As the Film Diary entry on Monday may have suggested, I am a big fan of Guillermo Del Toro and pretty much every film he has made.
However, his most recently released film, Pacific Rim, is about huge robots fighting monsters....and that's about it. Whilst the reviews have actually been pretty good, the general consensus I've heard is that it's major grade bollocks for twelve year old boys. So I decided to take my twelve year old self down to the cinemateque to find out for myself.
Here's what I found:
This was an interesting film.
Interesting because I could see so many influences from other films and genres present. You have noticeable nods to anime, godzilla, Top Gun, Transformers, previous Del Toro films and huge blockbuster films like Independance Day and War of the World.
And it was a good, fun film.
I was expecting a bright, colourful action film with minimal story and pathetic characters. Instead, what I got was a bright, colourful, epic action film with minimal story and reasonable characters.
First of all, the colour palette.
It looks incredible, the deepest blues, the neon of Hong Kong, the lighting. All incredible. The scenes indoors in Hong Kong reminded me most of Hellboy 2 with the oranges and reds present. The film looks like live action Manga and that works to the film's advantage because it keeps everything from becoming too dour, somber and moody.
And aside from the colour palette, the other huge nod to Del Toro's back catalogue is the design of the Kaiju themselves. Looking much like steroid pumped Hellboy rejections, these monsters are huge, varied, capable of massive destruction and provide perfect opponents to the man made Jaegers.
And the Jaegers themselves are hugely impressive feats of CGI. Constantly reminding us of the sheer, implausible scale of the them is a consistent joy whilst watching the film and each of the few that appear on screen are varied and recognisable.
When the action does start, it is massive. Hugely impressive but there are some points I really want to make about the action scenes and it directly contradicts the action scenes in Man of Steel, because they're pretty similar in terms of scope and collateral damage.
Firstly, Del Toro makes an effort to show the streets and worlds emptied of people before the Kaiju go apeshit on land. They're all in shelters and so when the Jaeger and the Kaiju fight and buildings are going over and entire areas are getting destroyed, there's no mass killing of people. In Man of Steel, everyone is caught up the catastrophe and you assume that the death toll must be in the hundreds of thousands.
Secondly, when Superman and Zod smash the hell out of each other, there's no threat, no danger. It's just punch, punch, fly through building, smash into the ground. Boom Boom Boom without any sense that they're doing any damage to each other. In Pacific Rim, the pilots gets battered around, cut up, bloodied. They're in danger! It's a small point but it makes the fights in Pacific Rim much more gripping and intense.
And this partially works because of the characters and the cast. They're not original, hugely complex and most of them are little more than decoration but they serve their purpose and some actually stand out as being good fun. Idris Elba is pretty damn good as the gruff, mysterious commanding office. Charlie Hunnam is fine as the washed up pilot given a second chance. Rinko Kikuchi is great as the potential love interest. They're not new takes on original characters but they're done well here.
So it is left to the story to fall flat. The whole 'mind drifting' idea was clearing created as a potentially novel way to introduce character drama and interaction between characters but the whole idea never quite hits, despite the pseudo-scientific jargon around the idea. And the whole reason for the Kaiju being there is underwhelming for sure, them being there provides the conflict but the explanation is weak. There are also pretty big plot holes and stupid decisions that get made by the characters don't ruin the film, but it's certainly no where near as clever as it means to be.
All in all. I got what I expected. It's like Del Toro looked at Transformers and Godzilla and thought "Hey, I can do better than that." and he did better than them.