I Saw A Film Today… Pacific Rim

pacificrim2Much like comics, in the last few years my interest in anime has been rekindled from my childhood. Distant memories of watching Toonami and late-night reruns of Speed Racer on Cartoon Network float in the foggy recesses of my memory. And much to my surprise, those rich cartoons from Japan have never been translated to film. Or, obscurely at least. Much, I realize, has to do with the minefield of getting licenses. But there is also the worry of translation to American audiences unfamiliar to mecha.

In the near future, aliens/monsters named Kaiju begin attacking major cities around the world. To combat the invaders, the governments of the world designed Jaegers, colossal-sized robots that require two pilots to be linked together cognitively. Pilots become celebrities, Kaiju are being defeated. All seems right with the world.

That is until the Gipsy Danger, a Jaeger piloted by Raleigh (Charlie Hunman) and his brother Yancy, comes in contact with a smarter kaiju that kills Yancy and destroys Gipsy. The kaiju are evolving and it seems jaegers can’t hold them back anymore.

Five years later and Raleigh is doing odd jobs and commander of the Jaeger program Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is fighting to save the bots. To salvage the program, the two reunite to help defend Tokyo while a wall is constructed. But things are more dire than ever as Kaiju decide to launch a full assault on humanity.  Can Raleigh and his new pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) save the world?

I was surprised at how well Pacific Rim worked, both as a fun mecha for anime fans and as a big budget blockbuster for studio execs and the American public. Sure, there were a few things that didn’t really come together well. The whole mythos of the kaiju and the “drift space” are never fully explored. And the script dialogue at times is a bit recycled from previous films in the action genre. But even with these minor offenses, Pacific Rim is a damn entertaining film and a good start to the mecha genre.

This film, it should be noted, is brilliant in 3-D. Really shows the difference in what happens when a movie is actually filmed in 3-D stereoscopy instead of being converted post-filming (ah hum, Man of Steel). It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in the technology I’ve slightly warmed to. I’m not really surprised that Guillermo Del Toro would find a way make spending $13(+/-) worth it. The action sequences are breathtaking, suspenseful, and simply entertaining.

Performances are what you’d mostly expect from a action flick, but with a bit of 80’s anime flair. The comical side of this story comes mostly from the two scientist, portrayed by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman. Ron Perlman’s Chau was an interesting character as well. He could have almost been a villain in a way. Could have been an interesting plot point that could have incorporated him better, but at the end of the day it’s Ron Perlman being the great Ron Perlman.

The central cast is pretty good as well, most notably Idris Elba. He has the intensity of a leader but not in the way that he’s a rigid old marine that is boring. I really wish he would start getting more leading roles in Hollywood. As for Charlie Hunnam, there really isn’t anything special about him, not in a leading role anyways.

I hope Pacific Rim really opens some doors for this rich genre of storytelling. And there is not much of a better way to start it off than this film.

Verdict: See it!

* Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence throughout, and brief language. 131 minutes. Directed By Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth).

** Poster by Luis Fernando Cruz.

*** Thanks to my friend Cody for seeing this with me.

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