Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Pacific-Rim-Poster Before jumping into my review of Pacific Rim, I want to talk about two things running through my mind as I was heading into the theater Saturday evening. First off, I’d been reading a lot that week about how this movie was going to tank. That’s one of the downsides to having a gig in the entertainment industry, you’re constantly inundated with the business-y side of Hollywood, the kind of stuff most people don’t really care about. The problem, though, is that sometimes the projections about how well a movie is going to do leading up to its release wind up poisoning the well a bit for the people who do pay attention to these things. “It’s not going to do well? I’m not gonna go.” I don’t have a solution for those aside, but the news bummed me out. Did it have something to do with Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2 doing better over the weekend at the box office? Maybe. Then again, those more family friendly movies were going to be big no matter what.

The other thing rolling through my head was, “THIS is going to be what I always wanted from a Godzilla movie.” As a kid, I loved the bits and pieces of giant moster flicks I’d catch on TV, but when I finally turned 16 and started getting tapes by the backpack-full from Family Video I discovered something rather unsettling: a lot of those movies (like Gamer vs. Viras) are super boring. All you really want is guys in rubber suits fighting over a cardboard city with toy tanks shooting at them, but what you get is a little bit of that with a lot of scientists talking about how to stop the monster. Yawn.

I figured that a director like Guillermo del Toro would be able to figure out a way to balance the giant action with the smaller character moments and that’s what Pacific Rim delivered as far as I’m concerned. The story takes place on an Earth in which an inter-dimensional portal has opened up in the ocean. Said portal spits out giant monsters — dubbed kaiju — that humanity has to fight. The human race took on the first one with conventional weapons, but eventually built gigantic robots called jaegers to handle the menace. The jaegers are so big, though, that you’ve got to meld two minds to run them. Two pilots — usually relatives — literally link minds to drive these things and fight the baddies. Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket is a one-time jaeger pilot who winds up working for his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try and put a stop to this nearly decade-long menace once and for all. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on, of course, but I don’t want to get too spoilery (yet).

Guys, I loved this movie. It delivered exactly what I wanted and even a little more. The robots versus monsters scenes were fantastic with everything from spinning blades and swords to battleships coming into play. But there’s also a real sense of menace to the film. They got pretty good at taking on the kaiju for a while as Becket tells us in the opening monologue, but then things got crazier with bigger, more dangerous monsters attacking. A pair of scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are doing their best to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime you get the sense that the world is hanging in the balance. Some politicians have decided to bury their heads in the sand and try a fairly foolish means of defense (which might seem a little insane, but I bought it enough), but luckily for earth there are some very brave men and women from all over the globe working together to put a stop to it.

As a kid I always wanted to cut out all the boring stuff with people and just watch the fights, but in this one, I thought there was a good deal of humanity interspersed throughout. Sure, a lot of it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. A leader who considers his image more important than his well-being, a cocky fighter unsure of why the hasbeen and rookie have been brought in, a person who hates the kaiju for destroying their family (that flashback scene kicked me in the gut, I’m such a wuss when it comes to kids in films these days). But when those characters are played well — and I thought they were for the most part — a bit of new life is breathed in. Plus, even if you don’t dig the, you wait a little bit and a robot rips a monster’s tongue out, so it’s cool.

pacific rim gipsy danger poster

There were a few elements of the film that didn’t sit particularly well with me. Minor SPOILERS follow. I enjoyed Hunnam’s performance, but the way he spoke was kind of distracting. The actor is from England, but he sports one of those accents that doesn’t sound like it truly belongs on either side of the pond. I had a similar complaint regarding Freddie Highmore’s performance in the first episode of Bates Motel. I’m not sure if this is just how he talks or how he was directed to speak, but it was distracting. I also wondered why the manner of defense against the kaiju was so segregated. You’ve basically got the jaegers and a giant wall, but the two are almost completely unrelated. Wouldn’t it make sense to have cannons that can do the same thing that Gipsy Danger’s fists can? They’ve been fighting these monsters for 6 or 7 years and no one thought of building up the borders in a different way?

But those are fairly minor quibbles. On the whole, I thought the story had a lot of fun, new elements that made sense and also had fun with sci-fi elements. The mental handshake stuff was cool and how can you not love ridiculously gigantic robots being built in even bigger bunkers driven by two people? The basic concepts get thrown at you pretty early in the movie, so if you’re not on board with the movie science, then you might want to skip the whole thing altogether. As it is, I enjoyed seeing a big budget spectacle that wasn’t based on anything but writer Travis Beachum and del Toro’s imaginations. I was far from disappointed by this film and would recommend anyone who though the trailers looked cool to go check it out.

Okay, SUPER SPOILER TIME. This is so SPOILERY that I’m putting it after the jump if you happen to be reading this post on the main page. If not, you’ve been warned.  Continue reading Pacific Rim Is Awesome

I Very Much Enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises

My wife has very kindly offered for me to head over to the theater and watch Dark Knight Rises a few times. I bowed out because it was too late one night, I wasn’t up to the three hour commitment and I just wasn’t feeling up for something so seemingly intense another night, but today I took her up on her very generous offer. As I tweeted before heading over to the theater, I actually can not remember the last movie I saw inside as the few new movies we’ve gone to since Lu was born 15 months ago have been at the drive-in.

Somehow, I’d actually been able to avoid any and all spoilers since the film’s July 20th release date. I might have written about Dark Knight Rises a few times a week for Spinoff leading up to the film, but since then any and all stories have been purely about box office. I’ve scrolled over tweets, avoided emails and even skipped some of my favorite podcasts to stay in the dark. I’m actually shocked it worked.

I don’t think I need to get into too much detail about the plot, but this film picks up eight years after the events of Dark Knight. Batman’s been out of commission since then, vilified thanks to his plan with Jim Gordon while Harvey Dent was turned into the city’s fallen knight. It’s been a good time for Gotham…until Bane comes to town and wants to knock everyone off their collective high horses.

Okay, the rest of the review until otherwise stated will take place in SPOILER country, so you’ve been warned. What I liked about this movie is the journey it took us on, even if it’s not one that’s necessarily the most original. Bruce is destroyed by the death of Rachel from the previous film and doesn’t know how he can go on living when she can’t do the same. This dovetails nicely with the plan he hatched with Gordon, giving Gotham the Batman they deserve. We also discover that Bruce’s distrust of humanity make him automatically deject any plans that might be used negatively even if their primary source could be good. That’s the kind of person her is at this point.

Bane is a whole different animal, one whose MO feels like a living breathing thing throughout the movie because we’re only hearing and seeing it from other peoples’ perspectives for the most part. I thought that was a really interesting take on him: you basically only know him by his actions and his speech, not because you know anything about him or his past. The way that his plan not only confirms the fears Bruce always had about the tech getting into the wrong hands but maybe also that you might as well get some good out of things even if they can be abused for evil (that’s not said anywhere on film, but something I thought while watching). I will say that the voice took some getting used to. It almost sounds like someone dubbed in a funny voice in that opening scene, but gets a little less cartoony as it goes on. I also had a hard time understanding him a few times, but that didn’t really bother me. You tend to understand the point he’s trying to convey.

I also want to talk about Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Man, I loved this character and his arc. He’s Bruce Wayne if he wasn’t rich, an orphan who learned later how to hide his anger at what happened to him and his parents, but eventually decided to do good by joining the police force. How he goes from that to freedom fighter could have been a whole movie in its own right and one I would have watched. I also enjoyed Anne Hathaway’s performance. She really dug into her bag of actor tricks going from flummoxed demure maid to femme fatale in no time flat, something that could have felt slopping in the hands of a lesser actress. She’s the bad guy side of the Bruce Wayne/John Blake model: poor kid taking what she needed to survive and never really stopping, but wanting to.

Making the proceedings even more entertaining for me was the fact that some of the Batman comics I read growing up were the basis of this story. I’m seen lots of comic movies and really enjoyed them, sometimes going back later and reading the stories they were based on, but I really can’t explain to you how much a part of me the long form Bane story Knightfall meant to me. Those were the first Batman issues I ever collected. I devoured the parts of that story I could find and it lead me to buying Batman comics for the next 20 years almost. But that’s not all, the movie also includes elements from the No Man’s Land story that saw Gotham cut off from the rest of the country and even some of the Bane/Ra’s al Ghul stuff that came about in later issues. I was even retroactively remembering how things fit in with my comics after we found out who Miranda Tate really was (facepalm, of course it was her!).

The movie wasn’t perfect though. Like I said, Bane’s voice was pretty cartoony at times, to the point where I was trying to figure out what animated character he sounded like. It doesn’t help that I have no idea what Tom Hardy sounds like normally. I also thought some of the larger crowd fighting was a little weak, specifically outside city hall, though the bouts between Bane and Batman were always gnarly. OH, and how awesome was it seeing Batman and Catwoman fighting awesomely side by side?! Oh, right, I’m on complaints. Let’s see…oh, Batman took an awful lot of very previous time to stop and say goodbye to Catwoman and Gordon when flying the bomb out, didn’t he? It reminded me of a much less campy version of that famous scene from the 60s Batman movie where he’s trying to get rid of the bomb.

Speaking of the end, I thought it was very curious. Going in, I knew that this was going to be Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film (unless the famously tricky director is playing with us once again), but I was also assuming that this would be the last Batman movie set in his movie universe, like Warners would just scrap it and start over again with a new idea. But that’s pretty silly isn’t it? In comics, sometimes a writer leaves and blows everything up, leaving the next guy to pick up the pieces and sometimes there’s a really smooth transition. It seems like Nolan was giving whoever comes after him a very easy access point. They can clearly move forward with the John Blake developments or bring our hero back any number of other ways. Heck, Nolan could even still produce like he’s doing on Man of Steel, that would give him time to work on whatever his next original project will be. I don’t know any of the answers here, but I like having the questions running around my brain.

End SPOILERS. So, yeah, I really enjoyed this movie. It didn’t grab me right away in the beginning, but kept winning me throughout and by the end, I was completely in, rooting for Gotham and believing that one man really can make a difference. I was so pumped on the way home I had to make sure to watch my speed. I also bought in hard to the idea that you have to make sacrifices to help change things, you can’t just hide behind whatever’s safe or even your family because you’re just making a crappier world for your kid to live in if you’re not helping change things.