Friday, July 12, 2013

Pacific Rim Movie Review

Nice suit. Idris Elba & Charlie Hunnam (r) in Pacific Rim

Jaegers and Kaiju... Oh My

It took me a little more than forty-four years, but I finally know what it's like to be shell-shocked. One hour (I left midway through... No Más) of sensor shattering IMAX 3D is all Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim needed to literally blow this reviewer's mind. Sadly, I don't mean this in a positive "Whoa, that totally blew my mind!" but rather the negative, opposite way: Pacific Rim is terrible.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity's resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes-a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankind's last hope against the mounting apocalypse.

What’s Best: Although their concept is ludicrous, del Toro's Jaegers are impressive to look at... at least while standing still. Unfortunately, both Jaegers and Kaiju are near impossible to observe while screaming and shaking the screen during battle. If I had a nickel for every time a director ruined perfectly good CGI by making it difficult to see...

What’s Not: For starters, let's tackle the aforementioned concept of a Jaeger: Stick two people inside a 250' high metal robot, fit them in space suits and attach them to stair climbers. Voila! Think Transformers, only less believable and harder to catch on film. Not impressed? Why not drown the first hour in boredom (AKA no action) and worse yet, no explanation of who the monsters are... until an annoying, seemingly drugged-out scientist named Newt (Charlie Day) mind-melds with one a la Independence Day. Surely you're impressed now?

Speaking of Newt (you didn't think I was going to let him off that easy, did you?) his character is the equivalent of fingernails across a chalkboard. A combination of Sam Rockwell meets Bobcat Goldthwait (the younger, more annoying one) he spends every scene screaming incoherently, until finally you just have to get up and leave.

Best Line: Stacker (Idris Elba) gives Hunnam's Raleigh two warnings after a confrontation, 'First, don't you ever touch me again, and second... don't you ever touch me again.' Message received, loud and clear.

Overall: It's true: Money does grow on trees. How else do you explain a $180 million budget with one recognizable star (Elba) that's largely spent on busting its audience's eardrums? I suppose the idea is original enough, but del Toro and fellow writer Travis Beacham ruin any goodwill by copying whole parts from movies past (Independence Day, The Matrix, Top Gun, Transformers.) Is it that hard to write something good, yet alone remotely plausible? Elba's one of my favorite actors, but he's reduced to wearing nice suits and looking official: What a waste. The rest of the cast? I barely knew who any of them were (not you Hellboy... Too bad, del Toro didn't make a third one of you instead of this.)

I grew up with Godzilla and King Kong... monsters with personality, even soul. Del Toro seems content on delivering a stripped down Transformer that you can shut down by pulling a hose out of a console. Polite applause from fellow rebels (or whatever they're called, in this movie) during hand-to-hand combat training and robot warm ups? At least someone felt like clapping.

GradeF (As I write this, Pacific Rim holds an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can't for the life of me understand why; but I refuse to "join the crowd," especially when the crowd I sat with (for just over an hour) remained pretty much silent for the duration. Perhaps they were celebrating on the inside? I highly doubt it.