Ok, here’s the deal: I fully intend to keep doing these little write-ups on whatever I’ve watched or played, but since I started working last September it’s been difficult to find the time I need to come up with anything worthwhile. Still, it’s better to keep writing, maybe with some sacrifices in terms of length or quality, rather than letting it slide completely. With that in mind, let’s discuss the film I saw last week, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013).
Pacific Rim has been something of a passion project for del Toro (though what isn’t, I think del Toro doesn’t really bother with anything other than passion projects). You’ll probably know the director from the offbeat comic book adaptation Hellboy (2004) and its sequel The Golden Army (2008), which was even better. Apparently, he had a seven year fight with studios to get Ron Perlman cast in those two films. Guess he rather works on something he believes in. Too bad he’s still the only one with any faith in Lovecraft’s 82 year old novel At the Mountains of Madness. Though Tom Cruise was rumored to star in that film for a few scary moments. And, you know, while I do enjoy a bit of Tom Cruise every now and then, maybe it’s best for that particular project to remain in limbo a little while longer.
Anyway, Pacific Rim then, it’s not based on one of the beautiful Lovecraft novels, but it does have monsters from, I guess, both the beyond and the deep. However, quite unlike any of Lovecraft’s stories, Pacific Rim has giant robots and the great Idris Elba to ‘cancel’ the apocalypse those monsters wish to bring about. Which makes sense, this is a summer blockbuster and above all, those have to be fun. So while the circumstances in Pacific Rim are dire, they are never desperate. In true tentpole fashion, the film’s premise can be conveyed in a single sentence: giant robots fight giant monsters. The robots are called ‘jaegers’ (German for ‘hunter’) and the monsters are referred to as ‘kaiju’ (Japanese for ‘strange creature’). The robots are so huge and complicated they require two pilots, working in unison through something called ‘the drift’, to successfully control them. This ‘mind-melt’ or drift, and the piloting of a jaeger, is quite stressful apparently (a clear nod to Neon Genesis Evangelion). All the more when the pilot you’re connected to dies during combat, which is what happened to Raleigh (played by Charlie Hunnan) in the film’s first encounter with a kaiju. Traumatic stuff, certainly. Raleigh spends most of his time in Pacific Rim coming to terms with the loss of his brother and forging a connection with a new co-pilot, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), the story line that forms Pacific Rim‘s emotional core. It’s not great by any means, but it’s just enough to make you care a little for the characters and their plight. Also making an appearance are Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the mad scientists that provide most of Pacific Rim‘s strained and unnecessary comic relief. I was, however, very happy to enjoy a few precious moments with Ron Perlman as a colorful underground dealer in kaiju body parts. Let’s just say I’d be in the market for a pair of those shoes.
Odds are you’re probably going to want to see this for the kaiju-jaeger confrontations. While these skirmishes don’t provide much in the way of outright ‘fuck yes’ moments, the fights are entertaining nonetheless. Personally though, what I like most in films of this sort is the world-building, stage-setting, mood-enhancing stuff that can be found in the details. It’s sparse, but it’s there and coming from del Toro’s hand, it’s good and unique (Perlman’s shoes for example or the little scene with the blue goo in the picture above). On the whole, I’m trying to think how I feel about Pacific Rim when I compare it to other films that once competed in this ‘summer’ genre. Take Independence Day (1996) for example, everything about that film is utterly memorable. Like that moment where Jeff Goldblum, in a plaid shirt, stands on a New York rooftop in the shimmering summer heat with the sky darkened by that huge fucking saucer hovering overhead, that’s the kind of imagery that sticks. Now perhaps it’s because I love Jeff Goldblum or that I’m no longer thirteen years old, but I’m having serious trouble finding enjoyment like that in the films that have been released recently (in this category). For instance, I’m incapable of recalling anything particular about any of the three Iron Man films, even though I did enjoy them during the actual viewing. It’s odd. Is Pacific Rim any different? Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but it does have Ron Perlman and right now I feel like I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.