I wasn’t expecting much from Pacific Rim, but I don’t miss anything with the name del Toro stamped on it. But while there is some del Toro-ness in the film (hey, we actually SEE the monsters, even if they are a little campy at times), it’s not too terribly different from other blockbuster summer fare.
I expected the movie to be a relatively straightforward variation of a simple story: 1) boy meets monster; 2) monster kicks boy’s ass; 3) boy kicks monster’s ass; 4) boy grows cocky; 5) monster pulls out the ace hidden up its sleeve and kicks boy’s ass again really badly; 6) boy momentarily loses faith because the situation seems so darn hopeless; 7) after a sudden insight, boy finds strength in his previous weakness and emerges triumphant; and 7) boy turns to kiss girl, a pretty-but-not-very-interesting minor character.
And, to a certain extent, Pacific Rim is that story: the monsters are kaiju, who come from the floor of the Pacific Ocean and bear a more than uncanny resemblance to the enemies of Ultraman (thanks, Bob). (Imagine an unholy coupling between Gamera and Guiron. Something like that.) The “boys” are jaegars, skyscraper-sized robots piloted by two people who undergo a
Vulcan mind meld “neural handshake” that allows them to each donate a hemisphere of their brain to powering the huge machine, preventing either from suffering the nosebleeds fatal neurological overload that would be experienced were one to attempt the task alone.
A neural handshake is supposedly more successful if the two soldiers are already intimate or at least simpatico, so, as we would expect, there are teams made up of twins, siblings, fathers and sons, but THERE ARE NO MOTHERS AND DAUGHTER TEAMS BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WOMEN ARE TOO STUPID, WEAK, AND EMOTIONAL TO SERVE AS WARRIORS EVEN IN SITUATIONS IN WHICH MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL CAPACITIES WOULD DIRECTLY TRANSLATE INTO PHYSICAL POWER. Come on, del Toro, have you forgotten about a little movie called Aliens?
Ahem. Anyway, yes, so Pacific Rim does follow a standard boy meets monster plotline, but what surprised me was that stages #1-4 and much of #5 happen in about the first ten minutes, before the title screen even appears. That alone made things a little more interesting. In other words, the trailer is NOT a plot summary of the entire film.
But the film still doesn’t do much that is unexpected and does a lot that is drearily commonplace. Although the film knowingly makes at least two specific references to Star Wars (the first pilots we see totally look like stormtroopers and one father tells his co-pilot son, “Great, kid, don’t get cocky,” like Solo to Skywalker), it also seemed to plagiarize from a bunch of others. There was something totally Armageddon going on in places, and at one point, someone said, “I think you just pissed it off.” How many times has THAT line been used? Just like the ticking clock/time bomb/detonation system plot device that has become so trite, someone needs to make sure that line never appears in a movie again.
And, Lord, do we need another of those inspirational-going-into-battle speeches, which date back at least to the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V?
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered–
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother . . .
Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3
At the edge of our hope,
at the end of our time
we have chosen not to believe in ourselves,
but in each other . . .
Today we are cancelling the apocalypse.
And I think they stole the soundtrack from Inception.
Pacific Rim was good fun, but not nearly as much fun as The Avengers, another film I expected to merely amuse but which did so really really well. I can’t wait to see what critics do with the racial dimensions of the film, though. Yellow peril, anyone?