CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PACIFIC RIM (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: The interior of a monstrous robot. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES attempt to work together to get the robot battle ready. However, things are not going well…)
VOICE: You guys had better come out of there. Things aren’t working out. You’re supposed to be sharing minds, not battling each other. You’re just not compatible.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: You think?
L.L. SOARES: Dammit! I really wanted to fight with this thing. I have to find me a new partner to pilot this baby. I wonder if Dudar is available?
VOICE: He’s in another robot with Lil’ Stevie.
MA: Oh well. It looks like we’re just going to have to review today’s movie, instead. At least our incompatibility comes in handy in the movie review department. And judging by your recent glowing comments on Facebook where you shower praises on today’s movie PACIFIC RIM (2013), today’s column should prove volatile.
LS: Don’t tell me you didn’t like the movie? More proof that you need to have your head examined.
MA: I’ll do more than that. I’ll tell you why I didn’t like it.
LS: You have no taste, that’s why.
MA: If only things were that simple. Anyway, first, a plot summary.
PACIFIC RIM, the new big budget fantasy adventure by Guillermo del Toro, can be summarized so quickly you’d better not blink, because if you do, you’re gonna miss it.
Giant monster aliens arrive on Earth from an underground fissure under the ocean
LS: It’s more than just a fissure. It’s a portal to another dimension. Instead of attacking us from the stars, aliens have gained access to the Earth through this dimensional doorway at the bottom of the ocean. Pretty neat idea, actually.
MA: Except it’s developed for all of two seconds.
LS: Hardly. Early on, they state it’s there. They don’t understand it, and neither do we. We learn as they learn. But considering the entire last half is about closing the portal, I think you need a new watch. That’s a lot more than two seconds.
MA: There’s a difference between developing an idea and including an idea in a movie. There’s a portal in the movie, but it’s hardly developed as a concept.
In order to survive, the human race builds a series of gigantic robots to fight back. These robots are controlled by two fighters inside the machine whose brains are connected through a neural hook-up, so they can fight as one. You need two fighters because the technology is too much for one fighter to handle.
LS: The main reason why there are two pilots is to represent the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The pilots are the brain of the robot, so this is apt.
MA: The early rounds go to the humans and the robots, but over the years, the giant monsters keep on coming, and with defeat just around the corner, it’s up to a select few led by military man Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) using a top secret plan to stop the giant monsters once and for all. And that’s it for plot, folks. Everything else is gravy, and it’s watered-down flavorless gravy, at that. Furthermore, what I just described to you is explained in the first few minutes of the movie.
LS: I liked that the movie started out with a quick synopses to bring us up to speed. It was short, sweet, and yet completely brought us up to date with what was happening and why. You didn’t have to scratch your head and wonder why anything was happening. It was already explained for you. All you had to do was sit back and enjoy.
MA: I liked this too. The problem is I didn’t like what followed. The whole film adopted this quick storytelling style so that plot points fly by quickly in order to get to the action, which unfortunately, simply didn’t impress me. . The rest just goes on and on and on.
LS: That’s not fair. There’s much more to the plot than this. The reason the robots start losing is that the monsters that come up from the ocean are evolving. They are represented by classes based on their size and their level of dangerousness. The robots do okay for a while, until the creatures they’re up against just get bigger and meaner and eventually are out of their league. The humans can’t build the robots fast enough to counteract these amplified baddies.
There’s also an alternative plan to build a giant wall separating the area where the creatures come out from the human population. The wall takes time, though, and doesn’t seem to be as effective as the people in charge had hoped.
MA: If you want to add more details, be my guest, but I’d argue, why? This is one of the major weaknesses of PACIFIC RIM. Its story is so bare it almost blushes at its own nakedness.
LS: I completely disagree. That’s the germ of the idea, but there’s so much more to it.
MA: Really? In this movie? You mention the wall, for instance. That idea is glossed over so quickly we never even know why it was a viable idea in the first place. A giant wall? Seriously?
Granted, I didn’t hate PACIFIC RIM. It’s just that after hearing lots of positive buzz about this one, I hoped it would be really good, but seriously, it played out exactly the way I feared it would play out. It has less in common with CLOVERFIELD (2008) and IRON MAN (2009) than it does with the TRANSFORMERS movies. It’s basically TRANSFORMERS without the silly robot personalities. In this one it’s the humans with the silly personalities.
Now, while I thought this one looked cool, in that both the monsters and the robots were rather impressive looking, there wasn’t one action scene in this movie that I liked. I thought the battle scenes were hopelessly boring and blah. I was very disappointed with what I saw and ultimately bored by the whole thing. You’ll find more impressive monster battles in a GODZILLA movie.
And the monsters here are put to little or no use. You have these really cool looking creatures, and they don’t do anything. They’re about as scary as Mothra and his Toho friends, and they’re far less fun. At least the Toho monsters have personality. If you want to see scary giant monsters, you’re still better off watching CLOVERFIELD. No one’s come close to matching that film for giant monster thrills, which surprises me, since it’s obvious movies today have the technology to create realistic looking giant creatures, yet nobody seems interested in making a horror movie about them.
The robots are impressive looking too, but they’re just too similar to Transformers to instill much excitement.
(ROBOTIC VOICE comes over the loudspeakers)
ROBOTIC VOICE: Warning! Kaiju spotted in the vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean, approaching the mainland. Opposition must be provided.
LS: I guess we have to work together after all.
MA: This is never going to work.
(LS and MA mind-meld as pilots and scream in agony as they have to be subjected to each other’s thoughts. Somehow, they are able to maintain this long enough to activate their giant robot and go to face the latest threat.
ROBOTIC VOICE: Ladies and Gentlemen…the STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN from the movie GHOST BUSTERS (1984))
MA: Uh, oh. He’s a lot bigger than I remember.
LS: And a lot meaner. But we’ll fix him.
(Their robot and the MARSHMALLOW MAN battle violently, destroying buildings along the shore, until the robot finally rips the MARSHMALLOW MAN to pieces. He then takes the pieces, skewers them on giant trees whittled to a point, and builds a fire)
MA: S’mores anyone?
LS: I think we could feed a whole city with this guy!
(Great crowds of humans run towards them, carrying giant blocks of chocolate and graham crackers)
MA: Not bad for our first mission. Although having access to your thoughts is really disturbing me.
LS: Me, too. Your thoughts are so goodie-goodie, I’m getting sugar overload. Who knew you were really like that.
MA: Now that the threat has been averted, back to our review.
MA: So, what did I like about PACIFIC RIM? I liked Idris Elba in his lead performance, and I enjoyed Ron Perlman in his fun supporting role, and that’s about it. Rarely has there been such a disparity in acting quality in a movie. You have two excellent performances by Elba and Perlman, while the rest run from hopelessly mediocre to God-awful bad.
LS: What are you talking about? The whole cast in this one is pretty good.
MA: I like Elba a lot, and he doesn’t disappoint here. His Stacker Pentecost— what kind of a name is that?—the kind that is hardly mentioned in the movie! — is a rousing dominant figure who possesses the strength to lead the resistance against the monsters. His “it’s time to cancel the apocalypse” speech is one of the highlights of the movie.
LS: Elba is great. I think he has the makings of a major star and I’m surprised that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe PACIFIC RIM give him the attention he deserves. The man is an acting powerhouse.
MA: I agree with you 100 % here about Elba. He can and should be a major star.
And Ron Perlman is hilarious as Hannibal Chau, a colorful and very shady black market dealer who sells dead monster body parts, including their “crap.” But it’s a small supporting role, and as entertaining as Perlman is, he’s not in the film enough to save it.
LS: Perlman is a regular in Guillermo del Toro movies, and there’s a reason for that. He never disappoints. Hannibal Chau is a great character, and Perlman plays him perfectly. What a great character! And he’s in the movie a lot more than just a “small supporting role.”
MA: He’s in handful of scenes. That’s not much.
LS: He’s in it enough to leave an impression and be one of the best characters here. Once again, your time-telling skills are questionable at best.
MA: I never said he’s not one of the best characters in the movie. He is. But if you think it’s more than just a small supporting role, you’re the one who’s time challenged.
The folks who are in the movie for the bulk of the time are about as plain and exciting as a slice of white bread. Charlie Hunnam has the lead role of Raleigh Becket, the soldier who has to overcome his brother’s death from the beginning of the movie in order to lead the robots in battle. Ho hum. Hunnam is particularly bad here. He acts like he belongs on the crew of BATTLESHIP (2012).
LS: I liked Hunnam a lot. Most people will recognize him as Jackson “Jax” Teller, who is one of the lead characters in the FX biker series SONS OF ANARCHY, a show that also features Ron Perlman as one of the leads. He may not be in the same league as Elba and Perlman, but I think he does a fine job as Raleigh.
MA: Fine job? Yeah, if you’re playing a guy who spends his time inside a robot and has no personality elsewhere.
LS: I agree, in these kinds of movies heroes like him are always a little bland, but Hunamm does a good job with what little he has to work with. He’s great in SONS OF ANARCHY and he was great in the underrated Eric Bana movie DEADFALL (2012). I like him. And his scenes with Mako are actually pretty good here. You’re exaggerating this.
MA: Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, a woman soldier who’s fighting past demons of her own, isn’t much better than Hunnam. This is a huge problem with PACIFIC RIM. These are your two main leads, and they’re about as compelling as wallpaper. In fact, I found myself looking at the walls of the theater a few times instead of at the movie.
LS: I guess that’s what you do when you have a small brain.
MA: I wouldn’t know. You?
LS: Instead of watching the screen you watch the walls.
MA: Walls are interesting. Seriously, I don’t watch the walls. Of course, if a movie bores me, I do get restless and I may occasionally glance somewhere else.
LS: Maybe you should have gone to see LONE RANGER again instead. That might be more your speed, Slowboy.
Mako was one of my favorite characters here, and she has a strong back story about one of monsters (they’re called Kaiju in this movie—the Japanese word for “giant beast”) destroying her city and killing her family. She’s driven by a desire for revenge against these creatures, a desire that may prove her undoing.
MA: A strong back story? You mean that five minute flashback that shows her by herself without any information about where she’s come from or the family she might have left behind? That story?
LS: Seriously, your perspective on time is just horrendous.
MA (laughing): By all means, correct me. Fill in the details. How did her family die? How many people were in her family? Were they killed in front of her? Is there a scene in the film that shows any of this information? Some strong back story!
Charlie Day as Dr. Newton Geiszler and Burn Gorman as Gottlieb are entertaining as a couple of nerdy scientists, but they’re pretty much comic relief, and while they do take part in major plot points during the movie, they’re no substitute for the main fighters in the robots, which is too bad because they’re more interesting.
LS: They start out as supporting characters, and Gottlieb pretty much stays one throughout. You might remember Burn Gorman from the excellent BBC series TORCHWOOD, where he played Owen Harper. He also had roles in movies like LAYER CAKE (2004) and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), and in British series like THE HOUR (2011) and the Masterpiece Theater version of BLEAK HOUSE (2005). He’s a solid, dependable actor, but here he mostly just plays an uptight scientist, which isn’t the best role, but yeah, he’s mostly used for comic effect.
Charlie Day on the other hand, has a much larger role in the movie. His Newton “Newt” Geiszler is the more visceral member of the PACIFIC RIM think tank. While Gottleib is more concerned with the math and the theories (some of which turn out to be pretty important), Newt is the guy who wants to take the enemy on in a much more physical way. His main theory being that we can access the brains of the Kaiju in a way similar to the mind melds used by pilots in the robots (called Jaeger here, the Japanese word for “hunter”). Newt is the one who tracks down the mysterious Hannibal Chau, and Day has some great scenes with Ron Perlman. I’ve been a big fan of Day in the FX comedy series IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, where he plays the goofy idiot Charlie Kelly. He’s a good comic actor, but it’s been interesting to see him grow and develop as a movie star. His biggest role up to this point was playing Dale Arbus, the dental technician, in HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011). But I think Day is really terrific here and has more range than just a comic relief character. He’s one of my favorite things about PACIFIC RIM. His chemistry with Gorman—and especially Perlman—is priceless.
MA: Day’s scenes with Perlman are okay, but priceless? I don’t think so.
LS: Speak for yourself…You’ve been doing a good job of that so far.
MA: Am I supposed to be speaking for someone else?
The rest of the cast is forgettable, not because they’re bad, but because they’re— forgettable. I was really surprised at how poorly developed the characters were in this movie, because I’d been hearing so many good things about it.
LS: What about Robert Kazinsky as the Australian Jaeger pilot, Chuck Hansen? Fans of the series TRUE BLOOD will recognize Kazinksy as the vampire Warlow from the newest season of the HBO series, and he’s good here as Raleigh’s main rival. And Max Martini is good as Chuck’s father and co-pilot, Herc (a father and son mind meld? That’s got to be messy).
MA: I found them terribly bland.
LS: Well, I sort of agree with you there. They’re okay – they fill a need in the conflict – but they are kind of bland. I like Kazinksy as an actor, though.
MA: People are singing praises about Guillermo del Toro and this movie, but I can’t say that I recommend it. There’s a lot going on visually, but to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. The battle scenes bored me, the monsters didn’t scare me, and in spite of the fact that this movie looked good, there really wasn’t anything creative about its action scenes. I found it all rather flat.
The screenplay by Travis Beacham bored me. He also wrote the screenplay to CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010). Both movies share unimpressive stories and wooden characters.
I’m a huge Idris Elba fan, and he’s the only reason I didn’t hate this movie. I enjoyed his scenes, and he’s in this one a lot, which helps. I also liked Ron Perlman’s performance, but he’s not in it as much. Everything else about PACIFIC RIM I could have done without.
I give it two knives.
LS: Fine, you’ve had your say. Now I’ll tell you why you’re completely wrong.
(ALARM goes off again, as ROBOTIC VOICE announces a new threat)
ROBOTIC VOICE: New menace sighted that needs immediate attention.
MA: Not again!
LS: What awful timing.
(They activate their robot again and go out to face their next threat: BARNEY THE DINOSAUR. One hundred tons of pure purple evil, singing a song in a high-pitched voice as he destroys buildings)
MA: Oh no.
(People run screaming as MA and LS launch their robot at the monster. BARNEY puts up a good fight, and there is a sudden appearance of a second Kaiju, BABY BOP. But the robot soon makes short work of them. The robot puts chunks of dinosaur meet on skewers and starts a fire)
LS: Dinosaur steaks everyone. Come and get it!
(Waves of people come running, this time carrying gigantic bottles of A-1 STEAK SAUCE) MA: Now that we’ve fed the city twice over, we can go back to our review.
LS: Okay. I was just about to show you why your negative review was so wrong.
MA: No, you’re going to state why you liked the movie. I’ve stated why I didn’t like it. Right and wrong have nothing to do with it. But if you prefer to use those moralistic terms, be my guest.
LS: You know I hate critics who bring their moral perspective into movie reviews. That was a low blow!
MA: I know. But you started it.
ROBOTIC VOICE: Stop fighting! You’re supposed to be working together.
MA: Yeah, yeah.
LS: Whatever. Where was I? Oh yeah.
When we were kids, we saw a lot of GODZILLA movies. And many of them featured humans building giant robots to fight the monsters. In fact, there is pretty much a whole genre of Robots vs. Monsters movies in Japan, including the several TV series based on the character Ultraman.
Whenever I watched these kinds of movies, though, there were a few things that struck me. First of all, when you’re a kid and you want to see monsters fight, the last thing you want to do is watch scenes involving a human storyline. But all of these kinds of movies had some human subplot to familiarize us with the men and women inside the robots, or striving to use science to solve their Kaiju problem. The thing is, in almost every case, the human storylines paled against the monster stuff, and were mostly uninteresting. I remember constantly thinking, “Screw this, just get to the fights.”
In PACIFIC RIM, it was one of the few times where I was as interested in the human storyline as I was in the monsters. I thought the characters were well-developed, and it was interesting to see the process that went into becoming a pilot: the training, the mindset. I thought the whole two pilot mind-meld thing was fascinating and the ramifications were very interesting. Two minds bonded, sharing thoughts and emotions, is a fascinating concept.
MA: Are you kidding me? What training? The pilots are already fighting the monsters before the opening credits role! It’s a neat concept, sure, but there’s no story development here. It’s just thrown at us.
LS: So the fight training I saw with Raleigh was a hallucination? If you are going to make sweeping, general statements, then what’s the point of this discussion? Keep talking in generalities. I’ll talk about specifics.
MA: You’re talking specifics? I thought you were just hurling insults.
How’s this for specific: the training sequences are about as well developed as a scene from TOP GUN (1986). It’s superficial! What are you talking about?
LS: I especially liked when Mako co-pilots a Jaeger for the first time and freezes up with the vivid memory of her childhood, wandering the streets of Tokyo alone and crying as a giant crab monster destroyed the city. The little girl’s complete terror and anguish during this flashback makes for a very convincing scene.
MA: Did the crab monster destroy the city? We see it destroy one street. That’s not very cinematic. And as far as it being a convincing scene, why? Because she was crying? What did she lose? We have no friggin idea!
LS: You’re especially dense this time around, aren’t you, Chocky? It’s her memory. She’s not going to remember every building in the city – she is going to remember her perspective. As for what she lost – I don’t think I need to draw you a detailed diagram do I? She’s a child, she’s alone, she’s crying. You can’t figure that one out yourself?
MA: Figure it out for myself, which means it’s not a very cinematic scene. Look, you called it a very convincing scene. I strongly disagree. It’s a little girl crying. I don’t see why that’s so special.
LS: Also going the “science will solve this” route, I found Charlie Day’s adventure in trying to find a solution (and in turn going to find Hannibal Chau) just as entertaining. Throughout, Idris Elba is solid as a rock as the man in charge of it all.
Another problem I had with the old monster movies was that the monsters were never really convincing. They always looked like guys in rubber suits, or puppets, and while some of the creature features were more convincing than others, they never really scared you or made you believe in what was going on. They were a lot of fun, but they resembled wrestling matches with costumes.
In PACIFIC RIM, the monsters are amazing. The special effects in this movie are top-notch and the monsters are really convincing as living creatures.
MA: Yes, the monsters here are convincing looking, but they are way underused. These things should be terrifying. They’re not. That’s because tangling with a giant robot isn’t exactly fear inducing.
LS: I agree that the monsters are underused. I wanted more of them. And I wanted more of them without the robots’ involvement, so we could really see them in action. But the point of the story is that, once one of these things shows up, the robots are deployed immediately to minimized damage and deaths. Which makes perfect sense.
The robots are pretty cool, too, but they did remind me of giant version of Iron Man. The creatures, on the other hand, were completely new, and I loved that each one was different from the next. Where one might look a bit like a shark, another one would look completely different and have behavior more similar to a gorilla. And the way the creatures got more and more complex as the movie went on was fascinating. I saw PACIFIC RIM in 3D – one of the rare times when I actively sought out a 3D showing – and it did add to the experience, especially during the battles. Del Toro does a very good job of making the creatures and robots look HUGE. They have a heft and a dimension to them, and this is crucial in making us believe what is on the screen.
MA: Interesting. I saw it in 2D. I don’t want to be the one to say it, but perhaps 3D is the way to go with this one? You liked the 3D effects?
LS: Yes, I thought they added to the “bigness” and the chaos of the movie, especially during the monster fights.
Yet another issue I had with the old movies was that you never really got a sense of the human toll in all this. Sure, the monsters would smash up Tokyo, and people would be running away screaming, but you saw this in all of the movies, and it got kind of boring fast. In PACIFIC RIM, you get more of a feel of how devastating the damage and amount of deaths are. There are very real repercussions to these attacks—it’s not just a matter of rebuilding a city later on and going back to normal. Some cities in PACIFIC RIM are completely wiped off the face of the map. During the battles, buildings are destroyed, bridges are smashed, luxury liners and train cars are used as weapons. And very few people escape alive.
MA: Really? There are scenes of mass killings?
LS: Do you need to see stacks of bodies to know there’s a human toll? Maybe if this was rated R they could get a little more explicit about the actually numbers of human deaths, but this is PG-13, and there are going to be some limitations.
For the first time for me, the whole “monsters attack a city” thing felt real, and had real consequences. It wasn’t just a fun wrestling match between monsters. And I thought that was pretty terrific.
MA: I didn’t get this sense at all. It felt exceedingly fake to me. I had a stronger feel for world danger in the recent WORLD WAR Z than in this movie. PACIFIC RIM played out like a weak fantasy in my book.
Where’s all the devastation and damage you’re talking about?
LS: I’m starting to wonder if we even saw the same movie at this point.
I also think you approached this one in exactly the wrong way. Del Toro is not trying to make some “big statement” here. It’s not an art film. It’s not PAN’S LABYRYINTH. It’s an action movie first and foremost. It’s also one helluva good one. He basically schools people like Michael Bay and shows them how it should be done.
MA: I didn’t see much of a difference between this and a Michael Bay movie, which is a big reason why I didn’t like it all that much. Sure, it might have some better ideas in it, but unlike you, I wasn’t impressed with what it did with these ideas.
LS: I mean just look at the basic concept, “Robots vs. Monsters.” On the surface, this is a pretty silly idea, and in anyone else’s hands, I wouldn’t expect much from it. But del Toro sells it. You mention TRANSFORMERS, but that’s based on a toy and the idea of robots that are alive and aliens from another planet. The Jaegers from PACIFIC RIM trace back to Japanese horror films, an entirely different source material.
But this wasn’t meant to be rocket science. I hope you didn’t go into the theater hoping it was going to change your life, because it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be a fun riff on a nostalgic concept from our childhoods.
MA: I didn’t expect it to change my life. I expected it to be fun. And it was, to a minor degree, but for me to sit here and listen to you call it a masterpiece cracks me up!
LS: If fish is brain food, then PACIFIC RIM is fish for your inner fanboy. For everyone who’s ever been nostalgic about those silly old monster movies with Godzilla and Jet Jaguar fighting Megalon and Gigan. This is a big “what if?”: What if someone took one of those silly old Toho movies and had a big budget and good actors and turned out something that was the caviar of monster movies. That is all PACIFIC RIM aspires to. To take you back to what it felt like as a kid watching Creature Features on TV and watching Godzilla do the happy dance. On that level, PACIFIC RIM pays off in the way no brainless summer blockbuster has in years. This movie has a brain. Not a huge brain, but compared to the comatose state of most blockbusters, a small brain is still a big step up.
It’s brainless fun for people who have friggin brains!
MA: I agree that it had a big budget, but that it’s it. I’d rather watch an old Godzilla movie.
LS: I also thought that PACIFIC RIM was the exact opposite of another recent blockbuster, THE LONE RANGER, which was overlong, had too little action, and was just plain bad. PACIFIC RIM was just as long, and yet the time flew by for me. In fact, I wanted it to go on longer. I wanted more of these characters and these creatures. The action was top notch, and while we do get a long middle sequence that focuses on the human story, I was interested enough in the characters involved to follow them gladly. I imagine the creature sequences were expensive as hell to create – they were so well done. But the human story was equally convincing from a visual standpoint. The bunkers, the military base where the pilots train, the mysterious lair of Hannibal Chau, life on the city streets, it was all as real and believable as the monster battles.
MA: Yes, PACIFIC RIM is full of action, but it’s not exciting action. You wanted more of these characters? Of these cardboard cut-outs?
LS: Just about every summer blockbuster has characters that are cardboard cutouts. I thought these characters were better developed than most. I don’t think a lot of the characters seemed cardboard at all.
As someone who has seen a lot of summer blockbusters, I can tell you that the large majority of them fail to live up to expectations. They’re big and loud, and – while trying to reach the largest audience possible – pretty hollow. It’s all action and no substance.
MA: That’s a nice description of PACIFIC RIM.
LS: You’re nuts! I didn’t feel that way once while watching PACIFIC RIM at all!. I thought it was one of the rare times where a movie exceeded my expectations. The trailers and TV commercials for this movie don’t even scratch the surface of why this movie is so good. In fact, the commercials make it look a lot dumber than it actually is.
MA: No, the commercials describe it exactly as it is.
LS: Between the well-thought out plot and the fleshed out characters, I totally disagree with your assertion that Travis Beacham’s script is unimpressive. And for the record, Beacham came up with the original story, but he co-wrote the script with director Guillermo del Toro, and I’m sure that is what separates this from something like CLASH OF THE TITANS, which looked okay but had a very weak script. Del Toro is a visionary, and I’m sure he added a lot to make the script smarter and more visually astounding.
MA: Except that it’s not smart nor is it visually astounding. It’s an ordinary story with some decent special effects that were nice but certainly didn’t blow me away.
LS: Del Toro is the guy who gave us PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) and the HELLBOY movies, and I have been a fan for a long time now. I remember seeing his first feature film, CRONOS (1993), in an art-house theater when it first came out, and being totally captivated by it. I’ve watched his career closely ever since, and while not everything has impressed me (I wasn’t that big of a fan of MIMIC, 1997, or BLADE II, 2002, yet they both have some individual scenes that are terrific), most of his stuff has. I loved CRONOS and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001), two much smaller, more intimate horror films. I thought the HELLBOY movies were action-packed, a lot of fun, and, often times, visually arresting. There’s a giant monster in HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008) that resembles a gigantic flower, for example, and it’s as visually intriguing and satisfying as it is formidable. In a lot of ways, del Toro is a poet who uses celluloid as his verse.
At one point he was supposed to direct the new HOBBIT movies, and I’m glad that fell through. PACIFIC RIM is so much more interesting to me. This is the summer tent pole movie I have been waiting for. And it’s not a sequel, it’s not part of a franchise (yet), or based on an old TV show. It’s completely original and fresh and exciting. There’s a reason why del Toro has such a strong and devoted fan base—he’s one of the few directors these days who consistently delivers the goods. He is just as much of a fan of this stuff (more so!) than we are, and treats each project as a form of personal expression. His movies have heart and soul and aren’t just another product to get us to spend our money.
MA: Original? It’s giant monsters vs. giant robots. I don’t know what makes that so original.
LS: Original to U.S. audiences. Not everyone has seen every Toho Godzilla movie ever made like us. And it’s an original take on the subject—a serious take with a decent enough budget to make take it to a level we haven’t seen before.
Del Toro’s dream project has always been to bring H.P. Lovecraft’s classic novella, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS to the big screen, but the expense to do it right has been prohibitive. I hope PACIFIC RIM is a big enough hit to give him the chance to finally make that movie.
And, for the record, I enjoyed PACIFIC RIM and its characters so much, that I was left wanting more. So the inevitable sequel (if it does well) doesn’t fill me with as much dread as most sequels would.
I absolutely loved this movie and would not be surprised if it is the best summer movie we see in 2013. I give it four knives.
MA: Well, you’re not alone. People are gushing over this one. I just don’t see it.
LS: That’s because you’re looking at the walls!
MA: Ha, ha!
LS: By the way, like a lot of movies these days, this one has a hidden scene at the end. You have to sit through some of the end credits to see it. So don’t be in a hurry to leave the theater.
(ALARM goes off)
ROBOTIC VOICE: Another threat has been detected. Please respond immediately.
(LS and MA mind-meld and their robot goes out to meet the latest challenge…the KRAKEN from CLASH OF THE TITANS)
LS: I always wanted to punch that guy in the nose.
MA: I think this one will be a bit more of a challenge, so we better give it our full attention.
Until next time, goodbye from Cinema Knife Fight.
LS: I think I’ll pretend he’s you and really eff him up!
MA: It’s an effective strategy. I pretended Barney was you. Very satisfying.
(Cue Dramatic Music as the film dims and goes black)
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives PACIFIC RIM~ TWO KNIVES out of five!
LL Soares gives PACIFIC RIM~ FOUR KNIVES out of five!