Pacific Rim

by Purple Wyrm on July 31, 2013

Saw Pacific Rim last night, and I had some things to say about it. Spoilers ahoy!

First up, I really enjoyed it. It could not be said in any way to be an intellectual or thought provoking film, but if you go into a movie about giant robots whaling on giant monsters expecting to be intellectually stimulated, you are going to be disappointed. For what it is – a sci-fi action movie – it’s pretty damn good, and highly entertaining.

That said, there were a number of things in it that rankled, and some that didn’t make even a lick of sense.

The weapon systems on the jaegers for instance. Every battle seems to reveal a new weapon. The first battles consist of hitting the kaijus with giant robot fists. Then in the next battle they’re using giant swords. Then they’re deploying rockets to make the fists and swords hit harder. Why not use all of the available weapons from the start? Sure, they were probably doing it to try and keep the jaegers interesting to the audience, but it didn’t make any kind of strategic sense. I mean, why pick up a cargo ship and use it as a club when you can push a button to deploy something just as big, much sharper, and which is specifically designed to beat monsters around the head with?

Another thing. At one point a kaiju deploys what appears to be an electromagnetic pulse and disables a bunch of jaegers. The focus character demands that he be sent in to fight because his jaeger “isn’t digital”, it’s “nuclear” and hence “analogue”. What does that even mean? Is Gypsy Danger packed full of vacuum tubes? Vacuum tubes that not only keep a nuclear reactor running, but can survive repeated arse kickings from monsters the size of sky scrapers? What?

And the whole dinosaurs thing. I suppose I can reluctantly accept the idea of the dinosaurs being the first attempt at a kaiju invasion – although it strains my suspension of disbelief right to the limits – but the idea that dinosaurs had “two brains” was thrown out years ago. And while we’re on the subject, if the kaiju are the same thing as dinosaurs, then surely they should have had feathers?

Then we come to the nuclear bomb. I actually thought the weapon they were deploying was substantially larger than the Tsar Bomba, but I’ve just gone and checked some online sources, and it’s actually a lot smaller – only 1.2 megatons – so a lot of the criticisms I was going to raise are actually not as serious as I thought. But I still find it hard to believe that Gypsy Danger was able to survive being at about 50 metres from ground zero just by kneeling on the ocean floor. Additionally the movie showed the explosion as being a massive rush of water – that close to the detonation, all the water should have instantly flashed into superheated steam. At least the writers were scientifically literate enough to have the explosion followed by an inrush, although at the depth they were supposed to be at (at the boundary of two tectonic plates) there shouldn’t have been shoals of cooked fish floating around in the aftermath.

It was nice that Australia featured so heavily in the plot, although as usual the accent work was not good. “Australian” accents in Hollywood movies tend to range around randomly between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, London’s East End and God knows where. This was no exception. I suppose we can be glad that no one said “crikey”, and at least they got the pronunciation of “arse” correct.

(While we’re on the subject of Australia, why were they building the Sydney wall four kilometres inland and at right angles to the ocean? What’s that about?)

Also on accents, Idris Elba’s seemed to drift all over the place. At first I couldn’t tell where he was meant to be from, then he settled down into an American, and towards the end started going British. Maybe his unspecified, radiation induced illness was a brain tumor in broca’s area?

My final criticism is related to the portrayal of the other jaeger crews. Both were complete cliches – the inscrutable, identical triplet Chinese brothers who never spoke, never showed emotion  and walked around all the time in clothes embroidered with dragons, and the Russian brother and sister, him like some kind of bear-man and her a bleached blonde ice princess. I think they must have spent all of five minutes coming up with them. And of course, the Russian and Chinese teams are killed whereas the Australian and US jaegers save the day. In a movie featuring the theme of countries coming together to face an alien threat it would have been nice for the US’s rivals to be portrayed as people, not comic book cliches who prove to be useless in their first outing. But then I suppose Joe Sixpack from Toad Fart Idaho would have demanded his money back if the Commies hadn’t got what was coming to them, so what can you do?

All those criticisms aside, I actually really enjoyed the movie. I was particularly and pleasantly surprised by the presence of Ron Perlman, who I didn’t know was in the film until he turned up. The two scientists were annoying cliches at first, but they grew on me and did a good job with the comic relief – the bit with the toilet was a wonderful moment of silly comedy. Rinko Kikuchi, well I’m a straight guy and she was the eye candy of the film, so no complaints there. I was actually quite impressed that she and the lead didn’t actually get it together until the end, and even then they just hugged – the temptation to have them hop into bed halfway through, and/or end the film with a big romantic kiss must have been there, but was masterfully resisted.

So, all in all, if you’re looking for a couple of hours of pleasantly mindless entertainment and like the idea of giant robots beating the crap out of giant lizards, Pacific Rim is an excellent choice.

PS: I also meant to say that there’s no way that winged kaiju could take off so easily, and no way it could fly into space, which it apparently did. Particularly silly scene that one.

6 comments

Told ya. We see the movie, we enjoy the movie, then you rant on about yhe very bad science while I laugh. It was a enjoyable evening all round. 🙂

by The Witch of the West on July 31, 2013 at 8:56 PM. Reply #

Denys, I rate your rants far higher than the sloppy & half baked ideas that all too often get thrown into these movies. Glad that you enjoyed it despite it’s flaws. Critique to your hearts content, old son!

by Ryan on August 1, 2013 at 10:06 AM. Reply #

It’s science FICTION. The sciences are ment to be bad. Lol.

P.S I also rate the rants higher. I just find them amusing is all.

by The Witch of the West on August 1, 2013 at 7:20 PM. Reply #

I have to differ on your first assertion: Science Fiction does not equal ‘bad science’, otherwise it starts to fall out of the realm of Sci Fi and into some other category. Sure, some fun & decent movies can be made that way (and maybe Pacific Rim was, I don’t know, I haven’t seen it) but I believe some of the best stories and most interesting plots can be told when the audience are respected enough to handle substance and nuance, and when scientific knowledge, both speculative and ‘solidly proven’ is included into the mix. I supppose for me it comes down to substance and believability. The more banal and empty headed the story and characters, the less I wish to give it my time and attention. Finally, my great reluctance to see Pacific Rim, I attribute to Michael Bay’s Transformers , arguably in the top ten list of biggest shitfest movies of all time. Mr Bay is a destroyer of treasured childhood fantasies. He put me off giant robot movies for life.

by Ryan on August 3, 2013 at 1:52 PM. Reply #

Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more!

Depictions of science in sci-fi movies can be classed on two axes – accuracy and plot. This provides four extreme points – good science essential to the plot, good science non-essential to the plot, bad science essential to the plot, and bad science non essential to the plot.

The scientifically literate viewer has no problem with good science, whether it’s needed to serve the plot or not. Bad science on the other hand can only be excused if it’s absolutely essential to the story, and even then there’s a limit.

If the required violation of science is minor – or part of a well established technological genre – then it can be ignored or explained away. Faster than light travel or force fields for example are complete violations of the laws of physics as we understand them, but in a story set a few hundreds of years into the future we can ignore this by assuming that new physics has been discovered. However, the closer the fictional world is to our current world, the harder it is to explain away bad science, and it starts making the work less and less believable and (for the consumer who actually understands how the universe functions) less and less enjoyable.

A world of the year 2020 where giant robots fight interdimensional monsters is, from a scientific perspective, absolutely ridiculous. But interdimensional rifts are a well established science fiction trope, and something similar to the jaegers (although nowhere near as powerful) probably could be created if the USA, Japan, China and Russia threw everything they had at the project. As both there conceits are essential to the movie’s basic premise, both can be accepted without problems.

But when a jaeger survives a close range nuclear blast just by kneeling down, it’s such a violation of basic physical principals that it damages the believability of the story. It’s as if in the middle of a romantic comedy, Jennifer Anniston suddenly sprouts a third eye on a stalk, uses if for one scene, then it’s never used or referenced again. It leaves the viewer struggling to come up with some kind of explanation, and makes the entire film look stupid.

So, you can’t shove terrible science into a sci-fi movie just because it’s sci-fi. That’s just lazy.

Oh, and Ryan, I hated Transformers, but really enjoyed Pacific Rim. It’s a fundamentally pretty dumb sci-fi action film, but it’s a well-made dumb sci-fi action film, which places it miles ahead of the shambolic shit-fests foisted on us by Michael Bay.

by Purple Wyrm on August 3, 2013 at 6:47 PM. Reply #

Ah monster movies. Always fun in one way or another

by The Witch of the West on August 3, 2013 at 10:10 PM. Reply #

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