We went to see Pacific Rim today, and while it was fun, it was not the no-holds-barred awesomefest I was hoping for.
For starters, I have a long-time adoration for both Godzilla and for robots, so there were two giant marks in PR’s favor right off the bat. I’m also a fan of big-to-the-point-of-silly action movies when they’re done well. Guillermo del Toro has a pretty good track record. Twitter was also all abuzz about how kickass PR is, so with all of this put together I went in with high expectations, which were sadly not met.
On the plus side, the Kaiju were pretty cool. And the Jaegers were also decently cool, though I wish they had been more stylized. It’s a Guillermo del Toro movie, come on! He’s like the king of neato stylized worlds and creations. On to my major nitpicks.
One: I am definitely experiencing Destruction Fatigue. This was just the most recent in a very long line of movies in which vast cities are destroyed, giant fragments of metal and concrete are hurled around like confetti, and the action happening is so frantic and close-up that you can hardly even tell what is happening. A thing is smashing another thing and now they are smashing into other, bigger things while they hurtle around smashing each other! Now I can definitely appreciate the power of a gigantic explosion, and the devastation of a city destroyed. Many movies have used this type of action and destruction to great success. But when it happens over and over in pretty much the same way and without any particular thing to latch on to, it loses its effectiveness. I was really pleased to see that a non-sequel giant summer movie can still get made, but this one didn’t speak well for itself.
Two: PR is an action movie and as such one doesn’t necessarily expect that the writing will be strong, but it was seriously weak here, both in dialogue and in storytelling. Even a talented actor like Idris Elba couldn’t save some of the formulaic lines. There was a lot of repeating the same thing over and over, to make sure that the idiots in the audience understood, I guess? (We got it.) And in the storytelling, there were just a really lot of scenes when a lack of consistency or illogical scenario took me out of the moment. Such as: the Jaeger is picking up shipping containers and then dragging a huge ship around as a weapon and then moments later the pilots are like, “Oh yeah, we should use the GIANT FUCKING SWORD THAT SEEMS TO BE PRETTY MUCH 100% EFFECTIVE.” Ya think?) Also: I’m not a science expert, but aren’t Kaiju supposed to be reptilian or amphibian or something along those lines? Something that isn’t a mammal, anyway, so why would they have umbilical cords? I know, I know, they’re aliens and they can do whatever they want. Also: I get that it’s a dire situation, but doesn’t it seem like blowing up a nuclear bomb in the center of the earth is going to have some major drawbacks down the line? I’m not saying that they had a lot of choices, but it seems like a plan with a pretty big downside. Also: the whole concept of two people being able to operate a Yaeger effectively is really far-fetched to me. Many of us humans can barely coordinate one body with one mind, let alone two minds that are supposed to be able to balance and do complicated physical fighting simultaneously. (I know, I know, willing suspension of disbelief.) Also: at the beginning of the movie, the premise is that the two pilots connecting to run the Jaeger have to be super-compatible in order to make it work well. Like brothers or father and son or some other really close male-male combination. Yet at the end, it’s like, who’ve we got? Throw them in! Also: if you’re a society trying to fight these Kaiju, why would you create Jaegers that are just matched (or outmatched) by the Kaiju – why would you not create something bigger, stronger, and more easily able to defeat the enemy?
Three: This was Yet Another movie that spectacularly failed the Bechdel Test. I mean, seriously, people. One female character. ONE.
Four: This is probably a combination of items two and three, but I just couldn’t find any characters to connect with. None of them were fully fleshed out enough to feel like I could empathize with them. Even the nerds!
Five: Pacific Rim did not seem capable of finding humor in itself. I’ve likely been spoiled by smart movies like those made by Edgar Wright, but I believe that you can do genre well and at the same time have fun. There were a shit-ton of Big Summer Action Flick cliches in this movie but without the knowing wink that would indicate that the filmmakers were aware of them. I expect more from Guillermo del Toro than I do from Michael Bay, is what I’m saying.
All of that said, it was fun at times, and I’m glad we saw it in the theater (at a matinee, so it was the cheap show, thank goodness) since I don’t think it will translate that well to a small screen. And Ron Perlman is pretty much always awesome, so there’s that.