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Someone has written me a love letter.  Like many mash notes, itís a little awkward and sometimes plain clumsy.  Itís not a sonnet by Shakespeare or a poem by Byron, but it has clearly been in the authorís heart for some time and its aim is true.  So it is with the blushes and thrills of requited infatuation that I gladly accept Guillermo del Toroís valentine in the form of the kaiju-tastic Pacific Rim.

That whole climate change thing? Itís really real, but the prospects of hotter summers and colder winters arenít even the tip of the melting iceberg compared to the true consequences involved with the damage humankind has caused our planet.  Creatures dwelling near the earthís core have decided now is a perfect time to move on up to the West Side, but first they have to be rid of the current tenants.  A giant behemoth the size of a skyscraper appears in the Pacific Ocean, but is taken down by military force in about a week.  Could this have been some freak happenstance?  A solitary instance of a prehistoric animal woken up after millennia of dormancy? Of course not.  Soon more of the first guyís friends are popping up all over the place and getting tougher to kill.  The worldís governments join together to staunch the threat and the Jaegers are born: Giant exo-suits made for battle of a size on par with the subterranean invaders (Now called Kaiju, the Japanese word for monster) and are guided by a pair or trio of pilots.  To get the huge machines to work, a mind-meld of sorts must occur between those inside, linking their every thought and memory, good or ill.  Young Raleigh Becket is one of the top pilots along with his older brother until they are caught off guard by a Kaiju.  Wounded, mourning and partnerless, Raleigh gives up on the whole soldiering thing for half a decade until itís discovered that the underworld dwellers have been revving up their defenses, sending stronger monsters to continue the damage the scrubs teams began.  The Jaeger project starts failing and is about to shut down for good (In place of what, I dunno), but not before Stacker Pentecost, the head of the offence makes one more Hail Mary pass at stemming the tentacled tide.  Gathering all the available Jaeger meisters (Hee!), Stacker wonít stand for any self-pitying guff when he approaches Raleigh to suit up again, this time with his prodigy/adoptive daughter, Mako Mori, herself a bundle of regrets and Kaiju-inflicted damage.  While the Jaeger crew preps for the showdown with the big creepies, behind the scenes, scientists attempt to find the reason why no attack of the monstersí underground hangout has ever worked, including using the Jaeger mind-meld tech on the creatures.  Itís all hands on deck for one last attempt to take back the planet from the Kaiju.

Oh, so much happiness watching Pacific Rim.  Not necessarily because it is the best film ever made, but because itís such a loving embrace of all the Japanese science fiction Iíve adored all my life.  There are the giant monsters which hold up the flag for us Godzilla fanatics.  There are the Jaeger suits giving love to the endless amounts of mecha series that are still abundant today in both live action and anime, like Gundam, Evangelion, and even stateside with Robotech, Tranformers and Voltron.  There is the teamwork needed to make the operation successful that can put all involved in danger, as in Battle of the Planets/Gatchamanís Fiery Phoenix phase, or recently in the brilliant but overlooked US production, Sym-Bionic Titan (Which has a lot of similarities with Pacific Rimís suit operation).  There is the magnificently thrilling score by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi that wouldíve made Akira Ifukube proud.  There is the cool and deadly battle-scarred warrior, the clean-cut young hero, the rebel, the colourful quasi-villain and the feisty female (With an affinity for blue hair dye) who can take down a Kaiju just as well as any of the men.  Itís every Japanese anime trope ever made and all together under Guillermo Del Toroís loving eye, it works beautifully.  The mecha suits look stunning and each one is made to a different specialty.  They move as they should, heavy and lumbering, and when they fall, itís a huge thump that is nearly guaranteed to damage if not kill the inner inhabitants.  The Kaiju are a mix of designs; resembling prehistoric creatures and sea dwellers and often bear evolutionary adaptations and defenses that surprise the Jaeger forces.  Defensive walls crumble (Seems to be a thing this year, see World War Z), buildings tumble (A la Man of Steel) and the audience gets a depressing sense of what the world would be like hiding out from these humongous extreme gentrifiers.  The script - particularly the dialog - wonít exactly tax the brain, in fact itís almost laughably lunkish and predictable at times, which reminded me of watching the terribly dubbed Godzilla and Gamera movies, with their cringe-worthy simplistic translations.  All the bla bla bla is just means to an end until we get to the action.  Del Toroís set pieces are thrilling and he uses every bit of the frame for the tussles between the gigantic creatures.  My only issue here was that everything took place at night.  There wasnít one good fight between the Jaeger and the Kaiju that took place in the daylight that made it able see the battles clearly.  It was another thing that reminded me of earlier monster movies, but in this case I felt a little cheated.  We do see one partially destroyed Jaeger in the daytime, about to fall to its end and the sight and scope of the falling giant is truly awesome.  Would that there were more of those moments.  There was also a stinted feeling about the fact that weíre told and not shown whatís so great about the other Jaeger teams, who are regarded as living legends.  In the only Jaeger piloted by three brothers, I would have loved to see the Red Typhoon in more action than weíre given.  The ending seems a bit rushed and unclear for all the time taken to get to that point, but one gets the general gist. Still, for its small stumbles, another aspect of Pacific Rim that felt significant to me was in the various attempts to replicate and pompously ďimproveĒ on the Japanese formula (1998 US-produced ďGodzilla,Ē Iím side-eyeing you.) this film, made by a Mexican director, in a Hollywood studio with an international cast, gave me faith that with care and respect to its original sources, this kind of film can successfully be made outside of Japan.

As the leader of the Jaeger project and a former pilot himself, Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba is someone Iíd definitely follow anywhere he wanted to go (Especially in a Jaeger suit). Commanding and fierce in the face of the monstersí growing strength and his political benefactorsí abandonment, Stacker hasnít got time for personality issues; his word is law.  He knows full well that if the Jaegers donít give their all for this one last mission, there will be no tomorrow.  Charlie Hunnam works some strange, non-specific American accent as Raleigh.  There isnít terribly much for him to do as with many of the young heroes in anime, his character is touched by tragedy, yet somehow remains pretty optimistic and vacuous.  Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi plays Mako Mori, the brightest star of the Jaeger project who is kept from actually piloting any of the big machines by Stacker, who loves the girl like a daughter since the day he rescued her from the Kaiju that wrecked Tokyo (!) and killed her family. In Stackerís eyes Mako - for all her intellect and combat skills - will never been ready and itís Raleighís belief in her that gives the young woman the confidence to suit up.  There is also broad Tezuka-esque comedy provided by the pair of scientists who try to discover how to destroy the monsterís base.  As one of the scientists, Charlie Day chases a theory all through Hong Kong, running into a fabulously blinged-out Ron Perlman as a black marketer dealing in the lucrative world of Kaiju parts.  The combination of Day and Perlman seriously needs a spinoff.

Is Pacific Rim perfect?  Nope.  Its doltish dialog and those cheaty, in the dark battle sequences keep it from cinematic nirvana.  However, Pacific Rim is an incredibly enjoyable blast of summer entertainment that is worth every penny to see on the largest screen possible.  Guillermo Del Toroís love letter to otaku everywhere finally gave me a reason to remember the 2013 movie year.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 12th, 2013

 

 

 

 

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