Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pacific Rim review; just shy of an action filled masterpiece

The comparisons were inevitable.  Pacific Rim, "It's just like Transformers".  Let me tell you something... this film is NOTHING like Transformers, except for the fighting robots of course.  How good can a film be about robots, who must be piloted by two people at the same time, against sea dwelling aliens?  VERY GOOD!  Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro has created an action film for the ages.  I don't want to waste anymore time introducing the film.  Let me tell you about the film.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Bloody Robots of Course!
The special effects in this film are jaw-dropping!  The robots are so well animated you get lost in the film, forgetting that its about, well... robots!  And it's not just the robots on full display, but the alien life as well.  The aliens come in all sorts of imaginative shapes, sizes and capabilities.  There's the underwater Triceratops looking alien, and the winged variety with the ability to fly.  The team at ILM hit not only a homerun, but a grand slam.  The fighting is clean, easy to follow and spectacular.  The larger than life images had an entire theater of a 1,000 plus people captivated.  It was nothing like the robot fights of Transformers, where you couldn't tell what was going on.  The special effects of all the destruction was creative as well.  The animators found new and inventive ways to destroy buildings, blocks, even cities.  I can't wait to see the film again to really soak up all the fun!

The Actors/Characters
The film is very well acted.  Idris Elba is fantastic in this role as a high ranking officer, in a division of the military created to deal with an alien invasion coming from beneath the sea.  He is cool, calm, collected, and demands respect with nothing more than a stare.  I loved what Elba did with this character.  He was a compassionate military man; and that's such a tough thing to balance.  Great job here!

Charlie Hunnam's rise to fame came by way of a tv show called "Sons of Anarchy".  He was my biggest question mark in terms of casting, when I read about the film.  He does a nice job here.  He is a young, run and gun pilot to the giant robots in the film.  After a loss in the family, he swears off being pilot, only to find himself thrust back into the job years later.  Hunnam fit the role of action star, with a twist.  He is thoughtful, funny, also compassionate, and defiant to a certain extent.

Rinko Kikuchi plays Hunnam's co-pilot.  Kikuchi sort of sits in for the audience in the film.  Her training, her past, her motivations, all help the audience understand what's happened in the world that's been turned upside down by the discovery of the aliens.  Kikuchi is blessed with most of the emotional scenes in the film, and they just plain work.  She's never a victim, and she's certain an equal to the men in the military.  I loved what the writers did with her character; not letting her become the damsel in distress was terrific.  

I also want to mention some great actors in supporting roles: Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses), Ron Perlman, and Clifton Collins Jr.  Day is a scientist who is out to find a weakness in the alien life.   Day is really funny, whose humor comes from his petite size and squeaky voice.  I really liked him in this.  Perlman is no stranger to the director, Del Toro, or the star, Hunnam.  Perlman played Hellboy for Del Toro in two wonderful comic book films.  The actor/director duo have now done 5 films together.  He's also co-starred opposite Hunnam on "Sons of Anarchy" for several seasons now.  Perlman added flavor to an otherwise forgettable character.  Listen closely to where the character's name comes from, really funny stuff.  Clifton Collins Jr. had a small role, but does a good job, as he usually does.  He plays a programmer to the robots and is a part of the military team on the ground, guiding the pilots.  Nice supporting cast to keep us interested at all times.

The Story/The Writing
The script was written by Del Toro and Travis Beachman (Clash of the Titans 2010).  The story, overall, may not be anything new to theater audiences.  Robots, aliens, destruction, etc.  But the details of the story are.  Where the aliens ancestry comes from, their motivations to invade earth, how has society changed, the different attempts at making them extinct.  All of these aspects of the story are clever, well thought out and well executed.  Del Toro takes what could have been a Michael Bay fiasco, and makes it something special.  He's a grown man playing with his toys.  And his sandbox is that of a film costing hundreds of millions of dollars.  The dialogue is not terrible; but the film certainly has parts that are terribly predictable.  I'll get to that later.

The Director
Del Toro is an incredible filmmaker.  And a great storyteller as well.  I will not claim to have seen every movie he's ever made, but from what I have seen, they're all solid films with great stories to tell.  The Hellboy films gave us a character that simply doesn't fit the superhero mold; it had creatures and worlds that we rarely see in those types of films.  He made arguably the best superhero film of it's day, Blade II with Wesley Snipes.  And then his masterpiece, that will be difficult to top, Pan's Labyrinth.  That movie snuck up out of nowhere to be an instant classic, revered by fans and critics alike.  I am a huge fan of what Del Toro did in Pacific Rim.  The casting, the animation, the story, the pacing, the editing and the soundtrack (Ramin Djawadi, Iron Man), are all fantastic.  He is such a creative director that makes the different worlds in his films, such an interesting place to look at.  

What I didn't like about the film:
The Run of the Mill
Unfortunately, there are parts of this movie you'll see coming a mile away.  There's a jerk pilot in the program that is a thorn in Hunnam's ass.  There's the sexual tension between Hunnam and Kikuchi as they train with in various martial art fights.  Don't forget about Elba, and how he's forced to change out of his suit and into his gear to fight another day.  I'm not sure if these are thrown in there because of laziness, lack of creativity, or what.  But they did take me out of the movie and had me rolling my eyes.  Another part of me says, these cliches are to be expected nowadays, and are forgivable.  I mean what's an action film without two pilots who hate each other at first, but are forced to work together for the greater good?  Right Iceman?  Right Maverick?  

The Verdict:
Just Shy of an Action Filled Masterpiece
Much as The Dark Knight wasn't just considered a great comic book movie, but rather a great film in general; Pacific Rim is not just a great action film, it's an all around great movie!  It does so many things right, and has incredible fight sequences that feature one money shot after another, you won't feel the 2 hours+ runtime.  Del Toro and company deliver a home run in an otherwise forgettable Summer of movies.  I hope the film does well, because I can't wait to see what Del Toro has in store for us in the future.  Maybe more of Del Toro's films will be made, and less of Michael Bay's will be.

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