‘Pacific Rim’ (2013): the ultimate ‘popcorn’ movie.

28 Jul

Pacific Rim posterThat Pacific Rim even exists is nothing short of a miracle. Although the likes of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich have proven that people will march in their droves to watch CGI robots and gratuitous destruction, their movies are usually bolstered by famous faces, massive run times and unholy amounts of product placement. But along strolls veteran director Guillermo del Toro with Pacific Rim, a movie featuring no high-profile stars, zero tins of Pepsi and finishes in an hour and a half. Oh, and giant robots fight giant monsters… A lot.

Summing up the plot is a futile endeavour: nobody comes to a movie like this for inspired storytelling or intense dramatic monologues.  But if you must know, some dude (Charlie Hunamm, of Sons of Anarchy fame) to team up with some other dudes (Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Robert Kazinski and more) to pilot a bunch of colossal robots, named ‘Jaegers’, to send a host of giant monsters, called ‘Kaiju’, back to the watery depths from which they came. Set in the uncomfortably near future, these implausibly enormous iron giants are humanity’s last hope against the impending monstrous apocalypse.

Any and all Japanese cinema buffs out there must have suffered a collective heart attack upon hearing the word ‘Kaiju’; yes, much like the giant monster genre after which they’re named, the baddies gracing Pacific Rim are a varied bunch of hyper-evolved lizards, amphibians and crustaceans, of which none would look out of place next to Godzilla, Ghidorah and the rest. Clearly reminiscent of the director’s former work in Mimic and Pan’s Labyrinth, the behemoths are also distinctly Lovecraftian in appearance, rising as they do from the deep blue sea. Having recently opted out of an At the Mountains of Madness adaptation, the fact that Cthulhu remains absent is a missed opportunity.

So the monsters are cool, how about the robots? Well, they don’t disappoint either! Less shiny but oh so much more gritty and tenacious than their Transformer counterparts, they have that feel of being hastily cobbled together while remaining exceedingly badass. The fights are epic and, unlike Michael Bay’s toys, it’s actually possible to follow what’s going on. When people do open their mouths in this film, it’s consistently awful. In most other films, the diabolical dialogue would have sunken the whole ship, but here it’s forgiveable in the same way one would forgive the chatter those dreadful Syfy movies: less Shakespearean and more Shitheapean, the lines are so bad they’ve come full circle and become good again.

This happens a lot, and it's always thrilling.

This happens a lot, and it’s always thrilling.

When people bemoan films critics and others about being too pretentious for hating on franchises like  Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers, they must remember that the robot vs. monster genre appeals to nearly everyone on some level. But the difference between Pacific Rim and the aforementioned disasters boils down to awareness: this movie knows exactly what it is, and works hard to be the best yet dumbest action film possible. But Michael Bay and others repeatedly cram unsuccessful character arcs on top of innumerable MacGuffins amidst a host of actors totally phoning it in. Pacific Rim flaunts its status as a polished B-movie to perfection.

Yes, the dialogue is terrible, the story is non-existent, and the film is over the top in the extreme. But Pacific Rim is a movie about giant robots punching, clubbing, stabbing and otherwise assaulting giant monsters; nothing more and nothing less. If that’s not your cup of tea, then skip this movie, and go learn how to become a better person. If it is, then you’ll be in heaven.

Simon says: the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since Fast 6.

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