Moves like Jaeger
It’s pretty significant a movie like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was passed up at the box office. For one, the Transformers-on-steroids versus mutated Godzilla battles were some of the best battle sequences I’ve ever seen. The visual effects team made the entire thing look completely feasible without breaking a sweat. Coupled with this is the action movie, unlike so many other action movies, tells an interesting and (pretty much) original story rather than spending its entire runtime showcasing epic but nonetheless pointless. If Pacific Rim had come out five years ago, it would be a classic. Since it came out in a time where audiences have already been so spoiled by special effects they would rather go see comedies that can’t get their approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes above single digits, it will apparently go unappreciated.
There’s no way the script wasn’t initially intended for a video game. The movie felt like watching a video game, complete with uniquely stylized characters spewing out over-the-top dialogue. In a not too distant future, slimy behemoths bigger than buildings known as Kaiju emerge from the center of the earth and attack human civilization. As the attacks became more common, overgrown Optimus Primes known as Jaegers were created to fend off the monsters. One of the film’s most important plot points even felt like a game mechanic: operating the Jaegers required two people to link their minds together, as the interface was too complicated for one person to handle.
Ex-pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnan) reenters the war when offense leader Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) needs as much help as he can get. When looking for a new copilot for his old Jaeger Gipsy Danger (?), Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), whose pixie face is balanced only by the badness of her ass, is the clear best candidate, though Pentecost refuses to let her fight due to horrific childhood events that may interfere with her concentration.
The story may blur somewhere in its center, when there are too many characters who all play important roles and too little time to give all a proper focus. There’s the father and son Jaeger team Chuck and Herc (Robert Kazinsky and Max Martini) who pilot Striker to be one of the most formidable fighters despite their personal rocky relationship. Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day, who may have confused this film for some sort of bizarre Broadway play) is a scientist who potentially discovers a way to stop the Kaiju, but another crazy scientist Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) refuses to humor his hypothesis.
Never thought I would say this, but who cares about the story when the action sequences are this incredible? Excluding the opening scene, which shows a Jaeger being torn apart by a particularly vicious Kaiju (was I the only one who felt completely scandalized watching this? Emotional engagement right from the top!) the movie is dry of robot fighting behemoth until its second half. Del Toro’s direction keeps the audiences updated on every detail of the fight like they’re watching some sort of demonic, HD tennis match – the Jaeger Striker cut off one of the enemy’s eyes! But wait, the Kaiju lands a hit, that’ll break the arm. Gipsy Danger can’t use its sword! Whatever, nail it with a rocket! These were some of the thoughts racing through my mind as I watched. So nerdy but so entertaining.
The movie conveys a sense that the viewer is in the midst of watching something “big.” Not just because the opponents are Godzilla-sized, but because the movie is grandiose in story and visual effect achievement. The offering of special effects is some of the most impressive to be achieved in film to date. I’m a little perplexed then, that the movie hasn’t made as big a splash as Gipsy Danger dropping into the ocean. People are missing out on this delicious slice of hyperbolically wacky, unrelenting excitement.