Movie Premiere: Pacific Rim

Entire cities have been obliterated by giant, rampaging monsters. Despite heroic efforts, the human race is losing the struggle. The situation is grim. In a last ditch effort to save civilization, the Pan Pacific Defense Corps sends forth the last of its skyscraper-sized robots to battle the monsters. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance.

 

Leslie: Look out! Here come the Kaiju! Oh noooooo! Run for your lives!

Ken: I have a new rule. From now on, you're never allowed to see a robot vs. monster film. For days afterward, you're just too annoying.

Leslie: But, if we don't stop them, they will destroy the world! Call the Jaegers! They are our last hope!

Ken: Let me guess. When you were little, you really, really liked Godzilla movies. Because Pacific Rim is exactly the same, except the budget is $200 million bigger.

Leslie: Well, I guess you just don't appreciate the subtle artistry of Japanese anime or manga.

Ken: Please. This film is about as good as Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Actually, Godzilla was more creative. Pacific Rim is just two hours of little boys bashing together GCI toy dinosaurs and Transformers.

Leslie: Rip off of Transformers? You bet. But Guillermo del Toro, the director and co-writer, makes the mayhem infinitely more entertaining. He loves this genre, and it shows. Helmed by lesser directors, this film would have been a mess. But he expertly combines action and compassion, and just a bit of his trademark off-balance humor, to make this a cool film. He lives and breathes Kaiju-Eiga.

Ken: Well, I agree that del Toro is a terrific film maker. And this isn't a terrible film. To its credit, the film knows that it is ridiculous. And it's okay with that.

Leslie: It's way over the top, and that makes it way fun. The section where the old (and analog!) Jaeger Gipsy Danger battles a Kaiju in downtown Hong Kong is one of the best examples of summer popcorn excitement I've ever seen.

Ken: I liked how two Jaeger pilots connect their consciousness through a mental meld called "The Drift." That leads to all kinds of emotional drama and some good backstory development.

Leslie: That is actually based on current technology being developed by DARPA.

Ken:  Leave it to an engineer to know about that stuff. Bet you also noticed that the same woman who voices GLaDOS from the Portal video game was cast as the computer voice here.

Leslie: Of course that's Ellen McLain! With Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, and Ron Perlman, you've got a wonderful cast.

Ken: Rinko Kikuchi was awesome. I'm going to put some blue streaks in my hair, just like hers.

Leslie: Casting her was brilliant. del Torro said that he wanted to make her a real partner inside the Jaeger, not just a "sexpot kickass chick with brief wardrobe malfunctions." I'll help you put in those blue streaks, if you're man enough.

Ken: Big thumbs up on the technical aspects of this film. Motion pictures have come a long way since a guy in a rubber Godzilla suit knocked down a cardboard Tokyo.

Leslie: The film honors the "man in suit" proportions. And the monsters were designed with a Natural Geographic edge to give them a realism and again, a tribute to Japanese monster flicks.

Ken: Both the Kaiju and the Jaegers looked terrific, with appropriately awesome size and mass, particularly in 3D. This film is a good example of how 3D can literally add a dimension to a film.

Leslie: del Toro personally supervised every matte and 3D conversion. He was initially opposed to doing the film in 3D, thinking that it would force a miniaturization of the monsters and robots down to a human scale. But, by demanding the budget and time to do it right, with John Knoll of Industrial Light and Magic supervising to ensure there was no miniaturization, del Torro said 3D is his preferred format for viewing it. And I have to agree!

Ken: This guy is hands-on and it really shows. I'm also guessing that he was present at the mixing theater for every bit of the sound design. Lots of nice sonic touches, like the sound of spurs for Ron Perlman's funky shoes, and the subtle squeaks from the knights-in-shining-armor suits worn by the Jaeger pilots.

Leslie: My favorite was the squeals of the Kaiju. Took me straight back to Son of Godzilla. I also really liked the sound of "The Drift" and the neural handshake sounds swirling throughout the theater.

Ken: The ringing sound of the sword was inspired. And I hope del Toro bought a round of drinks for the sound designers. The Jaeger footsteps were tremendous. When this goes to Blu-ray, there are going to be some blown subwoofers out there.

Leslie: When you realize that every single sound of their movement was created artificially, yet realistically have you believing that's the sound they make naturally, you really appreciate the brilliant sound design of this film.

Ken: Let's not forget that every single note of the score was played by a musician. I really liked Ramin Djawadi's score. Somehow, musically, he paid homage to the tradition of monster-movie music. Maybe it was all the trombone themes and Japanese Taiko drums when the Kaiju appeared. I also liked how the rock motifs were skillfully blended with the more traditional symphonic material.

Leslie: A ripping, stuttering guitar theme plays every time we see the Jaeger Gipsy Danger, played by none other than Tom Morello, from Rage Against the Machine.

Ken: The Jaeger pilots are rock stars, so it's appropriate that they get rock-star guitar riffs.

Leslie: I absolutely loved how the other Jaegers also had their own themes.  The Russian's Cherno Alpha Jaeger had a chorale theme intensely reminiscent of the Russian anthem.

Ken: I also liked how the music identified with places like a busy Hong Kong street, but was never cliched.

Leslie: So there were lots of things you did like about it, right?

Ken: This movie is outrageously crazy. That's fine. Mary Shelley wrote a novel that was outrageously crazy too. But, in the end, this film is a mashup of many previous films. I wish del Toro had expended his energy on one of his own stories, rather than pay tribute to other people's stories.

Leslie: I agree, and I can't wait to see what's next for him. But look, it's a love story to the genre. del Torro said "The unabashed adoration of monsters moves me beyond adult rationality and sends me straight back to my childhood innocence. It is impossible to allow giant monsters and giant robots into a skeptic's heart." So quit being such a skeptic.

Ken: So, do you wanna hook up with me tonight for some Drift?

Leslie: Right after we put in those blue streaks.

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