Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Pacific Rim”


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Let’s start with a life lesson here that’s completely contradictory right on its face and therefore of absolutely no value whatsoever — sometimes the simplest ideas are great, and sometimes they’re really, really dumb.It all depends on the inherent intelligence level of the person who has them.

First case in point : a retrograde, racist, trigger-happy, self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” decides it would be a good idea to follow around a kid in his gated suburban subdivision who’s minding his own business and eating Skittles. The cops tell him to back the fuck off and stay in his car, but our low-grade Charles Bronson-wannabe thinks he knows better : he pursues the young man on foot, removes his gun from its holster, loads  some rounds in the chamber, unlatches the safety, and proceeds to generally and obviously tail him for three or four blocks. When the target of his harassment finally decides enough is enough and jumps him, a fight ensues. We’ll never definitely know who threw the first punch, but when “Mr. Tough Guy” was on the ground getting his nose bloodied by the kid’s fist, he decided he’d had enough and shot his “assailant” in the heart.

Dumb idea. I don’t care if a jury gave him a free pass for murdering the victim of his stalking or not, it’s still just not smart. Bargain-basement Bronson was reckless with his firearm, needlessly killed a kid who was, let’s face it, provoked into a confrontation, and now he has this bright, promising youngster’s blood on his conscience (assuming he has one, which is debatable) and has to sleep with one eye open for the rest of his life. Clearly, nothing good came from this guy’s very simple, and very stupid, idea.

Case in point number two : Wouldn’t it be seriously fucking cool if the Transformers fought Godzilla?

The answer to this question is as resounding as it is obvious : hell yes (as long as Michael Bay doesn’t direct it)! Thankfully, Guillermo del Toro is the guy who had this idea, and the result is Pacific Rim, easily the funnest thing to hit the silver screen this summer (even if I did just say the same thing about The Lone Ranger — this tops it, and by a wide margin).

Now, you can take exception to my admittedly over-simplified root description of this film all you want — hey, man, this is about a lot more than that : it’s about giant mentally-linked-to-human-host robots called Jaegers who battle inter-dimensional monsters from beneath the ocean floor known as Kaiju, there’s a nice little low-key love story that develops between out hero, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) and his co-pilot, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), it’s got Idris Elba as a stoic-but-compassionate military commander, and hey, Ron Perlman’s on board playing a mad scientist/black marketeer with the kind of relish that only he can bring to a role.

All these things are true, of course, but at the end of the day this is still a 12-year-old sci-fi geek’s wet dream realized on an enormous Hollywood budget. And that’s the best thing about it (besides maybe the awesome post-credits dedication to Ray Harryahusen and Ishiro Honda). This is del Toro letting loose his inner child for all of us to see, and that’s a pretty insipiring thing indeed, my friends.

Are there plot holes aplenty here? Sure, bigger than the monsters themselves (most notable among them being that if they know one of these nuclear Jaegers can seal up the dimenstional breach for good by blowing it to kingdom come, why did’t they try it years ago?), but never you mind that. Just sit back and allow yourself to be as thoroughly and completely wowed as is humanly possible by a movie. And when you feel a smile forming at the corners of your lips as the week goes on, don’t fight it — you really did have that much fun at the movies. It’s totally okay to feel like a giddy little kid again for awhile.

23 responses to “Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Pacific Rim”

  1. I was with you on the how come they never tried using a Jaeger as an IED on the Breach, but I got the reason on the second viewing. The Throat which formed the tunnel that went from the Pacific opening to the Kaiju-verse was coded to kaiju DNA.

    It still didn’t explain how the pods ejected from Kaiju-verse got back to Jaeger-verse, but that’s for killjoys to point out. XD

    As much as I love the film I will be the first to acknowledge that it’s not a perfect film or even story in the way we view those two things. But then again nothing ever is.

    What Pacific Rim got right and done so in an almost perfect fashion is bring blockbuster filmmaking back to it’s basic root: it has to be fun.

    Too many blockbusters (even ones I love like IM3 and The Avengers) come up with too complicated a plot to try and placate the cineaste crowd (aka film sobs) that its not all about explosions, action and adolescent fun.

    Think back to all the great and fun blockbusters that have survived the test of time (Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark). They remain fun to watch and on people’s top list of blockbusters because they were simple affairs with filmmakers who knew how to use effects and actually had an understanding of how action could be part of the film’s narrative instead of just a consequence of it.

    Whether we get a sequel or not (and the film was good at making it a stand-alone in addition to being a potential franchise), Pacific Rim fulfilled one of it’s taglines: GO BIG or GO EXTINCT. Del Toro sure went big and if Grown Ups 2 is what the general public wants then I’m more than happy to let them have it. I have Pacific Rim blu-ray to look forward to.

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    • Did they ever say the DNA “lock” went both ways? I would find it hard to believe the Kaiju and their creators would have been worried about locking the breach from their end. I am also interested in the political side of the whole Kaiju war. I wonder if the “suits” liked that the threat brought them together vs. one enemy. I mean, they didn’t seem to care much about actually stopping the Kaiju. They were too focused on putting up a wall, which didn’t even really work and shuting down the Jaeger program, who knows what their goal was. (All speculation of course) But attacking the breach seemed like something only the Marshall was willing to actually do, and who knows if he even had the permission of the higher ups to do so. I feel like del Toro gave us just enough exposition to tell the exact story he wanted to tell, and the rest he sort of left open for our imagination. Which I like.

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      • I think the whole wall idea was pretty stupid, and they never explained why anyone even thought it would be a good idea, nor why the Jaegers were really being mothballed. It just seemed like they wanted to write a story based around the idea that the program was shutting down, without really detailing why very much.

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    • Thanks for the explanation, or maybe it’s more a justification? Still seems like a gaping plot hole to me, but then, I’m kinda simple like that.

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      • Actually, the reason the wall was going to be built was that it was literally going to be faster to do a wall then continue build Jaegers which took 14 or more months from start to finish. Also the Jaegers have been fighting mostly Category 3 and some smaller Cat-4’s and even those were decimating the Jaeger Corps.

        The four Cat-4 kaiju that showed up in the film were bigger and badder than anything they ever came up against. It’s probably why the politicians never realized that kaiju may adapt to have wings to “fly over” the wall or have thick, armored axe-like heads to bash through the wall. LOL

        Plus, it goes to the whole politicians when pushed to make the hard decision will always go for the fake solution. When the riots began after the Sydney Wall fell the report mentions that people were being evacuated 300 miles inland but they were rumored to be what we would call the high percentile of the region’s wealth and influence.

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          • I wish! But watching it on IMAX 3D that many times is more money than I make.

            I just have ht Tales from Year Zero graphic novel and the tie-in artbook, Pacific Rim: Man, Machines and Monsters. Both of them do a great job in filling in backstory and exploring the world GDT created that never made it into the film or into the final cut. Like one example of something they actually made on-set was part of the Gipsy Danger Conn-Pod (head piece) set was the honeycomb-looking visor. Each of the sections on the visor had a mini HD cam slaved to it. They weren’t functional, but it goes to show how much detail went into trying to recreate for the actors the environment they were performing in.

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          • Those type of tie-in books are cool and all, but they’re also kind of a crutch for film-makers in that they let them off the hook in terms of having to establish a complete and coherent story in the actual movie itself. Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales” is probably the best example of this, since the film actually isn’t able to stand on its own much at all unless you’ve read the comic book “prequel” first. I liked that movie, mind you, but that’s a serious flaw in its structure.

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  2. Pingback: Why Hollywood Should Keep Destroying Cities – Sam Adams | Reason & Existenz

  3. “…a retrograde, racist, trigger-happy, self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain”

    Do you know for a fact that the shooting was “racially-motivated”?

    Have you seen George Zimmerman’s mother lately?

    It’s a very American thing to play the race card. If you were to say that in a more realistic country like, say, Australia, you’d be laughed out of the building.

    I’m not going to debate the exact details of the incident, because I wasn’t there and neither were you. But I’m pretty certain that you can’t read George Zimmerman’s mind, so I take your accusations of “racism” on Zimmerman’s part with a grain of salt the size of Florida.

    (Before we have to endure anymore mindless calls of “racism”, cast your mind back to the OJ Simpson trial and recall all those folks in the streets demanding that they “Free OJ”, and signs that read “Even If You’re Guilty, OJ, We’ll Still Love You”–if you’re real, you’ll understand the irony)

    Again, I’m not going to comment in depth on the incident in question. But I will say that I find it absurd how the general public has responded to the tragedy. If the Zimmerman incident underscores what a horribly violent society we inhabit, then surely the aftermath of the verdict shows the amazing stupidity of what passes for the human race these days. Yes, we’re all sick and tired of senseless violence in the suburbs. But we should be equally fed up with these idiots who think the best way to deal with the situation is to sell hooded windcheaters and purchase copious amounts of Skittles and Arizona beverages to “show their solidarity” for the deceased. And don’t even get me started on the calls by certain “celebrities” to go vigilante on the situation…erm, so aren’t these people just as bad as Zimmerman? Hasn’t history taught these idiots anything? All I’m going to say is that if you’re a well-known filmmaker and you’re going to jump on Twitter and urge people to send hate-mail to Zimmerman’s house, make sure you get the right address…and then have the sense to think better of it (it was lucky that an angry mob didn’t force their way into the community and firebomb the address).

    All those folks hitting the streets…they’ll protest the verdict, sell their sweaters, suck down their Arizona beverages and chow down on Skittles (Madison Avenue must love this shit), brave the rubber bullets…then they’ll go back to their homes and passively accept the world around them, plug themselves into their mobile telephones and i-Pods, absord the rubbish fed to them through the airwaves, continue to worship their vapid celebrities…nothing will change.

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    • Not sure where to begin with this, so I’ll point out the areas where I do agree with you — I’m sick of all the celebrities glomming onto the tragedy to look like “good guys,” as well, and sick of the entirety of vapid celebrity culture as a whole. I also agree that mass consumerism is a very poor “response” to anything, all it does is help lien the pockets of the corporate establishment who generally profit off, and sometimes openly promote, racism in the first place. So I’m in full agreement with you on all that.

      Where I disagree is that, frankly, I don’t think you need to be much of a mind-reader to divine Zimmerman’s racist leanings. He had absolutely no reason to be tailing Martin around in the first place, the kid was unarmed, and minding his own business. He was suspicious of him for no other reason than the fact that the kid was black. There’s been some talk of Zimmerman’s race, apparently his mother is Latina, but it’s ironic, then, isn’t it, that his recently-unearthed old Myspace page is full of anti-Mexican racial harangues and boasts on his part about beating a domestic violence rap his ex-girlfriend filed against him. Also, a number of folks have come forward confessing to hearing him using racially charged rhetoric at work. So I would take exception to your characterization of the cries of racism in this case being “mindless.” Also, consider if the roles were reversed — if it was a black guy who had shot and killed a white teenager under these same circumstances, you can bet he would be convicted in a heartbeat. If you don’t believe that, then, to borrow your own phrase, you’re living in a state of denial larger than Florida.
      Finally, before anyone defends Zimmerman’s actions, they should consider how flat-out reckless he was being with his firearm. The cops told him to quit tailing Martin, and instead, he got out of his car, followed him on foot, unholstered his weapon, loaded the chamber, and unlatched the safety. That kind of brazen disregard for basic gun safety is enough to get a person convicted of, at the very least, reckless endangerment in most jurisdictions.It also might explain — along with his history of violent domestic incidents — why he couldn’t get accepted into the police academy, which he had applied for on a couple of occasions.
      And yes, the OJ case was certainly an ugly chapter in American race relations, and many members of the African American community behaved shamefully when they openly celebrated OJ getting off the hook. But that doesn’t mean many of those same folks aren’t right to be outraged over the Zimmerman verdict. You can claim the sky is green one day and be wrong, and say it’s blue the next and be absolutely correct. But on a final note, you’re also absolutely correct that calls for vigilante action against Zimmerman are completely uncalled for and if one were to take the law into their own hands and summarily execute him, then that person would be no better than Zimmerman himself. I truly hope the man comes to no harm, but I must also admit that I don’t mind the idea of him being nervous and afraid for the rest of his life. At least he’s alive to be nervous, which is more than can be said for the kid he provoked into a confrontation, then cowardly shot in the heart. I frankly like the idea of him living out his life in a state of extreme paranoia and fear, but I would feel absolutely sickened if any actual violence befell him. He deserves to be allowed to live his life to its natural conclusion, free of the same unwarranted violence he maliciously inflicted on Martin — but if he’s looking over his shoulder the whole time, that won’t bother me in the least, provided that nothing actually ever happens to him.

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    • Until you’ve actually lived in this country and seen how race relations permeates its culture then you have no expertise to criticize or denigrate someone who speaks their mind about it who does understand it. No, don’t even respond to this because I will for the first time delete and response that doesn’t deal with the main topic the post was all about. I will not have you hijack this post the way you do others to grandstand and get on your soapbox about why you think the American culture sucks while ignoring the very topic you’re commenting on. And if you’re going to comment on the topic then you better have seen the film and base your reaction on those.

      I know I’ll get flack from people whose opinion I do care about, but enough is enough. I will not have another topic hijacked and focus taken away from it.

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      • In fairness, Arleigh, it’s kind of my fault for bringing the topic up in the first place. Yeah, it was in a way that was at least tangentially related to the film I was talking about, but nevertheless, it’s on me for opening up that particular door in the first place. I take what you’re saying about the particular axes Mark has to grind being rather obvious and consistent — and frankly holding up Australia as some sort of panacea of great race relations is pretty laughable on its face, I may not be Australian myself but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time there and know they have a pretty long way to go on it, as well — and yeah, the idea that Zimmerman must not have anything against blacks because he’s possibly not “white” himself is another goofy “point” that he implied that kind of defied logic — but, I’m the guy who should have thought ahead and realized a reaction like this may have been forthcoming. That being said, if we put ourselves in a position where we’re afraid to discuss prevalent social or political topics in our reviews just because somebody out there in internet-land, be that Mark or whoever, might hijack the comments section in order to ride their own hobby-horse and metaphorically suck all the air out of the room, then we’re setting a bad precedent by allowing the spectre of negative comments to silence us from saying what we want to say, and that’s a bit chilling, so I do understand why you’ve stepped in and said the things you’ve said here.

        Like it or not, movies don’t exist in a vacuum separate from the rest of our culture — for some of us they’re a rather big part of our lives, in fact, and it’s just not my style to divorce my film criticism from some sort of larger cultural and political context. Much as I enjoyed “Pacific Rim” and look forward to seeing it again, let’s face it, on the whole it’s still small potatoes in terms of its societal import in comparison to the Martin/Zimmerman case. And while I certainly appreciate the fact that you respect the fact that I know what I’m talking about here — and trust me, I do, my wife is black and I’ve got a front row seat to the ugly, but largely silent, retrograde racial views that many Americans still hold when we do simple, innocuous little things like — gasp! — hold hands together in public, the fact remains that I opened the door to this whole can of worms by invoking the case within the context of my review to begin with. i Guess my final word on the matter is that, no matter how far we might like to think we’ve come, a survey a few months back of Republican party voters showed that a slim majority of them — something like 52 or 53% — would favor outlawing inter-racial marriage. And you could probably find some Democrats (though not anywhere near as many) who were against it, as well, even though the guy they voted for in the last two elections happens to be the result of an inter-racial marriage himself. If anyone thinks Americans are too quick to play the so-called “race card,” then they’re kidding themselves.

        The goofy irony of it all is that in my review of “This Is The End” over at my own site, I raised many of the same criticisms of American consumer culture and celebrity-worship that Mark does here, and as far apart as we are in facing the reality of the issue of race in America, there are actually things we do agree about, so it just goes to show that there are areas of agreement among people with even the most disparate worldviews.

        That being said, if him, or anybody else, says they don;t like “Pacific Rim,” well — them’s fightin’ words!

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  4. Well, I think you’re all wrong! So there. 🙂

    Ryan made his point, Mark made his point, Arleigh made his point and, regardless of whether y’all agree with each other or not, we all love films and we all have the right to respond to anything that’s been said. Disagreement does not necessarily have to be taken personally.

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