Monday, May 18, 2015

Cancelling The Apocalypse!


I finally at last got around to watching Guillermo Del Toro's epic Pacific Rim. And it was as advertised, a giant-scaled war between giant monsters (Kaiju) and giant robots (Jaegers). But sadly it's little other. And that is intentional I think. (The title put me in mind of Cloverfield, since neither title really evokes instantly the notion of a giant monster movie.)

But that said it is a spectacle as we follow human beings adapting to a world transformed by the incursion of giant beasts who rampage out of the Pacific Ocean, specifically a rift in the deep ocean crust which is a dimensional portal to another place filled apparently with these mighty monsters of the deep.

They are repulsed by the humans, but at the great cost of lives and property, and eventually an armada of giant robots driven by teams of humans acting in psychological sync fend them off for a time. But the threat grows as the monsters become both larger and more frequent and the robots are abandoned by the world governments in favor of a enormous wall built along the coasts across the world. These fences don't seem to be working either.

In the face of this apocalyptic threat the leader of the Jaegers corp, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (played wonderfully by Idris Elba) rounds up the remaining four robots and their drivers and plots secretly to explode a massive bomb at the site of the incursions in a desperate attempt to stave off the threat.


And this is just the background story. We follow closely the pilots of the giant robots, in particular one young man named Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) who survived, barely an attack five years before, with enormous costs nonetheless. He is teamed with a young woman named Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) who has her own secrets about the Kaijus. These two must learn to work together, as do other members of the cast as the threat steadily increases.

It's a rollicking tale, a damn good and  fun adventure yarn. But despite the grand visuals which are splendidly realized there are few true surprises in this story and sadly it all falls into place a bit to patently to really stay fully involving for the full two hours plus of the movie. I say that reluctantly, because I was much entertained by the movie which had wonderful atmosphere, but was missing something central to any such tale of heroism, a character you could really latch onto, one you truly rooted for.

This is ironic since Del Toro says in his very entertaining commentary (despite his rich accent) that the movie was structured as a sports film, with the audience cued to root for the underdogs. Somehow I never felt the underdogs were that, the story seemed a bit too pat perhaps to give that upshot any chance of following through. I was almost never surprised by it.

All of the heroes here are too fatalistic to feel much empathy for. They are suicide warriors who bravely face the threat, but seem to have come to ready terms with that choice, so there's little for the audience to worry about especially, save perhaps for the ultimate destruction of the world, and that seems unlikely for a movie intended to spark interest in a younger audience.

That would've been a real downer, and movies just don't do that much anymore, not movies that cost this dang much.

I liked it a lot, I just didn't love it. I wanted to though.

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