Hellboy

July 18, 2013

Pacific Rim (Matt’s Take)

Pacific Rim – Correct

CORRECT

In a movie climate of big booms, there is a vacuum of emptiness. You have “Transformers”, “Man of Steel”, and countless “Fast and the Furious” sequels where droves of people go just to see what I’ll call “explosion porn.” In a summer full of disappointment it’s refreshing to finally see a big budget tent pole film live up to not only its potential, but gives even more. “Pacific Rim” might be the wild card blockbuster of this Summer, but it does everything correct.

I could make this review brief and just say “Rim” is great and you should plunk down $10 at your local multiplex and support a film that, one, doesn’t take itself too serious, two, provides over two hours of action eye candy, and three, is a breath of fresh air in a time of cinema that relies on sequels that are inferior to its predecessors.  The sad part about “Rim” is that it will ultimately become a cult hit, which is odd for a film that cost upwards of $200 Million between it’s production and marketing, but that is what Guillermo del Toro films are; cult hits that delivers fan service up the ass, but just don’t make enough at the box office to call themselves “monetary hits” despite the fact that nearly all of del Toro’s films have been critically lauded (I’m not including “Rim” in that bunch because at heart it’s really just a bunch of dumb fun).

But what’s wrong with dumb fun?  I mean “Grown Ups 2” made nearly $50 Million in it’s opening weekend. “Grown Ups 2”?!  Really?!  A film that has plenty dumb, and I’m sure some people would say is “fun.”  And this isn’t going into an Adam Sandler rant.  I respect anyone that finds a niche and makes money off of it.  Del Toro has his niche, sci-fi and fantasy geeks, which are mostly single guys and girls between the ages of 18-35.  Seems like a solid demographic, right?  Not when you look at the ticket returns.  I can see “Hellboy” not making a ton of money.  It’s literally a fringe comic from Dark Horse that not many people would know about outside the comic book reading public.  “Rim” should appeal to EVERYONE who saw all three “Transformers” film as well as anyone who saw “Cloverfield” or “Independence Day” or “Godzilla” or I could keep the list going but I won’t.  My question is why didn’t this film get the love, and money, it deserves its opening week.  Yes, it’s the Summer and there are a lot of movies to see right now.  I’m not going to say they are good movies, but they’re movies nonetheless.  What continues to befuddle me is the movie-going audience in this day and age.  They will celebrate sequel after horrible sequel, but when something interesting comes their way with the same thing they are watching over and over, they dare not give it a chance?  Rant end, now let’s get to Grown U…..I mean “Pacific Rim.”

In short, “Rim” is about a war between humans and giant sea monsters.  These monsters, or Kaiju, are creating havoc within the ‘Ring of Fire” in the Pacific Ocean, decimating China, Japan, Australia, and the West Coast of the United States.  To combat this menace, the Jaeger Program was created.  A program comprised of giant robots piloted by humans, the robots, called Jaegers, hunt the Kaiju, engage them in combat, and most of the time defeat them.  Controlling the Jaegers requires a mind-meld between the pilots called “drifting” in which the pilots share memories, fears, and anger in order to fight better.  As the plot progresses we are introduced to your typical action movie archetypes; the loner with a past, the quiet girl that kicks ass, the grizzled guy in charge with a past, and your typical bad-ass roughnecks, but just become fodder for story’s sake.  The whole story leads up to a final confrontation with “a category 5 monster” and when all seems lost for humanity….well, I’ll stop there.

While acting isn’t it’s strongest suit, the camp element of robots fighting monsters makes the acting fit like a glove.  Even when Idris Elba gives his “Braveheart” speech, which is shoehorned in, I still felt inspired despite the fact I’ve heard the same speech in every sports film ever made.  Even though Charlie Day does his best Charlie Kelly the Scientist impression I still thought the character had a place in the film as a so-called “Kaiju groupie.”

Yes, we’ve all seen “Rim” before, just not all in one film.  del Toro, a master of genre film-making, borrows what he likes best from “Aliens” all the way to H.P. Lovercraft, and creates a cohesive film filled with colorful characters, locations, and amazing action set pieces.  There isn’t any new ground being broken which leads to my massive confusion of why this film isn’t getting the love it should be getting.  Are we going cold turkey on big-budget robot/monster beat-em-ups?  In the case of “Transformers”, I hope so, but not “Pacific Rim.”  There is a love and commitment to detail in “Rim.”  Keep in mind, this is the film that del Toro left “The Hobbit” for.  “The Hobbit,” a guaranteed, and critic proof, hit, was put aside so he could create a wonderful genre piece that is now being overlooked by audiences.

I could be getting ahead of myself.  Perhaps word of mouth will help “Rim” in the coming weeks and it’s box office receipts won’t drop off too much, but it’s Summer, where a film’s time to make a dent in an audiences’ wallet is limited, and it could be an uphill battle.  Regardless, the fact that “Pacific Rim” exists is a good for film.  It reinvigorates the “giant monster/robot” genre but it does it in a way that provides just enough heart and tongue-in-cheek fun where you wouldn’t mind seeing more Kaiju vs. Jaeger fist fighting.  For a fun time, check out “Pacific Rim.”

Fun Fact:  Having now appeared in five of del Toro’s films, this is the first film where Ron Perlman plays a human character, Hannibal Chau.

July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim (DJ’s Take)…And Inexplicably…The DC Film Universe

GEEKGASM

One question that has been plaguing my thoughts ever since I walked out of the dreary and utterly disappointing Man Of Steel.  That question is, why does DC/Warner keep entrusting their comic book movie properties to Christopher Nolan?  A man who set out to produce a Superman movie and wound up producing an Incredible Hulk movie more morbid and depressing than Ang Lee’s, starring someone who resembles Superman in appearance but not in character.  A man who admittedly does not truly care for the material he is supposed to be translating into film.  A man who is admittedly apoplectic about the concerns of the comic book fans he’s supposed to be catering to.  A man who feels more comfortable turning anything resembling a classic superhero into a moping, colorless, suicide inducing allegory for daddy issues.  Why would DC/Warner give their entire comic book HISTORY to him?  Yes, I know it’s because Nolan is one of the finest directors working today.  Yes, I know it’s because Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a 3 billion dollar worldwide success.  Yes, I know it’s because Nolan’s Batman trilogy is also the most critically lauded and awarded comic book franchise ever.  Problem is that his bleek, moody, and dystopian societal outlook ONLY WORKS FOR F%*KING BATMAN.  Batman is a dark character.  So yes, the more gritty and realistic you make him, the better he gets.  However, that formula DOES NOT work for the entire DC Universe.  A flawed strategy I spoke about and foresaw during my Dark Knight Rises review almost a year ago.  DC/Warner was effectively entrusting the construction of their cinematic universe to someone who DID NOT want to construct their cinematic universe.  

You’re probably asking yourself why am I ranting about Man Of Steel, Chris Nolan and DC/Warner in the beginning of a Pacific Rim review.  Well, it’s because DC/Warner does have another director in their stable that not only knows the material, but has a genuine love for the material.  A man who should be constructing their universe.  That man is Pacific Rim’s director Guillermo Del Toro.  Give me a reason why not him.  Worried Del Toro can’t bring fun, eclectic comic book characters like Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Wonder Woman convincingly to life?  See Hellboy.  Worried Del Toro doesn’t have the chops to do comic book perfect action scenes and sequences?  See Blade 2.  Worried Del Toro can’t give a film pathos and originality?  See Pan’s Labyrinth.  Worried that a comic book nerd would be the wrong choice to helm a superhero epic.  See Avengers.  Worried that a film like Justice League is just too big to bestow upon him.  Well, Del Toro was the first person Peter Jackson asked to do The Hobbit before scheduling conflicts interceded.  If Peter Jackson was willing to hand over the best fantasy franchise ever made to Del Toro, why is it such a far leap for DC/Warner to trust him with the JLA?  Del Toro’s resume just grows and grows almost without notice.  Pacific Rim is just another awesome notch on his belt.

Rim is the fulfillment of a promise Del Toro delivered when he leaked the film’s original title at Comic-Con. (Giant F%*king Robots Versus Giant F%*king Monsters)  This is a tech versus terror smörgåsbord that draws breath from it’s Toho Company & Manga Studios predecessors and creates something amazingly fresh and original out of it.  If I was a producer on that 2014 Godzilla movie or that long awaited Voltron film, I’d shut down shop right now.  There is NOTHING I can think of that those two films can do to equal, let alone, top Pacific Rim.  Yes, Rim may be cliched empty calories as far as it’s character archetypes and plot are concerned.  However, it is the most tasty empty calories you’ll enjoy this summer and probably this entire year.  I haven’t seen a film with as many GEEKGASM moments since The Avengers.  Instead of the action scenes being incomprehensible, emotionally hollow, blunders, with the visual resonating effect of a strobe light…(Hello Battleship and EVERY Transformers movie)…they end up being well crafted, stunning, and cathartic displays of raw violence.  The special effects here are, and I was convinced of this from just the trailer, the best I personally have ever seen.  That is not hyperbole.  Every effect, every monster tooth, every robot rivet, every building toppling explosion looks breathtaking and FINISHED.  Every penny of the budget and every drop of sweat from the VFX crew is on the screen from beginning to end.  Guillermo Del Toro understands the concept of fan service.  And instead of shying away from it like most, he embraces it.  He doesn’t mind having a character in a giant robot shoot a fallen monster, video game style, as a joke just to get a “Hell, Yeah!” from the audience.  That is who I would want to make my comic book universe.  Someone who wants to please BOTH the fans and the uninitiated.  Someone who can have a balls to the wall battle scene and still have time to make the battle fun.  Yes, fun.  It is not a four letter word, literally and figuratively.  Fun is a word that needs to be the lifeblood of genre movies like this.  If it isn’t fun, then why the hell should we watch?

Recently, DC/Warner announced that Nolan won’t be producing the Justice League film.  However, it’s a safe bet that they won’t have the sense or vision to pick someone like Guillermo Del Toro to take the reigns.  They are losing the arms race to Marvel and it saddens me.  Not because I want them to win.  I love Marvel.  It saddens me because the two companies competing is better for the audiences than one totally dominating the other.  DC/Warner’s savior is right in their face flapping his arms like a cartoon character, and they still can’t see it.  Don’t believe me?  Watch Pacific Rim…imagine while doing so the same care, fun and GEEKGASM moments put into a Justice League film….cry your heart out when you realize that will probably never happen….then tell me I’m wrong.

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