wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?) - The bigger the screen, the better the watch!
Guillermo del Toro promised a gargantuan experience at the movies with Pacific Rim, and as far as the scale of the film goes, he doesn’t disappoint. Enormous monsters clash with ginormous robots to deliver some astonishingly grand thrills, even if the film doesn’t really have an emotional core to invest in. Fun while it lasts, visually spectacular, but it isn’t likely to pull you back into the theatres again.Read more
If, like me, you stay right until the end of the credit roll of a film, right till the screen goes black, then the final title card of Pacific Rim will warm your heart. “In memory of Monster Masters Ishirô Honda and Ray Harryhausen”, it says. Indeed, it wouldn’t harm at all, invoking the memory of the man behind Godzilla and that of one of the pioneering masters of visual effects and animation, when what you’re trying to achieve is on the scale of Pacific Rim.
It takes a special kind of vision to imagine and execute a film with a canvas as large as Pacific Rim. Yes, it may be your typical Hollywood summer blockbuster film - humanity under threat from gigantic creatures they can’t control, rallying back to take the fight to them, no matter what the cost. Been there, seen that and then some. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being an exhilarating ride because of the sheer enormity of the frames that Mexican fantasy virtuoso Guillermo del Toro’s vision brings to life.
Del Toro doesn’t waste much time anywhere in the film. The premise is established with documentary-style footage right in the first five minutes. Humongoid monsters called ‘Kaiju’ have risen from deep beneath the Pacific and made life on earth, hell. In counter, humankind develops massive war machines of their own, known as Jaegers. The Jaegers are match enough for the Kaiju, at least initially, until things start going south.
In designing and executing the Kaiju-Jaeger world is where the film trumps all of its flaws. The atmospherics and scale of each fight sequence put every previous film in this genre to shame. Yes, Jaegers make Transformers look like little plastic toys. With terrific detailing in the universe that has been created, in the physics of the movements of machines and monsters larger than anything we’ve ever known and in the sheer mammoth planning of every action set piece in the film, it just doesn’t let you pause to think about just how ridiculous the plot must have seemed at the script level.
This is Del Toro in his element, displaying a familiarity and penchant for all things fantastical, going out there and making a film he believes in, and doing a terrific job with it. Yes, the film also attempts to deal with familiar themes of loss and redemption, of sacrifice and victory, of the triumph of the human spirit. In fact, every single time the film pauses to dwell on these bits is precisely where one is most likely to get bored in the film. Guillermo del Toro isn’t particularly adept at breathing cinematic life into cardboard characters, and it seems like he hasn’t tried too hard either. He just wants you to have a smashing good time at the cinemas, that is exactly what he promised, and that is exactly what he delivers.
Save for Idris Elba, who plays the only character remotely able to evoke emotion from you, none of the other actors have anything to contribute to the film either. The only brownie points they get are for delivering some amusingly inane dialogue with a straight face. Let’s get one thing clear, human beings are only there in Pacific Rim because otherwise, no matter how beautifully magnificent the actions scenes are, it would seem pointless to not have it serve a purpose; like the damsel-in-distress in a superhero film.
But at the end of the day, the human beings are just a distraction in Pacific Rim. This is a film about monsters and robots. The Kaiju are so large that you never ever see even one of them fit into a frame in its entirety. The Jaegers are so gorgeously colossal that every single one of them will possibly either take your breath away, or make your jaw drop to the floor, or both. And every time a Kaiju and a Jaeger are in a frame together, the theatre screen simply looks too puny to hold them. They wrestle, tumble, hammer and fling each other like lumbering hulks, and every time one of the creatures lands on the ground, you can almost feel the earth rumble right to your heart.
Yes, the astronomical order of events does get to you by the fag end of the film; the gargantuan magnitude of the monster-robot battles can get exhausting. There is simply too much size and too little actual content in the film for it to be a truly memorable experience. There’s fun to be had, but don’t expect to be moved or emotionally caught up with anything in the film. Quite like the Jaegers themselves, Pacific Rim is immense in dimensions, but doesn’t have a beating heart.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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