WARNING: mild spoilers for Pacific Rim are contained within. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNT.
Over the weekend, I saw a quiet little movie called Pacific Rim. Going into the movie, I saw nothing but extremely positive reviews — not a big surprise for a Guillermo Del Toro movie and the crowd I listen to. I was super pumped to see this. I’ve been a fan of giant monsters destroying cities as long as I can remember, and of giant robots fighting them nearly as long. I saw a trailer with some mecha picking up a huge ocean liner and administering the El Kabong with it upon some beastie’s head, and I was sold. (2:02 in the trailer for the aforementioned Kabong.)
After the movie, I remember there being some parts in it that I didn’t particularly care for, but I still enjoyed myself immensely. I got home, and posted to Facebook that the movie was “85% brilliant, and 15% unnecessarily stupid”. Then, as he is wont to do sometimes, a good friend of mine spat what seemed like an endless supply of venom at the movie. Like, I’m pretty sure he has a big industrial-sized vat of venom, and he used it all. We usually see eye to eye on movies, but on occasion we’ll take very polarized positions on the matter. This was not one of those times. I parried a few attacks on the movie, and then I realized I agreed with nearly everything he was saying.
So, what didn’t I like?
- The acting wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t good. It frequently made me feel like I was watching a B-movie. I didn’t recognize anybody in the cast (except for Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS) until halfway through, and even then it was Charlie from Always Sunny and the new guy on True Blood with the irritating accent sporting a different irritating accent. Even Ron Perlman was laying it on like he got paid $5 extra for each word he emphasized. Nearly everyone was a giant walking cliche of some sort, though I have to wonder if less geeky viewers picked up on that.
- The story was an oddity to me. The characters seemed well-developed on paper, but the dialogue and the acting made everything seem wooden (although it was much better than the Star Wars prequels in this respect!). As for the plot, most everything fit together OK, but on occasion they dipped into awful, cliched pseudoscience in a way that made me think they did it on purpose, like they were worried the movie wasn’t going to work without some kind of fake science cheez-whiz ladled on top. There’s a particular part regarding analog and digital circuitry that my face is still effecting some repairs from the palming I gave it. While we’re on the subject of giant robots, I was very impressed with the dozen or so helicopters being able to lift and transport a skyscraper-sized robot by cable. It also seemed to me like humanity had more than enough information about where and even when the monsters were coming from to concoct and execute very efficient and lethal plans to keep everything out without building giant robots. Plans involving traps made out of nukes. Or maybe just dumping the world’s sewage right on top of the opening, every single day. That’d fix the Kaiju problem.
- I’m even going to have to rip on the robot battles a bit, which was the best part of the movie by far. I felt like the Jaegers were too slow and clunky to be effective against beasts that moved fluidly like the Kaiju. I really didn’t understand the tactics of picking up a Kaiju in the middle of the ocean and throwing it back in the water. (Maybe it gives them vertigo?) I also had a little difficulty believing that the newbies are taking down multiple kaiju that have, individually and as a team, demonstrated superior aptitude at wrecking the crap out of experienced Jaeger crews.
Fevered Positive Rationalizations
OK, there’s my venom. There’s a lot to dislike.
Here’s the thing. I cannot dislike it. I just can’t. I feel like I’m broken. There are the facts, right there on the page before me, and I can’t hate this movie. I want to watch it again, right now.
I have a few theories as to why this is.
- As previously stated, I have been steeped in a rich atomic marinade of mecha vs. monster combat since I was a tiny little kid. The nostalgia factor was there in full force, and it had a blazing sword. There is also the matter that, in the course of watching all these battles, that I have seen things far, far worse than what Pacific Rim offered. As I said before, part of me suspects the really cliche bad parts of the movie were done on purpose, maybe even as an homage to its source material. It sounds like madness, but I can’t figure out why the movie resonated so well with me otherwise.
- Somehow, despite the bad acting and weird writing, I found myself giving a crap about the characters. My heart almost exploded during the scene with little Mako and the shoe. Being a dad has exposed several key vulnerabilities in my psyche, and I believe this exploited them. I even got riled up when they canceled the apocalypse. I wish they’d shown more of the character-related stuff, both so I can know more about the other pilots, and so I can analyze what systems failed in me that made me enjoy this part.
- Same goes for the combat. Yes, there were parts that were thoroughly unbelievable. That doesn’t mean my butt left the edge of my seat, and that little squeals did not emit from my body upon a weapon or technique being called out by name and then used to awesome effect.
- OH MY GOD THAT SHIP KABONG. I could watch that part over and over. I want one of those LED picture frames that can just play that clip on repeat so I can put it on my desk next to the pics of my family.
- This film reminds me of when I’m running a D&D game and it falls apart completely and everyone enjoys themselves anyway. It is like a wellspring of hope flowing from a giant hippo’s butt.
- I think, honestly, this one is it. Guillermo Del Toro is an amazing director. We all knew this. I think he figured out how to make a bad movie that people will love in spite of itself. In my wildest dreams, I would never have expected this movie to get a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes and especially not a 87% audience approval rating. Again, I think this film is the way it is on purpose. I’m also somewhat worried the movie is just part of a complex mass brainwashing scheme, though honestly any scheme that starts with robot vs. monster combat couldn’t be all bad, right?
So, do I recommend you go see Pacific Rim?
Absolutely, with a resounding yes.
Just don’t ask me why.