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Friday, 26 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Pacific Rim

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Produced by: Thomas Tull
John Jashni
Guillermo del Toro
Mary Parent

Screenplay by: Travis Beacham
Guillermo del Toro

Story by: Travis Beacham

Starring: Charlie Hunnam
Idris Elba
Rinko Kikuchi
Charlie Day
Robert Kazinsky
Max Martini
Burn Gorman
Ron Perlman

Music by: Ramin Djawadi

Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro

Editing by: Peter Amundson
John Gilroy

Studio: Legendary Pictures

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): July 7, 2013 (Buenos Aires, Premiere)
July 12, 2013 (United Kingdom and United States)

Running time: 132 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $186, 786, 104

Hey hey, folks, I'm back... for two days! After a mighty fine trip to London visiting a good friend, I've got a short little stint back home which will consist of me laying around the house in between walking my dog, so, I'll try and bang out a few reviews in the process. August and September will be a bit more sporadic in terms of my activity, as I'm working the festival circuit (Summer's boom time in private security) and gonna be all over the United Kingdom, so, in order to catch up with all the latest in movies and my (oh my!) opines, you'll really need to keep your eyes posted!

Without further ado, I give to you ("Marshall!") my review for Pacific Rim. This is perhaps most notable for being the first directorial release of Guillermo del Toro since 2008's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a grossly underrated movie that had the unenviable task of going up against that year's summer behemoths The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Since then, del Toro has spent two years working on The Hobbit, a project which he was originally intended to direct but left as a result of numerous delays in the production, has co-authored (with Chuck Hogan) the apocalyptic vampire novel's The Strain, for which FX have commissioned a pilot episode (directed by del Toro) with the prospect of a television series, launched Mirada Studios with Guillermo Navarro, Matthew Cullen and Javier Jimenez, and has been involved in a myriad of feature productions, such as 2013's Mama. So, although he has not been directing, needless to say the man is one busy bee, and with the prospect of numerous future projects, it's only going to continue. Developed by del Toro and Travis Beacham, with inspiration coming primarily from Francisco Goya's The Colossus and the kaiju/mecha genres of science-fiction films that emerged from Japan in the 1950s, Pacific Rim is set on Earth in the 2020s, in the midst of a war with Kaijus, monsters that have emerged from an inter-dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To combat the monsters, the humans create Jaegers, humanoid mechas piloted by two humans by way of a neural bridge. The story follows Raleigh Becket, a former Jaeger pilot who is called out of retirement by his former commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), to co-pilot the Jaeger Gipsy Danger. Let's got rolling!

To start with what is good about Pacific Rim, I must say that the sheer scope and level of detail involved in the creativity of the whole film is nothing less than wholly admirable. The mise-en-scene establishes a world that, although perhaps outside the realm of possibility, is certainly not inconceivable, and their enthusiasm and effort towards the project is arresting. Not to sound like I'm glossing over things by grouping them together, I can't help but look at this as an overall collaborative effort, in that no one aspect stands out over the other or slips up and takes the rest down with it. Furthermore, there is a genuine seamlessness between the physical aspects of the mise-en-scene such as the costumes, the sets, the props etc. and the more bombastic visual effects, a rare quality in a big summer blockbuster, but present here. I mean, not to sound insulting, but this is essentially like the Michael Bay Transformers films, big robots and monsters hitting each other, but whereas Transformers felt like weightless blobs just throwing themselves about, here you feel every single blow, every jolt, every bit of robot and human straining in unison against the monsters. It's one of the few times in recent years a summer blockbuster has left me open-mouthed and in awe, to the point that I almost felt like I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. So, to the little people who don't normally get a shout-out and whose work is not usually acknowledged, thank you, because your work here is of great value and importance to the production. Another aspect of the film worth mentioned for praise is the ensemble cast. For me, there wasn't a single performance at fault here, each actor contributing their own piece to this wonderful tapestry. Charlie Hunnam is solid in the lead part as Beckett, Idris Elba carries some real weight and authority in his role and Rinko Kikuchi is terrific rounding out the primaries. On another note (and at risk of sounding a bit PC), it's a pleasure to see a female character put on an equal footing in an action film to her male contemporary's, and although she's proved herself worthy in the past, this could be a real breakout performance for Kikuchi, as she's a fine actress and deserves a prosperous career. Incidentally, although it's only for a short scene, Mana Ashida gives a great bit part playing the young counterpart of Kikuchi's Mako. It's a genuinely scary scene, and Ashida taps into the fearful child that exists in all of us one way or another. Also, in the supporting cast, Charlie Day, Burt Gorman and Ron Perlman deliver suitably entertaining parts in what would be essentially light comic relief in most other movies, but here ends up being among the film's most amusing moments. Old gargoyle-faced Perlman is always a fine onscreen presence, and he and Charlie Day have a fine chemistry that is almost reminiscent of the rapport that certain films establish between two actors in a 'buddy film' format, a fine tradition that extends back to the great Laurel And Hardy. Also worth mentioning is the cinematography by del Toro's regular DP Guillermo Navarro. I know once again I'm reverting back to my old argument of the fact that I can actually see what is going, but here I'm using it in a different manner in reference to the lighting. Most of the action sequences in the film take place at night time, so this is a movie that, with the wrong level of visibility, could have ended up looking like Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. However, the colours and tonal quality of the film give it a sort of neo-noir feel by way the magnificent palette of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Furthermore, Navarro is a cinematographer who first and foremost knows how to bring out the character of the film, and thus we do feel this movie very much. In conjunction with both the cinematography and visual effects, the editors Peter Amundson and John Gilroy have done a fine job in cutting this movie. Take into account this is no walk in the part at 130minutes-plus, but they do this in such an efficient and economical way that there is barely any room for basil expository nonsense and we are left with a movie that, although a colossal behemoth, still feels like a big lump of raw meat. Another of the unique aspects to Pacific Rim is the original score by Ramin Djawadi. Even if I like a movie, I would say that alongside script, the aspect I criticise most in movies is the music, but here we have a right fine piece of work. It's a rollicking hybrid of pulsating synthesisers and traditional orchestral music for the most part, and matches the story appropriately in the aural sense. Also, it adds an element of momentum and pace to the proceedings, something cogently potent given that we need to feel the colossal power and weight of the film. To use a tried and tested word, when guest musician Tom Morello plays on the movie's central theme, the guitar is in harmony with the strings and brass sections and it just shivers up your spine because it is so BADASS! Definitely one of the best action movie scores in quite a while. Finally, although this film, like the medium, is a collaborative one, it is the passion of Guillermo del Toro driving this project. That is what separates him from the likes of Michael Bay, for unlike Bay, he injects his films with feeling and a key human element that engages the viewer. Pacific Rim is a far cry from anything that Michael Bay has ever put out, and that is because del Toro genuinely seems to care about this. He is a man who dares to dream, and it is our duty to follow him to the artistic Eden, because although it has been five long years since one of his films, by God, it is an absolute pleasure to have him back where he belongs. 

To put it lightly, I loved Pacific Rim. However, that is not to say that it is perfect or a masterpiece by any means. The main problem(s) with the film emerge from the script. It isn't meant to be chopped liver (lost on me, but hopefully not you guys), but even with all that's going good here, the script does come across as relatively flimsy. The central story arc of Charlie Hunnam's Becket is nothing new (down-and-outer brought back into the frame with predictable consequences), and most of the subplots involved head down the easy and road-well-walked route. Furthermore, some of the dialogue stands out as grotty and incredibly corny, especially for a movie that is for the most part a work of great innovation. Don't get me wrong, I can almost switch off how this is the one major flaw of the movie, but it would be amiss to deny that this a script with faults.

Despite a script that moves in predictable ways and some grotty dialogue, I found Pacific Rim to be a majestic work of terrific imagination. This is one of best established mise-en-scenes of a film world to come out in quite some time, with the costumes, props and production designers going all out to make an incredibly detailed world. The visual effects too are among the cream de la creme when it comes to the level of detail and attention to their craft that the artists have been investing in their work. Other technical departments, such as the cinematography and editing, are up to the standard established, and the score by Ramin Djawadi is supremely BADASS! Finally, though a collaborative effort, this is a film crafted by a man who dares to dream, and while I am disheartened by the underperformance of the picture at the box-office (I can't imagine Grown Ups 2 is worth my time, but I'm a masochist, so no doubt I'll end up reviewing it), I think that most who go to see this will bask in the sheer scope and scale with which Guillermo del Toro has bestowed us with Pacific Rim.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool (chilling and grilling to The Racoons' Run With Us: I blame Rutger Hauer for that one!)

P.S. If I was a real dick, I could blame the poor box-office on my home country's July 12th festivities, but I think there's more to it than that.

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