PACIFIC RIM (2013)
Running Time: 131 mins. Rating: 1 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Language: English and Japanese & Cantonese w/English subtitles
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Max Martini, Robert Kazinsky, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman
Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots vs. Godzilla in a backyard kiddie pool at night in a thunderstorm during a power outage. It’s not even cheesy, just Cheez Whiz.
Alien sea monsters threaten the entire existence of the human race. Mankind builds giant robots to kick their ass. They whup us, we whup them. They morph to the next generation and whup even more of our asses. Politicians want to cut their losses and build a giant Berlin Wall up and down the Pacific. (No aliens in the Atlantic? We definitely have to stop that overfishing.) Military leader disobeys orders and keeps on fighting. Odds getting desperate, time to recall the ex-hero, team him up with a rookie, go retro and go analog; or as the tagline says “Go Big or Go Extinct.”
From the opening voice over to continual monologue exposition, you’d think Guillermo del Toro forgot the key thing about filmmaking – you show, don’t tell. Instead we get BLADE RUNNER neon nights, INDEPENDENCE DAY pontification troop rallying speeches, ALIEN baby surprises, PREDATOR killing machines and every other genre film homage you can think of starting with Japanese tokusatsu “special effects” films.
The sea monsters are called Kaiju, known by us Westerners as Japanese rubber monsters led by Gojira (Godzilla) and his pals Gamera, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Hedorah, Ebirah, Manda, Baragon, Gorosaurus and Maguma. For the Europeans they’ll remember the British Gorgo and/or the Danish Reptilicus.
The giant robots are called Jaegers (German for “hunter”). In Western literature this goes back to Jules Verne (The Steam House) and H.G. Wells (The War Of The Worlds). George Lucas had the Walkers in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Japanese pop culture has “robot anime” or “mecha anime” (science fiction centering around robots & machines). Transformers is probably the best-known example in the West. REAL STEEL with Hugh Jackman was surprisingly decent (what with Wolverine chewing the scenery almost as much as his cigars) featured the basic premise of mecha, armored fighting vehicles in a humanoid body frame facing off in gladiatorial matches.
PACIFIC RIM has a typical Cold War plot structure with the Commies, I mean Russian and Chinese Jaeger teams, biting the dust while the good ol’ USA wins in the end with some help from a yellow fever cutie who kicks ass, but really needs to get kissed by the bland, blond and blue-eyed hero. Instead of a Dear Old Blighty flyboy duo that sacrifice themselves for the good of the Empire, we get a father and son Ozzie team of mates to take the proverbial bullet that allows the Yank to save the day.
The film is an embarrassment to special effects film pioneers Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda to whom the film is dedicated. Guillermo del Toro should have also thanked special-effects artist Elji Tsuburaya who did the work for Honda.
The most interesting thing about PACIFIC RIM for me is the referencing to the Marianas Trench in the Western Pacific to the east of the Mariana Islands (Guam is part of this archipelago). Here one will find the deepest part of the world’s oceans, which is nearly 7 miles deep and was documented by a Soviet expedition in 1957. It is the boundary between two tectonic plates. James Cameron in 2012 reached the bottom in a submersible vessel Deepsea Challenger (a nod to the first exploration in 1875 by the Challenger Expedition). Recently there have been serious discussions to turn the area into a nuclear waste disposal site. Now that would make for an interesting film when the canisters burst due to the immense water pressure during an undersea earthquake known as megathrust earthquakes. I’d pay to see that in IMAX 3D.
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS restaged by Vince McMahon’s wrestlers for a Syfy (God, I hate that rebrand…) tv movie would have been more interesting. Oh yeah, the 3D sucks too. PACIFIC RIM will appeal to the 12 year old boys who spent their Saturday afternoons watching syndication tv film package marathons, or for the younger generation, those who went down to their well-stocked video store with $1 rentals for a rainy day rubber monster fix.
If you like this recommendations: Transformers, Godzilla (1998), DeepStar Six