Friday 12 July 2013

Review: Pacific Rim

Year: 2013
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
Screenplay: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro 
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day

Synopsis is here:

For me Pacific Rim works because its director,Guillermo del Toro, knows how to economise storytelling. The film rattles along at great speed, but we never lose sight of anything. We feel more to be done to fill in the gaps, and yet throughout, the dynamics between characters are solid, the set pieces never feel extraneous (in fact the detail is often gorgeous) and the absurd story still manages to stay intact. Tropes and iffy dialogue are a plenty, yet the execution of it all side-swipes such issues like an elbow rocket.

For a film that is effectively Robots (Jaegers) smashing the scales off Monsters (Kaiju) it sweats out reference out of every orifice. Anime fans may mention Evangelion, Sci-fi fans can spy Godzilla. Gamers could smile at the Shadow of the Colossus feel, while guys like me may very well find themselves transported back when they first watched (and fell in love with) Independence Day (aged 12). The wealth of pop culture that seeps through scene after scene I found astonishing.

But its how all these references are stitched together which I found so appealing. The template is telling. Yet the beauty of the visuals, the spunk and energy of the performances and the boisterous thuds and clunks of mecha on flesh held my interest. Del Toro’s strength here is in taking a platter of well known aspects and rearranging them to feel fun again. The action loses the hyper active editing; we can see what’s happening. The length of the film is much shorter than some of the more hyped movies released besides it. It simply says what it needs to and doesn’t push for time to give the pretence of “epic” storytelling. The film feels big on its own regard, because of the films eye meltingly gorgeous design.

But while I found the look of the film often breath-taking (it ranks with Avatar for me as some of the best CGI), the actors that helped me suck up some air and kept me fighting the good fight. Charlie Hunnam gives an earnest display as Relight Beckett. Idris Elba channels Richard Crenna in First Blood and chomps at scenery.  Rinko Kikuchi bypasses some of the issues that have kept some of the other female characters from being anything interesting (thank god for the screenplay giving a damn). Meanwhile Charlie Day’s performance is not only welcomed by the fact that I’ve been binging on It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia, but by giving a performance that strangely reminds me of Rick Morris in Ghostbusters. That can only be a pleasant thing.

But Pacific Rim is full of such pleasant things and I don’t need my blockbusters to reinvent wheels when released (say that three times). But I do want that sense of fun that can be found. Pacific Rim doesn’t feature the comic book anxieties and origin stories that have almost become a mainstay during the summer period. It also doesn’t rely on name brand nostalgia to make an appearance of being decent. There’s none of the grubby “humour” that litters the likes of Transformers and thank goodness. Del Toro’s ability to see his blockbuster ideas through the prism of a small kid is important here. Pacific Rim manages to capture some of that imaginative feeling before cynicism set in. All Transformers seemed willing to give you is Megan Fox giving you a blank stare and a humping Robot.