Say hello to this summer's Speed Racer
, the next John Carter
, the next Scott Pilgrim
, the next Dredd
Say hello to every film blogger's new obsession.
Say hello to the next big cult film that's inevitably going to receive heaps of insurmountable praise online while it also inevitably bombs on an almost catastrophic level that the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair will relish in reporting on.
Say hello to your favorite summer tent pole mega movie for 2013.
It's been a long time since Boozie Movies has had the opportunity to write a positive review on a mainstream film (if there's ever been one) but Pacific Rim
sure ended up hitting this writer's happy bone, but that doesn't quite make it the near perfect spectacle many other writers may be claiming it to be. Far from it actually.
Here's the thing. Nostalgia is a cruel and vindictive bitch and a manipulative dick.
Nostalgia is that really shitty ex girlfriend/boyfriend that you find yourself dating repeatedly time and time again throughout your life. It's that person that you've had multiple horrible breakups with, the kind where you're both screaming the worst insults you can imagine at each other in a public place while your friends stand around uncomfortably trying to ignore the scene that you're both causing.
You quickly move on from the ugly relationship ending fight and find yourself immediately on the rebound, trying your best to find someone who's as different as possible. But you get stuck in a perpetual revolving door waltz between drunken one night stands with younger partners and trying to marry the first sensible adult whose personality that you don't find absolutely grating. You find yourself getting desperate, trying to rush into something serious, and move in with the first person who you don't fantasize about strangling in their sleep. And because you're still a mess from the relationship that lead you onto this bumpy path, you keep fucking up, and nothing works. So then you start to romanticize that relationship with that shitty ex and you find yourself dwelling on those early puppy dog love days when things were good. You forget about all of the things that lead to the two of you nearly getting into a physical altercation at a crowded concert. Instead, you find yourself rationalizing the bad times and start to create imaginary outside scapegoats to blame.
And then you run into that person some time later, and you immediately know, that's it's been the same for him/her.
They're just as happy to see you.
You both act civil, you make pleasant chit chat and hey, you're both single again, so you end up making plans to hang out and catch up further.
And before you know it, you're eating breakfast naked while watching cartoons together again. And it's good and the sex is great. And you feel happy that you've reconnected. This is fate, it's serendipity, and you're going to learn from your mistakes, you're going to make it work this time.
But you don't because you're both still the same people, you grow, but you don't change. You can replace the turn table's needle all you want, but if the record is scratched, it's still going to skip and repeat.
And this is what happens when nerds grow up, hoping to find that lightening in a bottle again, when they hear that the director of Pan's Labyrinth is going to make an ultra budget mecha vs. Kaiju film.
They want to latch on to that thing that they think they're supposed to love, that they so desperately want to love.
I almost don't want Pacific Rim to be successful because I don't want to have to spend the next 3 years watching copycat filmmakers attempt to make their own Kaiju flicks. It's kind of like making a Xerox of Xerox of Xerox, it just keeps getting more and more distorted until the image is unrecognizable, the words unreadable, and things just get uglier and uglier.
Remember all of those awful Pulp Fiction rip offs? Even worse, all of those Kill Bill rip offs and the whole Grindhouse resurgence?
I'm already dreading the day when I walk into a sleazy Kensington (Philly) dive bar and am stuck sitting next to some pot bellied vegan with a cupcake tattoo on his shoulder, a Baphomet tattoo on his neck wearing neon colored Ray-Bans and an American Apparel made Ultraman shirt talking to some lady who looks like a Tim Burton caricature about the hip new Kaiju film and how it's totally more cerebral than whatever it is that she likes.
Please, don't take the Kaiju genre away from me, Pacific Rim. The Japanese Kaiju genre is one of the few nerd properties I still have left to claim... Please don't let there be Kaiju themed burlesque shows and Kaiju shaped flasks for sale at Urban Outfitters. Please don't fill my Facebook feed with obnoxious instagram photos of club girls drunk on Patron making out with other equally drunk club girls wearing Gamera or Rodan shirts. Please don't inspire really bad and tacky graffiti art with Neon Genesis Evangelion characters in it.
But I don't think I have to worry about that since very few people are actually going to end up seeing this no matter how strongly the internet critics are going to try their best to convince everyone that it's the best thing ever.
I have no illusions about the tone of my writing. I'm a snarky, cynical, misanthropic bastard. But I legitimately went into Pacific Rim wanting to LOVE it. And for the first hour, the film seemed to be trying its damndest to make sure that it hated it.
Remember that whole analogy at the beginning of this and all? Pacific Rim was that ex girlfriend who I've been pining after for too many years.
And the first half was a really bad first date with someone you've already gone out before.
Let's face it; Guillermo del Toro is one of the world's greatest genre filmmakers with a strange predilection for directing really really shitty scripts. Blade 2 was yet another horrible David Goyer script devoid of any wit, creativity or imagination but the general consensus is that it rocks. Why? Good director. Hellboy 1 and 2? Both lackluster stories that fail to capture the spirit of Mike Mignolia's work but with pitch perfect art direction, fantastic mise en cine, and a likeable cast who give strong performances, they became cult favorites. Mimic? A standard Alien clone/monster run amuck film with a silly gimmick of having giant carnivorous New York cockroaches that again transcends its screenplay and manages to be something memorable.
Well, Pacific Rim is del Toro doing Ronald Emmerich.
Now wait! Hold on! I'm not comparing it to the disastrous 1998 remake of Godzilla.
No, I'm comparing the first hour to Independence Day, and Robot Jox, and Top Gun.
Pacific Rim opens with a slam bang montage explaining the origin of the giant monsters that have come to devastate most of the world which quickly leads into an exhilarating battle sequence that sets up the lead hero's back story.
But it also provides three films' worth of plot through a lazy exposition given via voiceover.
And then the film starts introducing all of the other supporting characters, each one an iconic archetype, although stereotype might be more fitting. There's the tough but sensitive general who may be dying of a mysterious illness, there's the quiet but blunt and yet still submissive Japanese woman who also happens to be fiercely intelligent and absolutely deadly in the martial arts. There's the arrogant, asshole bully protagonist, and there's the two bickering, fumbling scientists, one of whom is the guy from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia still playing the same buffoonish character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He's paired with the uptight, egg head anal retentive nerd scientist.
Like every big film this summer, like Star Trek, and Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim moves at a breakneck pace, doing its best to plow through an entire television season's worth of mythology and convoluted subplots to set up the marvelous set pieces that take up the second half. There's no room or time for the characters to breath. Everyone is practically introduced in a way where they might as well turn to the camera and say, "Hi, I'm the bossy but cute Asian love interest for the white man." "Hi, I might seem like a hard ass military black dude, but there's more to me than just that." "Hey there guys, we're the comic relief for tonight." "Ah, ya know I'm the prick you're going to hate but I'm totally going to redeem myself with a huge sacrifice later." " Yo, I'm Ron Perlman, I don't have to be anything else cause I'm mother fucking Ron Perlman and that's enough."
It's all a bit awkward and it does indeed feel rushed. But it's not just that Pacific Rim forces an entire trilogy's worth of story onto the viewer in the first act, the problem is that every moment of it is formulaic and cringe inducing cliché. And at least no dies trying to save a fucking dog from a fucking tornado.
But the actors all do a fine job and every frame is gorgeous. Again, this is del Toro and it has that spectacular Spanish color palate with those brown and burnt sienna earth tones juxtaposed with vibrant primary colors. It is striking and it has the best use of 3D since Coraline. And as elaborate and huge as the action sequences may be, it doesn't feel oppressive and insulting like Man of Steel. I didn't feel like a roided up frat boy in an American flag T-shirt was bashing pots and pans two inches from my face for three hours while someone on a pixie stick high videotaped it with a jerky handheld camera.
To be fair, even the garbled mess of the film's first act may be borderline parody with its banality, it's still perfectly entertaining, but it doesn't really strike any major chords to make it something special. It'll remind you plenty of Voltron, and Gundamn. It's just a shame that it doesn't do anything new or special enough to broach the likes of something more interesting or transgressive like Neon Genesis Evangelion.
People may say that you shouldn't expect brains or emotion with a giant robot vs. monster film, but then again, these people haven't seen or understood the context of the original Gojira or aforementioned Evangelion. I don't think these people really watch good anime or read good comics. These people are happy to spend their money on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
But Pacific Rim stops floundering once the characters find themselves making a last stand in Hong Kong, when Ron Perlman shows up as a black market Kaiju organ dealer.
From that point on, the film hits its stride and finds the right places to put its characters and settles into a much more comfortable pace. And then it blows the audience away with some of the best giant monster/robot destruction porn ever committed to celluloid, or 4K, or whatever the fuck it is these kinds of films are shot on today.
It's kind of like the Robert McKee's school on successful filmmaking.
"You just have to wow them in the end."
Sure, it's important to grab the audience in the beginning, and Pacific Rim's opening is flashy
enough to do that, but it goes to hell for a while in the middle, struggling to find its identity.
But it wows in the end, and boy, does it wow.
Although, the film teeters on ending on a much stronger note, one that would have paid a fine tribute to the original Gojira, it makes a disappointing cop out.
But maybe that's a big spoiler for all of you Kaiju fanatics out there.
But come on, no summer Hollywood film has the balls for that. As it stands, the final resolution ends up being nearly identical to that of Independence Day...
And Wall E. It's kind of like Wall E too.
But at least the film does end definitively. Del Toro must have known that this wouldn't catch on because it's one of the few blockbusters of its type that doesn't seem to exist solely to set up a larger franchise. How refreshing?
Still, my audience was cheering and clapping throughout the last thirty minutes. When the theater let out, you could hear the exasperated excitement with proclamations of "best movie ever!"
People were hyped when it ended.
But I still remember my friend turning to me an hour in and asking in a whisper, "Does this suck? I can't tell."
I have no doubt others were asking that same question.
And my answer is, "I'm not sure." I think I need to see it 3 or 4 more times."
So you can take that for what it's worth.
I went through all of the same emotions, the same ups and downs as I did when watching Speed Racer.
Holy shit, this is awesome.
Holy shit, this is stupid.
Shit, this is kind of long.
But holy shit, this is awesome.
I've already watched this with a strong whiskey and cherry diet coke drunk and I already have plans to see it inebriated on another level this coming weekend, and then I'll make my final verdict after seeing it dead cold sober in a few weeks.
I went through that same process with Speed Racer and I'll still stand by that candy colored acid trip and continue to argue that it's one of the most fun and innovative would be blockbusters of the last decade.
That said, say hi to the next big cult film cause the people who are gonna love this, or gonna really fucking love it.
Me, I don't really love anything anymore, but I came pretty close with this.