Pacific Rim

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pacific_rimRated PG-13                     1 stars out of 5

Today I saw “Pacific Rim,” which should have been called Godzilla versus Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots. That’s what it looked like in the trailers, and that’s what it is. Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) put these guys together just like Universal Pictures did in1943 with “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.”

I don’t mean to trivialize this movie. You see, there is this giant monster and “It Came from Beneath The Sea” (sorry, that’s an actual 1955 title from Columbia Pictures). Some kind of breach in the sea floor is giving birth to these creatures. This movie would have been great at the drive-in a few decades ago.

So the world comes together and determines the best way to fight a big sea creature is with a big robot. They don’t need a bigger gun or a scientist to find its weakness; they need a big metal robot with a good right cross. Again, it comes down to a fistfight.

The guy in charge of the fighting robots is Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of The Wire), who hides his backstory from his troops, but we get to see it in a nice flashback. As the creatures get bigger, his “troops” start losing and the politicians decide to build a wall. Right away, they bust through the wall like it was not there. Now Stacker has to find what is left of his “troops” and get back into action.

One of his best is Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam of Children of Men), who had a rough fight to open the movie and lost his co-pilot. I admit, it was a nice opening sequence giving us the history of the creatures and then a great action scene and then they hit us with the Title Card to remind us – 15 MINUTES IN, that this is a movie, so don’t forget the title. That made it feel more like a TV movie. Raleigh needs a new partner, and though everyone is against it, he winds up paired with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi from The Brothers Bloom).

Now it becomes a buddy movie, just like “The Heat,” where these two people screw up, get tossed off the project, but in the end they come back to save the day. Apparently, there are no new stories being produced or funded, just literally bigger villains and therefore bigger heroes with bigger explosions to save the world on a bigger budget. There is still a “Geek Squad” for comic relief, but no real heroes or a story that sheds light on the human condition.

Some of the best movies have simple themes with simple problems. Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane) just wanted to put out a newspaper and Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz) just wanted to go home. Here they spend too much time developing the CGI and 3D effects and too little time on the characters. They give the leads one bad thing that happened in their past to define them, and we all know that is what they will overcome in the third act.

I like a monster movie as much as the next guy. I have “Sharknado” (Sci-Fi Channel 2013) on my DVR, and I’m going to make it a double feature with “Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus” (Sci-fi Channel 2010). And it can be done right, or at least better. When Spielberg made “Jaws” (1975 – budget $8 million) he added more than a twist. He made Peter Benchley’s book seem like Melville’s “Moby Dick” and the characters dominated the screen. When George Lucas made “Star Wars” it was described as a “B-Movie” with an A-Budget. I would note that Lucas spent $11 million in 1977, and in 1978 Warner Brothers spent $55 million on “Superman.” And Lucas brought a mythology to the space ships and laser guns.

“Pacific Rim” is a step back in filmmaking and a great example at what is wrong with Hollywood. Sure, I saw some “cool things” in 3D IMAX, and that is what they are selling. If you want five sequels, an X-Box game and a cable series go ahead and put on your 3D glasses now. I give this movie 1 star out of 5 because it was cool seeing a robot beat up Godzilla. That’s not a movie I want to see again… unless I catch it on the Sci-Fi Channel late at night.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker.

Here is a link to his movie review site:


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