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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

PACIFIC RIM: Rohan vs. Jaeger

(TODAY'S GUEST: Joining us here at Jaman HQ is Rohan Morbey, who blogs at Stop Thinking For Yourself UK. Rohan has graciously allowed us to post his review of Pacific Rim, a fiery counter-argument to the praise the movie's been getting most other places. We're happy to welcome him to Jaman HQ, and hope you will follow him on Twitter.)



Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay: Travis Beacham and Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi

Pacific Rim is an unmitigated disaster from minute one and treats its audience with such little respect that the only way this can pass for enjoyable and quality blockbuster entertainment is if we decide to lower the bar. If the bar is indeed lowered to ground level, and films like Pacific Rim are met with near-universal praise, then all we are going to get for the foreseeable future are copies and imitations of bad films like this. If ever a film was a case study of a heinous waste of $200 million and the dumbing down of major studio output for the masses, then this is it.

Think of five dominos lined up; one each for basic story, character, deeper story, tension, resolution. If your basic story is deemed so uninteresting and of no importance from the very start, then just watch those dominos fall.

It’s basic script writing 101; without a script which at least tries to tell an interesting story, you can’t invest in the characters or their backstory; you can’t have characterisation without a script which allows time for it; you then can’t have tension without characterisation because the action means nothing; without tension or intrigue the resolution to each action scene is meaningless because you simply do not care what happens when or to whom.

Pacific Rim knocks down that first domino within the opening five minutes. The film is in such a hurry to tell the audience several years’ worth of backstory that it loses any credibility for the actual story which it wants to tell. Pacific Rim’s only interest is showing CGI robots fighting CGI creatures, when the actual interesting screenplay would have been the first attack, the terror it caused, the creation of the robots, and the fight back. All of this, however, is covered in five minutes so the film can focus on fights, which, disturbingly for a director of Guillermo del Toro’s supposed pedigree, do not even attempt to convey any tension or threat and are happy to simply show robots hitting monsters. Again, and again, and again, and again.

Moreover, why are the robots getting involved in a boxing slugfest with the monsters when they have numerous weapons at their disposable which are the methods of killing the monsters each and every time? Why even create robots which can ‘fight’ if all they need to be is a vessel to carry missiles? It makes no sense and is yet another reason why the action scenes carry no weight, the resolution to each scene has no impact or significance, and the sole reason for anything happening in this film is purely to cause destruction and show off CGI. Anyone who is impressed with the way this film is put together would be equally as impressed watching the creative team create the special effects, because that is all you’re marvelling at. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is anything other than a CGI showcase because it is not.

The question we have to ask is ‘why is this passing as entertainment’? What is entertaining about watching robots hit monsters for half the film if nothing is at stake, and what is entertaining about watching and listening to atrocious acting and dialogue if it is only devaluing the later actions scenes with every word uttered and expression made? Pacific Rim traps itself in a vicious circle but it seems to be happy there for there is not one attempt to get out; when the humans interactions are even more boring than the robots they control, then something has gone incredibly wrong with the film, and everyone is to blame.

The screenplay tries to incorporate sci-fi logic and asks the audience to believe these robots can only be controlled by two people sharing one half of a brain each (or something like that) but that is only used to set up what must be the worst on-screen partnership in modern film history; Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi. Quite simply, they are embarrassing to watch and just show the level of care and respect the film makers have to allow these ‘performances’ to pass as acceptable. It was an insult to sit in the cinema watching and listening to all involved, with these two as the worst offenders.

Some people might say this is ‘dumb fun; but when was ‘dumb’ ever a good thing? Some might also say it ‘brought out the inner child’ or ‘made me feel 11 again’, but let’s just take a step back and ask why that is a positive? The reason some may want to see a film which reminds them of the exhilaration of seeing Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Batman, or even Independence Day for the first time is not because they were just a great experience as a child, but because they have continued to be great experiences decades later, and still remind you of the experience watching it for the first time because they are perfect examples of films which pushed the boundaries and raised the bar of the what was expected from a summer movie. This plague of lazy direction, recycled effects, and the contempt for tension and emotion from the critically hated but financially successful Transformers series should not be encouraged, it should be called out for the garbage it is. At least Michael Bay has his own style, love it or hate it, but to see inspiration and aspiration being drawn from that style and ethos is truly disturbing to anyone who refuses to settle for this kind of film making.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: Guillermo del Toro has merely added to the decline in quality of the summer blockbuster by making this film and being a statistic of the tickets sold makes me guilty of more films like this getting made. It has to stop.

The only way to fully summarise the awfulness of this film would be to record a live audio commentary but that would involved watching it again, and that would be a death sentence for the mind.

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