Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim reminds me very strongly of the classic anime series Evangelion. It obviously follows in the footsteps of Eva and Japanese monster movies, right down to using the Japanese word "kaiju" to refer to the monsters. When I first saw the trailer for Pacific Rim, I rolled my eyes and had no intention of seeing it, the same way I had no intention of seeing Battleship, another disaster-fest with a ludicrous premise. And the premise is ludicrous. Even Evangelion, which is the best of the best for this genre, and which does eventually give a reasonably solid reason for using humanoid robots, retains a basic logical silliness.

The physics of giant robots are just wrong. The entire idea is bad. The thought that somehow a missile is more effective when it's shot from the torso or arm of a giant robot than it would be when fired from an airplane or ship is just stupid. The idea that a punch from a robot can somehow be more effective than missiles or shells is plainly farcical. Pacific Rim repeatedly shows fighter planes flying into the kaiju, which is so insanely dumb that there are no words for it. Again, the entire premise is ludicrous.

And yet, this movie is great, as long as you can keep your disbelief suspended. You might need to tie it up and throw it into a closet with your logical faculties, actually, but if you can do that then this movie is a lot of fun.

There's something to be said for a movie that can take a premise so obviously ridiculous and go for it so hard that it succeeds in being entertaining. There is no winking parody here, no self-aware silliness. This is a movie so earnestly engaged in its setting that it is actually possible to settle into its world, accept the premise, and go along for the ride.

A large part of why this movie succeeds is the quality of the visuals. From the opening robot-deployment sequence (which is, of course, designed to do this), the movie establishes an epic scale and industrial aesthetic which is perfectly suited to the setting. There is a grittiness and realism even to things that are more or less impossible. The technology is wonderfully tactile.

Even the acting is surprisingly good, especially Idris Elba as Pentecost, the boss. But no one goes to see a movie like this to admire the acting; they go to see the action. And the action sequences are quite good. They are messy without being overly muddled; varied enough to avoid boredom due to repetition; inventive and tense. They do, however, suffer from a number or logical flaws. The biggest of these, of course, is the repeated violations of physics, but there is nothing productive to say about that. More irritating for me is that within the setting we establish that the hero's machine is outdated, maybe obsolete, and yet it continually stands up to ever more ridiculous odds. This is the only part that really bothered me because it's the only part of the movie that isn't internally consistent, and therefore isn't covered by suspension of disbelief.

Still, this was a fun movie, and much better than I expected it to be.

1. Much Ado About Nothing
2. Now You See Me
3. Despicable Me 2
4. Star Trek: Into Darkness
5. Oblivion
6. Iron Man 3
7. Man of Steel
8. Pacific Rim
9. Jack the Giant Slayer
10. Beautiful Creatures
11. RIPD
12. Oz the Great and Powerful
13. Epic
14. Monsters University
15. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
16. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
17. The Great Gatsby
18. The Lone Ranger
19. This is the End

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