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Pacific Rim


by Dave "The Conduit" Davis

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi 

The Plot: There are always a couple of films that look like they're going to be the stand outs in the Summer season when the first trailers start to come out. For me, one of these was "Pacific Rim." Why? Well, for starters, it featured a very familiar voice (see in the "Thoughts" section for more on that), but mostly, the film, directed by Gullermo del Toro, didn't appear to be based directly on comic, novel, graphic novel, radio play, or paleolithic cave doodle. It wasn't a sequel, a reboot or a re-imagining. Sure, this robot vs. monster movie has a spiritual ancestor in "Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla," but, for once in this summer's films, I would be going into a movie not already familiar with its world, ready to see something new.

The film is set a few years in the future, although the action is set to start any day now. In 2013, something emerged from the Pacific Ocean: an alien, ginormous sea creature that quickly laid waste to San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge, by the way, is probably tied with New York's Chrysler building for number of times destroyed — it just depends on which coast is under attack, I guess). We're told that it took a few days and a number of planes, tanks a missiles to bring it down, and the death and destruction toll was high. A couple of years later, another monster appeared, and we found they were coming from a dimensional rift  at the bottom of the Pacific. 

The world came together to combat this otherworldly attack from what we started to call "Kaiju" (Japanese for "monster") by building massive robots, called "Jaegers" (German for "hunters," the terminology showing the multinational mood of the world). The robots are too complex to be controlled by one person, so they are piloted by two people, who stay in sync by sharing a neural link called "the Drift," where each person controls one side of the robot (there's talk about "hemispheres," but one pilot isn't good at math and the other at art – they're both there to kick Kaiju ass). The Jaegers could take on the monsters mano-a-mano, and for a time, it seemed to work. But then, the monsters got bigger, started to emerge quicker and the battles grew more difficult. As the movie begins, mankind is up against the wall. 

With the supply of Jaegers — and Jaeger pilots — dwindling, the Marshall of the program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), finds former pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who left the program after a disastrous battle, to lead what he believes is the last-ditch effort to seal the portal at the bottom of the sea.

The film is a lot of fun, and, again, original, which is something to be celebrated. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed "Iron Man 3," but it's nice not to have an inner fanboy droning on and on about how "they changed that character" and "that's not how it REALLY happened…." Also, while at first glance the robots look like they could have been extras from the "Transformers" films, the action is never as difficult to follow as those migrane-inducers were. Also, just from a personal perspective, I was rooting for the humans in "Pacific Rim" to live; in the "Transformers" films, I was really pulling for them to get squished. del Toro is a wonderful director for this type of film. In another director's hands, the action of a huge robot fighting a huge monster would be ridiculous — a simple homage to the Japanese "man in suit" films of the 1960s. By treating it seriously (but not TOO seriously), del Toro pulls off a film where you can buy into the story, root for the characters, and not ask too many stupid questions. 

Thoughts on Pacific Rim

I'm not usually a fan of the 3D technology (in fact, I'll usually go out of my way to avoid it whenever possible), but it's done right in Pacific Rim — probably the best use of it since Avatar kicked off the new 3D age in 2009. I've seen the film twice — once in 3D and once in the regular ol' 2D — and while it really doesn't interfere with the enjoyment not seeing it in 3D, it does add a nice element to it. You can tell the difference between a film shot with 3D in mind, and one where it's crammed after the fact to squeeze a little more cash out of the audience. 

I heard an interview on the Nerdist podcast with Charlie Hunnam recently, and had a hard time getting over his British accent. My initial reaction was as if he was doing that terrible Madonna-esque faux English thing. I had to keep in mind that he is, in fact, actually British.  

"Drifting" in this film is treated a little more lightly than I would think it would be if it were possible in real life. When connected, two people essentially share one mind, but when the film shows them piloting the Jaeger, they act as if they're still two distinct people (which, from a dramatic standpoint makes sense; otherwise, you'd just have two people not having to speak, and always acting in unison). When Raleigh "drifts" with his co-pilot, Mako, for the first time, though, it looks like you'd find something shocking in someone's mind, because that's pretty damn intimate. Someone should have blushed, at least….

One of the first trailers I saw for this film made me set up and take notice, not because of the robots and monsters, but because of the voice of the Jaeger's A.I. Fans of the video games "Portal" and "Portal 2" immediately noticed that it was the voice of GLaDOS, the games' hilariously dead-pan homicidal A.I. (both parts are played by voice actress Ellen McLain, with the same electronic inflections). Then, it was learned that the Kaiju are coming into our world from… wait for it… a PORTAL! Was this the prequel, of sorts, to the world of "Portal?" Turns out, not so much. Del Toro is a fan of the games, and asked the games' developer, Valve, for permission for the shout out, but they are two separate entities. Or ARE they…?

(For more from Dave and the great podcast he co-hosts, go to: )


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