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Pacific (Sh)Rim(p)

After the Turnover 25 years ago one of the most prominent things you could see pop everywhere were satellite dishes. After a life spent behind the Iron Curtain people were hungry for uncensored information, movies and those erotic midnight shows on private commercial TV. My brother and I had our own catching up to do and one of those things was that we watched every movie that halfway smelled of science fiction no matter how B or C rate it actually was. This unavoidably included the original Japanese Godzilla movies and while I’m far from being a fan of any of those (nor Roland Emmerich‘s version of it), the idea of some big monsters stomping around has its appeal. Apparently Guillermo del Toro thought so as well and so Pacific Rim came to be.

I’ve watched it about three times on disc now and I’m still decidedly undecided. Strange? Yeah, but hear me out. Let me start off by saying that this is by no means a “good” movie. To begin with, the plot holes are as big as that sub-oceanic rift itself. Some highlights of the dumbness include:

  • The hemisphere’s in your brain normally being cross-switched, meaning your left one controls your right arm and the the right one the left extremities, not like they show it mapped left-left and right-right.
  • EMPs (electromagnetic pulses) affect digital and analog electronics no matter what. So how would it matter what technology drives the core of those Jaegers?
  • Probably the biggest “facepalm” moment: It takes them 20 years just to think of the possibility that the gateway may be clued to the alien DNA. Stupid? Absolutely!

I understand that these are all just plot devices of course, but geez, it’s not that we live in the 1960s anymore and people couldn’t know these things.

The other thing that bothered me was the overall stupidity of the script. It borrows heavily from comic and Manga clichés and stereotypes, but doesn’t quite know how to bring it all together. There’s the cute little Japan girl with childhood problems, the scruffy military General guy, the nutty scientists and Ron Perlman just being Hellboy, but it never really gels. The dialogs are equally terrible and sound like direct copy&paste from other movies. “Tonight we’ve cancelled the apocalypse.” Yeah, my ass… It’s disappointing, to say the least, to see such a poor quality of writing from the man who made Pan’s Labyrinth and at one point was going to direct The Hobbit.

And now for the good(?)  parts. Once you get over these awful shortcomings and have dialed down your intelligence level, you can actually enjoy the movie in an odd sense and just like those Godzilla films it becomes one of those “guilty pleasures”. Yepp, you’d never admit it to your friends, but seeing the Jaegers and Kaiju battling it out is kinda exciting. The robots barely make sense in a technical sense (not only to me as someone doing engineering visualizations), but it’s just fun to see how they do the most ridiculous things without any notable damage. The even cooler part are the Kaiju themselves. They have quite a few tricks up their sleeves and as a matter of fact I would have loved to see more of them. With recent research in dinosaurs there would have been endless possibilities to spin this and make them even more interesting. That’s one of those things – had the film focused more on the scientific background of the Kaiju and not just made them monsters withe leathery/ lava-like grey skin, it could have been a real treat. Imagine some colorful bird-like variants or some sort of Brontosaurus stampede… Still, they’re not bad and in a crude way make sense as being genetically engineered and tailor-made for each new attack. And that one shot mimicking the iconic Godzilla pose is just pure gold.

As you may gather by now, I feel that with a few things done differently there would have been a much better movie in there. On some level that’s also true for the visuals. It’s weird to see how they went out of their way to animate the beasts and robots and then slipped up with some iffy effects elsewhere. Look for some bad compositing stuff like missing shadows, oversized welding sparks or iffy helicopter shots for instance… Perhaps that’s owed to the movie having been worked on until rather late before release, but it seems unnecessary. I also think that ILM went a bit crazy on all that simulation stuff. Many fight scenes are so full of spray and smoke, you barely recognize some details. They should have taken it back a notch.

With all that said, as stated in the first chapter, this particular movie could become one of those “classics” that for all its flaws you can’t help but watch every time it runs on “free” TV. It’s a good way to kill a boring afternoon…



One comment on “Pacific (Sh)Rim(p)

  1. Yes, I seem to recall laughing at one scene where they are standing next to a fully operating helicopter holding an umbrella that is totally unaffected by the downdraft of the blades.

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