Pacific Rim. Hmmmmm

So I watched Pacific Rim with my dad tonight and his comment at the end almost matched my feelings on it: “What a strange movie.”

Now I enjoyed it, but it does have this very shallow feel to it. As much as I loved giant robots smashing giant monsters about, I don’t seem love it as much as Del Toro does. I want more of a story and characters who really engage me. I want a plot that puts me on the edge of my seat. This whole ‘hey it’s a dumb movie, just enjoy it’ doesn’t work for me. I could claim it doesn’t work for my age, but I’m not sure it ever worked on me.

Again, I did enjoy it, but my brain didn’t.

The main character was bland. Would have worked back in the 80s but now… Hell, Tom Cruise played a better Maverick than this way back then. I would have felt more for him if we had seen him grieving and changing, rather than the skip to 5 years later. Although I think that was better for the overall storyline.

A major issue you can have in a story is other characters who are more interesting than the main one. The father/son partnership could have, should have, been more compelling. The two scientists bickering were more interesting – although I did feel straightaway that their theories in no way competed. They came from different angles, sure, but both could have been right. Which they were. Unsurprisingly.

Oh, speaking of incredibly obvious plot lines, the moment a retired pilot says one more time and he’s going to die, you know he’s going to be back out there one more time.

Idris Elba was pretty good and I found his relationship with Mako far more intriguing than possibly any other. His character was the noble, tragic hero and he played it well. More of him would have been better.

There were some really dumb moments in this movie that pissed my brain off, which started arguments between myself and it as I just tried to enjoy the movie. Using a sword (which wasn’t previously mentioned) at the last moment seemed so dumb. I remarked about it to my dad and he burst out laughing. I know it was all about an exciting surprise final moment, yet that doesn’t change how stupid it was. I’ve since read they didn’t want to use cutting weapons because the blood of the monsters would melt it, but you would still want to use it to end a serious engagement as quickly as possible, other cutting weapons were seen used, blood was often shed, they had two swords, etc, etc etc. If it had been an easier, simpler fight, okay. But casualties had been taken, much was at stake, two monsters had to be faced. Also, if using cutting weapons was so risky, why bother fitting them?

This did lead me to wish the jaegers – the giant robots – had had weapons. Carry a giant hammer or mace. Hell, if fighting in the sea, a trident would have been cool. Swords which heated up to cauterise the wounds. Rail guns instead of arms. Flamethrowers or something to freeze.

I also wish we had seen more variety among the robots. Perhaps some were heavily built to obstruct the monster while another was built for damage. We could have seen teams that complemented each other. We did meet other nationalities, and by meet I mean walked past. The Russians had a big strong jaeger but it got ripped apart early. Again, I was annoyed at this. It felt like a waste. We could have had various national teams interacting and conflicting, but no. Get those others out the way and let’s keep this simple. I mean for fucks sake, the main character in his jaeger kills nearly all of the monsters we see in this movie.

It felt so Gary Stu. Main team does everything. I wished for more than that. I wanted other teams to do more, to share the load, to show off. Even the noble sacrifice at the end felt forced. I believed one character would do this. He seemed destined for it because of what he was going through. The other, well, earlier he had said he liked being alive. This would have made for a fascinating character change if any of it had been developed. Nope. Also, maybe I missed something but he could have escaped.

Oh, other dumb moments – let’s fire flares at a monster because, why not?
Oh no, jaeger is about to fire its weapon indoors and there’s nothing we can do! Oh he pulled the plug. Nevermind.

Other elements felt weak. Politicians pulling the plug because they’re mean, stingy politicians. The wall never looked a good idea. I really would have preferred to experience the losses as the unit was worn down. Jaegers being battered and needing repairs more and more as fights came quicker. Empty seats in the canteens as pilots died. I’m reminded of the movie about the Battle of Britain which captured the gradual losses over time very well. I wanted to feel the war being lost, not just be told about it. There’s a lot of being told in this movie. “You’re a loose cannon.” “We can win this.” “I can do this.” “No you can’t.”

The unit was losing a war when strong, but now it is down to its bare bones we’re meant to believe they can win. That felt weak as well. Of course, the Marshal had a big scheme to win, but really it was just doing the same thing one last time. This plot would have made more sense if the mindmeld with a monster brain had happened early on and changed what they thought they could do. That would have prompted a new plan, one to believe in.

Oh, and let’s not even talk about how the scheme to win is essentially the same as Independence Day’s. We even had a close up on the enemy before the big boom.

The two scientists story could have been more of a driving force to what goes on than a sidenote. Also, I like those two actors a lot, but wow, those two characters are cliché riddled. I did like their end moment but wish we had had more of them to make it feel more important.

I am a fan of Del Toro and think he is an amazing director but sometimes I suspect his storytelling. I love the Hellboy movies but they have some weak elements in them. In fact, 2 has a lot of weak stuff. But visually he has been brilliant and his love of monsters is something I share. Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. Chronos I saw when young and was disturbed by it (a good thing). Also, any excuse to put Ron Perlman on screen is fine by me.

Again, I did enjoy this. I’ll watch it again and again, I’m sure, but more as something in the background. A white noise movie. I felt this could have been more. If I had seen this as a kid in the 80s I would have loved it. Today, I feel generic characters following a shallow story isn’t good enough. At least my brain is insistent on this. He’s a picky sod though.

The monsters – the Kaiju – were really cool. Again, Del Toro put more into them and their individuality than anything else! The background on them was good (again, Independence Day clone stuff) and was enough for them to be showing up. The dinosaurs mention was idiotic.

I just don’t know how to feel about this one. I was moved by some of the end moments. I enjoyed the big fights. Charlie Day made me laugh. I laughed a number of times while watching this movie, but more often at it than with it. The Russians made me laugh that way, and yet I wanted to know them. Again, just feel a lot was wasted.

I guess this movie reminds me of Avatar. Lovely visuals and interesting premise, but generic story with characters I care little for. I felt this was better than Avatar, though. At least I liked it more.

Oh, one moment I loved was the father/son farewell and the son kisses his dog but doesn’t even hug his dad. It spoke volumes about their relationship. Mind you, that character was a lightweight too. He seemed to be a dick just because we needed someone to be a dick. Again, we had to be told about it. I did love the “you’re an egotistic jerk with a daddy complex” line, or words to that effect, but I never felt the movie had sold that. As with many things.

Maybe in time I’ll accept this movie for what it is – a tribute to the japanese genre of robots vs monsters. It has a good heart and doesn’t bore you with grey battles such as Transformers does. However, I often felt this movie could easily have been some throwaway anime. Neon Genesis Evangelion it certainly isn’t. I know a lot of people have made that comparison and it might not be fair, but that show had a lot of themes and subplots going on to make it fascinating besides robots vs monsters. This doesn’t.

I’ve seen a lot of people champion this movie and bemoan that it didn’t do so well at the box office. I feel that to an extent but this isn’t a movie I’d ever champion. I’d recommend it. Have fun. But as I said to a friend of mine tonight, if you’re not into robots vs monsters, there’s not much else to see this for.

Ho hum. I know there are a lot more complaints I had, ranging from petty to major. Oh just remembered! I had no idea how the British scientist was figuring out the escalation of Kaiju appearances. They had been coming for years one by one and he has an equation about it? The shorter times between appearances made sense, but why it goes from single entrants to two, then three in the next step… Well, movie thrill ride is the answer. Everything has to be ramped up to 11.

I wanted to love this movie. I liked it. No bad thing. I am sure I would have loved it once. But I just wanted a more plausible plot with charismatic characters. Is that too much to ask while watching a movie about robots vs monsters?

Oooh, forgot about this point, which I posted elsewhere so I’ll just tack it on:
Also, I am so bored of movies having the smart white man bit. Foreigner speaks their own language, assuming the white man doesn’t know it, but then he speaks up with a smug look. After that, the foreigner rarely uses their own language and the white man never uses it either. Essentially, they taught the actor one line to do this and then go back to English only for the audience. It isn’t such a bad thing, but overused. So overused.

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