‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new film Pacific Rim is essentially Godzilla on steroids. While adhering to and actually building on the original film mythology, it is still essentially a “man vs. horrible beast” battle. Now, however, we have incredible computer effects with a lot of technology shown. In the old movies, it was man vs. kaiju. Now we have jaegers.
For those unaware of the mythology, the kaiju are the huge monsters that arise out of the Pacific — think of Godzilla and Mothra. In the old movies, they were a result of nuclear fallout, a testament to the Japanese origin of the movies. In the new movie, director Guillermo del Toro decided on a major shift: They come as conquerors from another dimension. One thing is certain, they are far bigger, stronger and nastier than the old monsters.
At the beginning, they face a new weapon: the jaeger, which comes from “hunter” in German. These are robots, but absolutely giant ones controlled by a pair of humans (think Transformers with humans inside). After an initial contact that leaves the first jaeger smashed with one of its humans dead, humanity (obviously forgetting all the lessons the French eventually learned between World War I and World War II) builds large walls to keep the monsters away. Had they worked, there would have been no movie.
So the monsters get out and the jaegers go out to meet them. There are massive battles, a lot of pseudo science, and it’s actually fun. Remember back when we were all young and as children played good guys vs. bad guys in any one of a dozen different forms? That’s pretty much what the film is, and it works surprisingly well.
To keep up the drama, the pilots of each jaeger have to be in a sort of joining, called “the drift,” so they can work as a team, necessary to control the huge robots. This gives del Toro a chance to build up a sense of drama, as lead jaeger Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) drafts the survivor of the initial attack Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to be pilot-commander of the latest machine along with a Japanese woman, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has real problems from having seen one of the monsters when she was a young girl. As you might expect, things do not work perfectly. The director follows the standard convention of these movies, however, and leaves little time for anything personal.
What he does have are gigantic battles, all seemingly fought in horrid weather or under the sea or in some environment where a lot of things seem murky. And the battles are wild and long and, in the end, overwhelming. With loud music blaring and a clear-cut choice between champions of humanity vs. nasty dinosaur-like killers who stomp all over large buildings, crushing people, the choice is clear. And the movie is a lot of fun.
The director brings in a couple of weird scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman), who are such obvious stereotypes they bring a bit of laughter as we fall into our comfort zone. But then again, this is clearly an homage to the genre. Generally speaking, however, this is not a film where you expect actors to do any real emoting; they just play the parts.
We did have one interesting problem at the theater, the Royal Palm Beach Regal, mentioned because so many of our readers go there. One of the screens used for the film is somewhat larger and the speakers are bigger, and as a result, they charge more to see the movie there. The real problem is they don’t advertise which film or showing is on that screen. Since that version is not 3-D but the prices are the pretty much the same, there were complaints. We saved $4 a ticket but had to wait an hour until the film was shown on a regular screen. The least the theater could do is make certain that in the times they release point out the movies and times where prices are higher.
The movie was pretty overwhelming even on the regular 2-D screen. Chances are, it will do the same even on a good TV screen, though I doubt those who watch on a phone will be quite as affected.
This is a popcorn B-movie, upgraded by special effects. It was a real lot of fun, although if you’re looking for something that would be considered a top-notch film, Pacific Rim will not fit the bill.