Pacific Rim, oh dear

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Random wifflings
Tags: , , , ,

We’re moving back to Yorkshire from Somerset, to my home town, to be exact. More on that later, but the pertinent fact here is that my wife has gone to start her new job leaving me literally holding the baby. As I was on my own last night, and will be for some weeks, I thought I’d catch up on the last year or so’s SF, beginning with a film my wife wouldn’t want to watch. I rented Pacific Rim off Amazon streaming (I rarely get to the cinema). Oh my. She wouldn’t want to, and I wish I hadn’t. Here are some bullet points.

  • Obviously when combatting a transdimensional alien foe that is virtually impervious to all the tricks of 21st century weapons technology − from high energy lasers to bombs that can penetrate hundreds of feet of solid rock no less − the best thing to do is to build fragile, easily over-balanced giant robots so you can punch the monsters in the face. PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE! Win.
  • As around 50% of all combat with these giant sea monsters takes place in the sea, best not make the robots at all hydrodynamic. Far better to wade laboriously through water while the baddies swim rings around you.
  • Don’t use a nuclear weapon, even though these are shown to be completely effective.
  • Who needs remote piloting tech, when you can put your one-in-a-million pilots into an easily wrenchable head, rather than say, at the back in the middle behind forty feet of armour, or in a bunker a thousand miles away.
  • When piloting said robot, it makes perfect sense to go for mechanical pugilism, saving your most effective weapon, a giant sword, for when it is most dramatically appropriate rather than when it might actually save your life.
  • If the aliens start to win, the best strategic option is to abandon the one project that was working in favour of one that patently won’t.
  • Someone, surely, would have worked out the simple key to the aliens’ dimensional vortex years ago.
  • Equally, aliens bright enough to construct such a vortex might notice when a) the creature coming back through is dead, and b) it is accompanied by a six-hundred-foot-tall walking bomb.
  • As my brother Aidan says, “Any film that has to rely on a voiceover is already in trouble.”
  • The abuse of dinosaur science for a weak plot point. (Not the two brains, the other one).

Do I sound like an old fart? Probably. I know a lot of my geek chums loved this diabolical travesty of storytelling. I’m sticking to my guns. I love giant robots, I love big monsters. I like watching them beat each other up. I like Idris Elba, with his soulful big eyes, enormous charisma, and ability to simultaneously project deep intelligence and the potential for explosive violence. But I also like say, character, suspense, logic and some goddamn respect from my movies. The whole thing is carried along by a bread-and-circuses attitude of “they’ll dig the monsters and robots, so it doesn’t have to have all those other things that traditionally go into constructing an effective narrative.” The pulp nonsenses I enjoyed in the early 1990s had more integrity. We’ve seen this done before, far better, in anime. Even suitmation Godzilla films make more sense, and I’m no fan of those. There are two false starts, a completely soulless romance, cliches, and… and… GRAH!

I mean, I thought Transformers plumbed new robo-depths. But then, I’m not twelve any more.

  1. Dave Allen says:

    The best review of Pacific Rim I read went something like:

    “Of all the twin-piloted-giant-robot fighting humungous-alien-sea-monster films I’ve watched this is easily in the top ten.”

  2. This was the first movie we managed to watch with my wife since our son was born. We found it as cheap and dumb as you listed above but it’s such a great memory because of our first free time in years.

  3. G says:

    Weirdly, I remember being really pumped to see this movie at the cinema, and coming out a little disappointed. I too went it alone as the wife had no interest. But the interesting thing is, when I got it on blu ray I asked her to watch it with me as I was genuienly interested in her reaction (and thought it might make for an amusing blog post) except she LOVED IT. And more to the point I found that I enjoyed it much more too. I think the moral (if there must be one) is that it’s a great big dumb event movie that makes no sense but is good if you’re watching it in company and even better if you’re watching it with zero expectation. OR, me and the wife just like dumb action movies, which could also be true. For example, I love Tango and Cash and that’s a TERRIBLE movie. 🙂

  4. Absolutely hated it.

    I genuinely don’t understand why people can say “I just switch my brain off” and “You shouldn’t expect Shakespeare” with movies this awful.

    If something contradicts its own rules, actively doesn’t make sense with its huge plot-holes, has a shitty script with shitty dialogue and shitty acting, with tedious and unsympathetic characters…

    …I mean, seriously. How is “an actual plot” and “not awful acting” somehow setting my sights too high? How isn’t that the basic level of expectation?

  5. paulfny says:

    I massively enjoyed this film, despite the utter ludicrousness of it. But I also like the Transformers films (to the point of getting overly excited about each trailer). Sue me :-P. I try to avoid disliking a film because of inconsistencies or plot holes, since you can do this with every single film to a certain point. I find it pretty easy to let go, most of the time and either get caught up in what I’m seeing, or not. Sometimes, you’ve got to take it on its own level and out of all the big budget, dumb nonsense that’s come out recently (Battle LA, Skyline, Cloverfield and so on), this one, for me, hit that entertainment button dead on. I appreciate it’s garbage…but it’s garbage that works for me.

    I remember years ago having a conversation about the second Lord Of The Rings film and the guy I was talking to said he really enjoyed it right up until the end. I said, but that’s how it ends, there’s a third film coming out. He says, ‘No, no…I mean the bit where all the horses ride down the hill. That could never happen, it was too steep…they’d fall over…’ Out of everything in that movie, THAT was what he couldn’t accept…

    Not much to do with anything, except I find it fascinating to see what people will and won’t accept in films, books and so on, why one person like or dislikes something I feel the opposite way about.

    • guyhaley says:

      Each to their own. I’m with Aaron. Funnily enough, you can ride horses down very steep hills like that, it’s just very dangerous.

      • paulfny says:

        It’s all just entertainment to me…it either works for me or it doesn’t. I can just as easily enjoy a dumb action blockbuster like this, or, say, Martyrs, which has something to say (also one of my all time favourite horror films). I don’t put many limits on what I will watch and I try not to go in with expectations. It’s kind of like friends…I don’t like or dislike based on music taste, or differences of opinion…I either get on with someone or I don’t. I find things much more fun that way 🙂

      • guyhaley says:

        I’m with Aaron to the extent that I don’t enjoy films like that for the reasons he mentions, and find it hard to understand the “brain out of gear” mentality. It won’t make me hate anyone though. By all means, you enjoy it, you’re not alone. It was still rubbish though!

      • What I really don’t understand is why massive plot holes and inconsistencies survive in enterprises that cost so much money. I just don’t get how the people making it have such little pride in their work, or how the flaws aren’t caught at any stage.

        We make our living creating stories, so it’s easy enough to comment on the ground level. But I’m perplexed at how no one involved in the process says “Wait, this plot point doesn’t makes sense, let’s change it”, or how the script writers just… run with the mistakes. Do they care? Do they hope no one notices? They can’t be stupid people, so I don’t think they’re blind to massive inconsistencies.

        I can roll with giant robots fighting giant monsters. That’s not where my objections lie. Beyond the acting (which was objectively bad, sorry) and the characters (which had nothing to them) it’s the writing I don’t like. When you establish rules – “Drift-compatible” being the main one – don’t just go on to break it for the rest of the movie and act like it’s nothing. Why is it even mentioned as a major rule if no one needs to follow it? If you need super-close people to be drift-compatible, with it being lethal unless it’s fathers, sons, and brothers, don’t then slap two strangers together and say they’re drift-compatible because one of them “felt they’d be fine” after seeing a 2-minute bo staff fight. And 2 scientists are drift-compatible with an *alien brain*, emerging a bit dizzy and with nosebleeds afterwards. And how are we supposed to believe the two leads are drift-compatible when they have absolutely no chemistry on-screen?


        People can talk about shutting their brains off, and that’s on them. My issue is with the fact this is just bad, lazy writing, and they get away clean with it time and again.

        There’s a thread running through geek culture where we’re expected to like something because it’s there, not because it’s good. Pacific Rim is the apex of that cultural expectation. Great CGI. Everything else was so poorly made that I’m still amazed people consider it any better than, say, Attack of the freaking Clones.

  6. paulfny says:

    Can’t reply to your reply, so I’ll post again. Yes, it is rubbish! I completely agree. I still liked it. It’s weird and I find it difficult to analyse. For example, the first Hellboy (keeping with Del Toro) film is perfect in its cast, story, effects and direction…I just cannot come to like it. And I want to. I’ve watched it four or five times and it’s just…flat. Yet, I love the second film. Go figure 😀

    • guyhaley says:

      I find a lot (not all) of Del Toro’s work flat, to tell you the truth. But I too really liked the second Hellboy. A very good comic adaptation, and much better than the first.

      • paulfny says:

        Yay 😀 I like his stuff, but the Spanish language films are far superior to the Hollywood ones. Although Blade 2 is brilliant 🙂

  7. Gav Thorpe says:

    I’m in the ‘Really enjoyed’ column. On the other hand, I can’t see what people rave about with half of the Marvel films that come out, particularly the reboot Amazing Spider-man. Oh well, vive la difference!

  8. Stuart says:

    I disagree to the hilt, but you had me until you compared them to the horrific Michael Bay Transformers films. I can cheerfully sit through an Uwe Boll film (FarCry, for what it’s worth) and at least riff along to amuse myself, but the BayFormer films were utter tripe. The first was dire, the second was so fist-chewingly awful I had to switch it off and send it back, and I haven’t bothered with the third because I don’t hate myself that much.

    I enjoyed PacRim, and I won’t try to argue the toss otherwise. But I will take umbrage with people trying to put it in the same box was the toxic, fetid shite that Michael “My Only Good Film Was The Rock And Even Then That’s Pushing It” Bay puts out.

  9. Matt Keefe says:

    I haven’t seen it.

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