Dropping spoilers on this one, for those who care. This is my web page, and you came here expecting me to be witty. But none of you spoiled this one for me, so I’ll return the favor.
I just watched Pacific Rim 1 3/4 times. As always, pure cg fighting scenes just put me to sleep, so I needed to watch about 15 minutes of the middle again after the fact. And then it just kind of stayed on.
Verdict: Take out the first and last 5 minutes, and you’ve got a pretty good genre movie.
So here’s the deal. The movie starts with an uninspiring voice-over, played against a history lesson. This prologue adds nothing except additional Kaiju bits and some explanation of how the giant robots work. But the first “real” scene of the movie does more to center it than all the exposition.
This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way in my own work, so I may be a little too close to the topic. But in Pacific Rim it really fails, since instead of keying me up for a pretty cool fight scene ful of crunchy plot goodness, it takes any pre-movie hype I’m feeling and dials it back to zero.
And then there’s The End.
Act III is almost all combat, which normally makes for a pretty thrilling finish. The emotional stakes are spelled out for me in a stirring Idris Elba speech, but unfortunately I’ve already “scene” it in the trailers. Also, I’m told 30 seconds before he comes on screen that if he gets back in a giant robot again, he won’t survive the mission.
So am I surprised when he doesn’t? A little, since Guillermo del Toro changed the rules on us and doesn’t let him go out saving the day. Instead, he sacrifices himself, pointlessly, along with copilot prettyboy to give prettyboy underdog protagonist the spotlight. Also, there’s Mako Mori, who promptly passes out and has to be saved.
Really. This happened. I watched it twice to be sure. She passes out, and P.U.P. does all the heavy lifting. Which he describes himself as “all I have to do is fall, and anyone can do that”
I won’t go into the nifty bits of getting the giant NUCLEAR powered robot in a place to do a NUCLEAR thing with it’s NUCLEAR reactors. Plural. It’s a plot point in Act I, in fact, how the robot is NUCLEAR powered, and now has a second NUCLEAR reactor for added NUCLEAR goodness.
“Hey guys, something might be going on with our reactor.”
In the script, they call it a meltdown. What it really is is an earth-shattering kaboom. Or it’s supposed to be. Which is why we strapped a GIANT NUCLEAR BOMB to the back of our most advanced robot, and tasked our aging, falling apart older NUCLEAR powered robot to watch it’s back.
Seriously. Watched it twice.
More of the deal here. When reactors “melt down” they do not explode in less than a minute with a force GREATER THAN the supposed worldshaking NUCLEAR bomb which went off just a little while ago. They may well explode, in a few hours, as the core vaporizes all its coolant and the resultant pressure forces a breach the containment vessel. But underwater, in a few seconds, with enough force to destroy an (spoilers, I guess) alien facility but not enough to kill the slowly ascending pilot who bailed out in the nick of time while a clock with big red letters counts down to zero?
I don’t think so, Tim.
I mean sure, the last part is pretty cool, and it both looks awesome on screen and gave my speakers a workout. But the sheer absurdity of it busted me right out of my immersion. I’m actually okay with rigging the reactor(s) to blow as a last-ditch effort to save the world. I was looking forward to it from the moment the movie explained to me in painstaking detail its plot to save the world, and one of the b-cast gave it the stink-eye. But that’s not what happened in the climactic scene of the movie.
Let me recap it for you. P.U.P pushes a button on a touchscreen, and nothing happens. B-cast member in another dimension tells us what just failed to happen, then P.U.P says exactly the same thing back to him. Then he falls down a flight of steps, opens a door, flips a lever, and now the reactor is ready to explode. One of them, anyway. Still not sure what’s going in with the other one.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but after one of your main characters tells you that the Mark I robots he used to pilot skimped on NUCLEAR safety protocols, a lot, you might want to rethink your design a bit. Maybe two doors. Or a warning label of some kind.
So the bookends of the movie fail pretty hard, but the other two hours just work for me. Robots fighting giant monsters.
Enough plot to keep me interested, and a b-cast I actually care about.
A stirring, species affirming speech to kick off Act III.
By the numbers, it’s a pretty good effort. The sets were top notch, the acting adequate, and it has a magnificent score in all the right places. I watched the making of vignettes, and was very impressed by GdT’s passion for both the genre and his approach to bringing it to the screen. So much so, that I have to believe this one fell apart in the editing room. That first scene with P.U.P. and his gonnadiesoon brother opened the movie so well I have to believe it was meant to.
Did I mention NUCLEAR? Because NUCLEAR.
Whatever. I paid 8bux for this three-disc set, and I got every penny out of it. If I’d been a hair faster in checking my email, it would have been 5bux, and I’d be ahead on the deal.
Of course, your mileage may very. why not tell me all about it in the comments?