Pacific Rim

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.

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