once you've seen one darkly lit battle with mechs stomping around you've seen them all. But I must ask why the monsters never seem to attack any military bases where the mechs are stored? Or why the monsters didn't try and destroy the mechs whilst in construction? That would have been easy no?

But despite all that the film is a comic book-like monster mash so you gotta put all that aside, if you can. The film is a well constructed homage to the cult genre and it does it proud I can't deny, but for everyone else not overly involved in this genre it really does play out like yet another factory line CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster production. Having del Toro at the helm has certainly given the film an edge in the visual department, mainly sets and monsters wise but that doesn't really alter the fact its no surprise this didn't do as well as expected. Is it possible the idea of Godzilla type monsters, big robots and even more destruction porn turned people off? Doesn't bode well for the Godzilla reboot.

Its big, its loud and its flashy, its actually a complete rip off from the 80's cartoon 'Inhumanoids' to a degree (look it up kids). Why did the pilots require that intense martial arts sparring training? How did that have anything to do with what they actually had to do? Is this because the mechs are suppose to be able to perform martial arts just like their pilots? Or was it just a chance to sneak in an obligatory sexy martial arts sequence just for the hell of it? Hmmm for shame Guillermo.