Pacific Rim: Quick Brain Dump

I just saw Pacific Rim.

I will now commence neural bridge with you.

We have drift.

(warning: mild spoilers detected)

• This is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long, long time.

• It made me want to go play with toys. Big smash-em-up anime robots and giant monsters.

• The movie understands what it wants to be and never deviates from that. That said, it never precisely surpasses it, either. We are left with a model robots versus monsters film, though perhaps not exactly a transcendent one, either.

• This is not a big dumb action movie. It’s smarter and savvier than you think. Also: no gaping plotholes! It didn’t feel rushed or half-baked (unlike nearly all Hollywood tentpole releases these days). Del Toro knows his stuff here.

• The action is top-of-the-pops. Generally clear; not shaky. Heartpounding stuff. Some sequences could’ve used a better sense of danger and consequence but for the most part: aces.

• A lot of the action is also repeated in the movie trailers. Like, the scene with the “Boatsball Bat?” (i.e. whack kaiju in the face with a giant ship)? Yeah, that would’ve played so much more bad-ass if I hadn’t seen it in like, three of the 17 trailers for the movie. As it stood, most of the really cool action beats are robbed of their fist-pumping woo-hoo-ery by their repetition in all the commercials and trailers.

• Thankfully, the action isn’t necessarily what carries the movie. It’s awesome. It’s important. But trust me when I say you’re not just waiting impatiently for the next action sequence to commence — there’s some compelling character drama stuff and worldbuilding going on in the middle. Never drags.

• Okay, fine, Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh character is a bit generic. I really wanted him to whoop it up — I mean, if you’re gonna write in the classic “unpredictable hero who wins the day unpredictably,” then you should really strive to write him as a loose, popping wire. Han Solo is a guy that could swing either way — and further, he appears to be having fun in the story (and the actor in the role). That’s not really true here.

• But it doesn’t matter because the real bad-ass is Rinko Kikuchi’s Mako Mori character. So awesome. Actually, there’s a flashback scene of her as a little girl in the midst of some bad shit going down, and that little girl actress needs to win a big bucket of Oscars, stat. Those scenes are the best in the movie. Emotionally affecting, exciting, scary, and at the end, triumphant. The kind of scene a Hollywood executive might dismiss as a drag on the film but that really, really anchors the character and the story.

• Idris Elba, of course, is rad as fuck.

• Although, Idris Elba is given one speech (again seen in trailers) that is so bland and so library paste it feels like you could’ve copy/pasted it from a hundred other cheesy action movies. “WE ARE MANKIND AND WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS” is a pretty boring thrust. Any writer worth his salt could’ve put some better rah-rah-rah blood-pumping speechifying in his mouth.

• The monsters are a little samey-samey by the end. Like, a few really stand-out, but part of the problem is, monsters have no actual persona. They’re intelligent, but they’re not characters. To anchor an otherworldly, unknowable enemy like that you need to find some kind of human evil. That’s why in zombie stories you tend to have some sinister human component to actually bring drama — otherwise, the enemy is basically the equivalent of a hurricane or a earthquake. A little of that in this film (opposing government? it’s set up in the beginning but never goes anywhere) would’ve gone a long way. Human evil is more interesting than alien agendas.

• Oh, and can I just say: Charlie Day and Ron Perlman, everybody. *round of applause that goes on long enough to be uncomfortable*

• This is the rare action movie where I could’ve used another half-hour added to it.

• The climactic showdown / end game is honestly a little too easy, too pat.

• Despite that, I was still thrilled by it, so. Yeah.

Anyway. There we go.

It’s epic fun.

You should see it.

And tell your friends to see it.

And then go see it again.

Because we need to support films that aren’t reboots or rehashes or sequels or prequels.

47 comments

  • I agree – that little girl’s performance in the backstory scenes was fantastic. I teared up. SHE MADE ME BELIEVE.

    I also liked how there was more companionship-love/relationships in the movie than there were romantic-love/relationships.

  • After being a bit disturbed seeing Superman destroy buildings full of people while battling Zod and pals, I really liked that del Toro made it very clear that the buildings in Hong Kong were evacuated before the jaeger/kaiju demolished them.

    And, yeah, the little girl. Bravo to her.

    • I liked that about this movie too. The destruction -porn that happened in Man of Steel was a little disturbing to me. I’m glad it wasn’t repeated here. Plus it had a strong female character and I didn’t end up looking at fanservice butt – I.E. Star Trek.

  • We are slated to take our Dad to see this film on Tuesday, and I’ll admit, recent equivalents have made me a bit leery. I confess, I could give the robot a complete miss (Voltron, anybody?) and was intending to see this solely for the monsters. So thank you for your review. I am actually looking forward to Tuesday now.

  • The end was my only problem, and only because it reminded me of the end of Independence Day so much. But even with that what a great movie so much better than Superman and the best $16 dollars I have spent at a IMAX screening. I also loved that it was’t a sequel and didn’t try to be anything but what it was a giant monster versus robot movie.

  • I just saw this last night! It seemed very Evangelion-y, in a good way. I was geeking out over all the beautiful details in the mecha – wonderful, wonderful special effects. Did you see it in 3D? Those water shots were fun. And I think I nearly peed myself when the big beasty was chasing the little girl.

    Also, I got the Independence Day vibe from the last hurrah speech, too. Underwhelming, but not enough so to ruin this KICK ASS MOVIE.

  • This just about captures my feeling on the movie. For me, some of the positive reviews have been a little hyperbolic. It isn’t a transcendent movie. It’s a very good one. Fun, smart, beautiful. But for example, io9 called it the best fairy tale of the 21st century, and I have to stop well short of that. I’d encourage anyone to go see it, and I’ll probably see it again, but it had faults. In addition to the ones you pointed out, I actually thought the Mako Mori character had some missed opportunities. In the scene (trying not to spoil, but beware) when the one has to save the other, then finish the mission, I think it would have hit harder if it was her rather than Raleigh doing the saving. Anyway, like Chuck said, go see it. See it now. See it twice.

  • Despite my wariness over a movie about giant robots vs giant monsters, I’ve been waiting for this one with frothy, sweaty nerdboyism (which is interesting and not very ladylike for a classy dame like myself) because of two words: Guillermo Del Toro. (Okay, that’s three, shut up.) Everything everyone I’ve heard see it is in agreement that it’s big and fun and silly but never stupid.

    Now explain to me how Grown Ups 2 is supposedly neck and neck with it for number 1 in the box office.

  • YES!! YES!!! YESSSSSSS!!!! I gave it an unequivocal 10 after viewing #1 then stuck with that 10 after viewing #2 with one Marko Kloos as my witness. He was like a 10 year old afterwards. It is a big bang monster movie but it’s got a strong story and strong acting to back up the kaiju’s. Loved this film. Here;s hoping it get Del Toro a greenlight to do Hellboy 3!!!

  • You spent money to see Despicable 2???? You have kids … right?

    Thanks for the review. Wasn’t sure I wanted to see it. Previews to me seemed like Transformers meets Godzilla. Now I will.

  • I was really disappointed by this flick. Something like 16 male speaking parts, and 2 women with actual lines beyond screaming. Mako, who is supposed to be this badass mecha pilot, is all vulnerability no strength, and is constantly getting rescued by men. Back in the day when a monster wrecked her home town? Rescued by a man. Stuck in a memory of that same day? Rescued by a man. Oxygen knocked out during a fight? Rescued by a man. The one time she actually gets to do something really cool during an action sequence is the bit with the sword, which I liked. But after that, she shuts up and lets Raleigh drive. Everybody knows Raleigh is boring–why does he have to be the main character, then?

    The other woman, the Russian chick, is basically a non-entity. It’s 2013 and we still have otherwise good movies utterly ruined by their insistence upon focusing on men to the exclusion of all else, even when the token woman could be way more interesting than the typical Loose Cannon Guy protagonist.

    • July 15, 2013 at 8:37 AM // Reply

      Agreed. Also going to throw in the fact that instead of her possibly learning that she can respect her father figure and also challenge him at the same time, we get treated to a scene between MMC and Idris arguing over what’s best for her…agency deprivation. Also when douchey pilot dude insults her honor she does zero to defend herself and leaves it to milquetoast MMC. More agency deprivation.

      I went to see Pacific Rim because a lot of reviewers made a big deal over Mako and how this movie was more in the style of classic summer blockbuster. I feel like I saw a different movie than they did.

      Pacific Rim was ok. If I would have written it I would have left out all the “comedy” between the two scientists and focused more on the jaeger teams. I wanted to know more about the Russian couple and the Chinese triplets. I wanted to see them overcoming differences to fight kaiju together. Also would have made the boss battle more bawssss.

  • She wasn’t rescued by a man when her home was destroyed because she was a woman–it was because she was a child. And she’s pretty badass, though she’s damaged and inexperienced. And that determines a lot of the spots where Raleigh has to lead, during fights, etc. Also, the Russian chick is no more a non-entity than her partner. Absolutely, though, more women would have been good, in different roles.

    Also, I thought the previews were fairly awful at getting across the genuinely good character-driven parts of the movie. And ditto on the little girl being amazing. I found myself wondering how traumatized she was by acting in it.

    • I didn’t say she was rescued *BECAUSE* she was a woman. I just noted that she gets rescued. By men. All the time. None of the men get rescued so frequently, or rescued by women.

  • Hit the spot for the ten year old inside me, but would love to see a smarter movie centred around what were some of the best action scenes since the Matrix.

  • Gotta stick something in here.. Raleigh’s relative blandness didn’t bother me because he was actually NOT the main character. He was the VIEWPOINT character. Mako was the MC, though the writers muddied this by seeming to chicken out last minute and succumbing to Damsel in Distress Disorder.

    Raleigh was the stand-in for the audience. He had no backstory beyond the Dead Brother, no pressing dramatic need, and no discernable character arc. Mako had ALL of these things in spades. I believe Raleigh feels shallow mostly because he was shoehorned into the position of protagonist without actually earning or justifying that position.

    Most movies don’t have the balls to narrate a viewpoint character that is separate from the protagonist, which made Pacific Rim even more refreshing by contrast. Had the writers embraced it fully and allowed Mako to badass her way to reaching the story goal (which they established she was FULLY capable of doing), the story would have been much stronger.

    As it was, though, it was a whole boatload of fun.

    • July 16, 2013 at 10:45 AM // Reply

      Thank you for this. I also enjoyed Raleigh’s character- he seemed to be exactly what he needed to be, but I couldn’t quite work up an argument for why. The viewpoint character makes sense to me. I was disappointed that Mako’s story didn’t have a stronger conclusion, but it’s a disappointment I’m used to.

  • I LOVED LOVED it.

    Holy crap it was amazing. I came for the giant robots and Del Toro monsters and got a pretty actually satisfying story. You’re very much right – Mako Mori really made the movie. I think she did a lot of the lifting, too, if you look at the side of Gipsy she controlled.

    She is pretty much a new crush for me, for sure. Daaamn, she is not a woman to be screwed with. I am intending to go again. I’m still on a buzz. I had the theme charging through my head the rest of the day! :D

  • I especially liked the little details, like categorizing the kaiju on a scale that mirrors the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, as if to emphasize the “mindless natural disaster” attitude.

    The GLaDOS AI voice was a neat little geek high-five. (I almost lost it at “Would you like to try again?”)

  • The little girl is Mana Ashida. I agree, she needs some sort of award. She made that flashback worth it, and I don’t think it dragged the film down at all. I’d love to see more of her, but given that the only things she’s been in are Japanese tv shows and movies, she might have to learn English before she gets the leading role she deserves.

    Also, can I just say that I’m glad both Makos were played by Japanese women? After “Memoirs of a Geisha” I cringe whenever I think a Chinese actress is playing a Japanese character and vice versa.

  • I loved this movie. All of my problems are planning behind-the-scenes questions that I really want answered. They didn’t detract from my love of the movie, but they’re still there. Maybe someone here can answer them and where they are addressed in the movie?

    Actually, this list is getting long so I’ll just post my questions over here and see if someone can answer. http://shatteredrefractions.blogspot.com/2013/07/pacific-rims-questions-in-aftermath.html

    I will say, the only real in-movie plot point I’m sad they never did anything with is they make a big deal about the main character and Marshall being the only two people to have finished a fight and piloted a jaeger single-pilot and lived. Yet they don’t do anything with this in the movie. I think it could have added a lot of the danger, zing, and ‘special’ to the end of the movie if he’d ejected Mako earlier to finish the mission. Or better yet, he gets ripped out like his brother did but Mako is able to complete the mission on her own anyhow.

  • Saw it on Saturday night with four kids in tow, ranging from ages 14 down to 8. They loved it, absolutely, as did I. Some of the fights were a little unclear but for sheer spectacle and willingness to try something different, I can’t fault it. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time and I’m going to have to see it again.

    Story-wise, sure I can pick it apart, but that’s like policing your kid playing smash-up with Legos. If you start saying, “A real kaiju wouldn’t do that, you need a lie down.” Fingers crossed it does well enough internationally to justify a sequel.

    Also, credit for having an actual plot with gradual escalation and a couple of twists.

  • With you 100% on the little girl scenes.

    With you 100% (very sadly) on Charlie Hunnum’s character – man, I so wanted him to be more…you know, more. I’m left wondering if the man can act, because nothing really gave him an opportunity here and yet, as you pointed out, Kikuchi made a lot more of pretty much the same fair.

    Idris Elba – underused. Love that guy.

    Ron Perlman – I don’t think I’ve seen a single movie with that guy when he doesn’t look like he’s having the most fun he ever had, and more fun than anyone else on set. He was a blast :)

    Best monster scenes were in Tokyo, and with the little girl, where you get the impression suddenly that it’s personal. That’s much more interesting.

    But finally – meh. I left going meh. I’d watch it again for the fight scenes (loved the robots), but I’m not spending more money on it in the theatre.

  • One of the things that struck me after coming down from the adreneline high, was the sparse tightness of the script. We are given precisely what we need to know to move the story forward and no more.

    The development of Pentecost’s disease goes from “he’s having a mint” to “bloody nose, is that a ‘cognitive load’ problem?” to “I’m dying” exactly when it needs to.

    Mako’s shift from “assistant” to “our brightest, but can’t be a pilot” to “badass, but still can’t be a pilot” to “OK, pilot. Oh shit, THAT’S why she can’t be a pilot” to “comrade in arms” to “partner” (with detour into “daughter” and “possible romantic interest”) happens when the story demands it.

    Hannibal Chau is introduced to solve a problem, but also builds the world with the answer to “what do they do with those hulking kaiju corpses?”

    We are given information about the rift between dimensions because we need the answer to “where did these things come from?” but that also gives us the answer to “how do we stop them?”

    It seemed to me that everything did double duty and did so in as sparse a fashion as possible. We are told the minimum necessary to make the story work, but are told everything we need to move the story forward.

  • I’ve said this on teh Twitterz already, but the most terrifying, emotionally gripping giant monster movie of all time is Mako Mori’s flashback in the middle of PACIFIC RIM.

  • The thing I loved the absolute most about “Pacifc Rim?” The fact that Guillermo Del Toro got to do EXACTLY the kind of film he wanted to watch as a movie viewer. You know how you’re advised to “write the kind of book you want to read?” Del Toro made the kind of film he loved watching as a ten-year-old. And how awesome is that?

  • Excellent review! You totally nailed it.

    It’s worth noting, that the “Boatsball Bat” scene carries more weight than you see in the trailer, as it is a payoff to an emotional hook set in the very beginning of the film. This movie is not nearly as lite as some critics would lead you to believe. As usual, Terrible Minds know better.

  • Bozo, care to explain that? I got the reference to Mako/Raleigh’s stick fighting contest. But I didn’t notice a link to earlier in the movie unless you’re talking about the fishing boat Gypsy saves?

    I think Raleigh did as much with what he got as he could. Mako did an amazing job, but for her everything was new and raw and more emotional which is why she could shine so much more. Raleigh was effectively two people for the majority of the movie, and that person was very severely beat down and worn away. He starts off interested, but more intrigued with Mako than anything. Then starts to see a chance to move on and gets better as it goes. But it’s not until really the end of the movie that his character is at a point where the audience can attach to him. Like he says right before the final mission “I finally find myself thinking about the future again.”

  • Saw it in 3-D at the Cinerama (one of the benefits Seattle gets by being a city with a billionaire nerd living here). I liked it, though I agree that this needlessly failed the Bechdel test. We couldn’t have one scene of the Russian woman giving Mako crap about not being good enough to be a jaeger pilot? At least Mako got to be the one to remember these giant robots had giant swords (though if they work so well, why don’t the jaegers just lead with that attack?)

    I did have some fridge logic moments with it. If you need a kaiju to pass through the rift, how did they both make it out again? If nukes will take out a kaiju, why don’t we just lob nukes at the rift whenever a kaiju pokes his head through?

    Whatever. Giant robots fighting giant monsters, all kinds of fun.

    I’m glad everybody else got verklempt at the flashback scene as well. I thought maybe it was just me.

  • @Anthony Laffin, The symbolism in this film is very well done. Raleigh gets into trouble for saving the fishing boat in the beginning of the movie and then clubs a kaiju with a bigger boat later. A toy robot is found with a metal detector right before the very same detector finds a giant wrecked Gipsy Danger. Then there’s the recurring shoe….

  • It was fantastic. There were a couple lines of dialogue that made me want to run and hide, but only for a second or two. There was really so much in this movie. The trailers didn’t entice me so much. Still, Del Toro’s ratio is so good that he already had my money before the movie even opened. Except for “Hellboy” having a sequel, he never makes the same sort of movie twice.

    And yes, of course, the little girl in the Mako flashbacks. Ask anyone with a child about trying to get their kid to sit still long enough for a family photo. It’s like helping an Amish family build a barn. Now imagine a child so young emoting fear, desperation, confusion and loss just as good, if not better, than most professionally trained adult actors.

    It was definitely an exception of big special effects action movies and proves almost everything that’s wrong with other such movies.

  • I liked it as much as Prometheus, but not as much as Inception or Drive. The fake ‘Strayan accents were a bit grating. Also, Gipsy was immune to EMP because she was analog? Is her onboard computer a Babbage difference engine?!?

  • I don’t comment often, but I read a lot, and I hope you don’t mind my dusting off this aging blog post to offer you a link about Pacific Rim that just blew my mind.

    http://stormingtheivorytower.blogspot.ca/2013/07/the-visual-intelligence-of-pacific-rim.html

    It’s a long one, so grab a cup of coffee first, but hot damn if it didn’t yank me out of my sleepy morning by the nosehairs. Fantastic post that I enjoyed both as a fan of the movie and as an author.

    *tips hat and disappears back into the night*

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