Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: "Pacific Rim"

As a kid growing up, a lot of the times during the Summer I would get bored with no one else around to hang out with.  I mean, what else does a film obsessed kid do when he's bored in the Summer?  Well, he makes a movie of course.  However, what type of movies?  There were no other kids around in my neighborhood to use as actors, so I made monster movies.  Some of the times these movies starred our cat, but seeing as how living creatures were more difficult to work with, most of my monster movies starred a marionette creature or stuffed animals, with action figures playing the human roles.  There were no scripts, just my imagination literally making everything up as I went along with our Hi-8 video camera in tow.  All of this to say, I've always loved monster movies, and Pacific Rim may just be one of the best, if not the most original monster movies ever made.

What makes Pacific Rim so original is that it mashes up two Japanese film genres, those of the giant monster and the giant robot, and creates a movie that is unlike anything that Western audiences have ever seen before.  Pitting giant robots versus giant monsters was a genius idea that I wish I had come up with, and screenwriter Travis Beacham deserves huge kudos for coming up with the idea.  The thing is though, this film wouldn't be worth watching if it didn't manage to have more going for it than just giant robots and giant monsters.  Beacham and director Guillermo Del Toro go beyond that simple idea and actually have created likable characters and an involving story to go along with the awesome spectacle, and that's why Pacific Rim should be considered one of the best monster movies ever made.

If you've ever seen any Godzilla movie or episode of Japanese animation (i.e. anime) featuring giant robots, then you will recognize all of the character types that exist in this movie.  Pacific Rim is really like anime brought to life in live action, and if this movie can achieve such believable results, then can a live action Mobile Suit Gundam movie be far behind?  One can only hope, but for right now, as a fan of anime and Japanese entertainment, Pacific Rim manages to introduce American audiences to all of the Japanese film and anime tropes that many of the kids in my generation have been in love with for our entire lives.  However, I don't want anyone reading this who has never seen any anime or previous monster movies to think that this movie is not for them.

Pacific Rim is really a movie for anyone who just loves a good time at the movies.  It's fun, action packed, and is emotionally involving.  Unlike so many Summer blockbusters that take themselves too seriously, Pacific Rim manages to balance the humor with the seriousness to create a lighthearted adventure film that still carries weight and consequence through the character's actions, but you're having a blast while the world is literally on the brink of destruction.  Guillermo Del Toro treats this film as if it's like a propaganda film from the WWII days, where he's idolizing the pilots of these giant robots, trying to inspire humanity with hope and optimism to actually rise up and meet the monsters rather than getting crushed under their feet.  Of course, I'll reiterate this point, had the characters not have worked, neither would have this movie.  The characters and their relationships with one another are what gives this movie dramatic heft when it most matters, to where when we reach the action, it's not just mayhem for the sake of mayhem, it actually means something.

In case you haven't noticed, I loved Pacific Rim.  Few movies are this imaginative and this much fun, and that's the main thing to take away from this movie.  From a design standpoint, this is one of the more meticulously crafted made up worlds I've seen in recent years, and that is a testament to Del Toro's gifted cinematic eye.  The action is stand up and cheer awesome, thanks to amazing FX work from Industrial Light and Magic.  As for the characters, none of them would work if the actors playing them weren't so likable, from Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and Charlie Day, to the emotionally vulnerable performance from Rinko Kikuchi, they're the ones that actually make us care about the story.  Bottom line, this isn't another Summer blockbuster trying to play off of post-9/11 fears and anxieties, it's literally a movie about the goodness of humanity and the power of the human spirit to work together when it's most needed, and who doesn't want to see that?

I give Pacific Rim an A!

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