Review Roundup - Clash of the titans

PACIFIC RIM (2013)

I like Guillermo Del Toro. His work generally has a nice feeling to it, that mix of horror and beauty - a creepy magic that fills the stories with a certain atmosphere of melancholy and brings a little more to the stock genres of fairy tales, vampires or ghosts than you might expect. He also does films in English sometimes. I don't mean to be harsh, as the enthusiasm for crafting this stuff is clearly on show, and they are pretty good - but something gets lost when you move from Pan's Labyrinth to Hellboy. I really enjoy the trade paperbacks you can get of Mike Mignola's anti-hero, the art and writing seems simple at first but has a lot of depth, and the characters are done well with a subtle sense of humour. On film it becomes a teen drama about girlfriend issues, the implications of bearing the weight of doomsday are swapped out for hollywood cliches and corny lines. So you understand I went into Pacific Rim with some anxiety.



I will say it's an enjoyable ride, even if it's ironically light weight. The Kaiju genre is rarely something that can be taken seriously outside the original Godzilla's anti war themes, and this doesn't change that. So while the works of Honda and Harryhausen are openly credited, it doesn't try and provide much in the way of depth. It's all very underwritten, which isn't helped by the leads being so flat and the supporting cast being a mix of military leader archetypes and what are basically cartoon characters. At times I wished that the main characters were swapped out for the father and daughter-esque story to be at the centre instead of the typical overcoming the odds stuff. It's a strange mixture at times, I'd have liked some real charisma to off set the giant battle sequences.

Those scenes are well handled with little in the way of flash cutting and shaky cam so you can see the impact of punches and focus on things, though the effects are not as impressive as you'd expect. I mentioned Hellboy before; it's sequel had more eye poppings moments including practical creatures that were more exciting. It's not helped that the monster fights are a little samey after a while - lots of night time, lots of sea water. A flashback showing what was effectively a child running from a gigantic crustacean hinted at something different in tone but was cut short. Similarly, daytime battles are seen in news footage and not given a proper showing off. Also the action peaks too early during the mid movie battle as the underdogs get their first victory and the inventiveness of the fighting increases rapidly. Makeshift weapons are used and new creature tactics are introduced - but the finale isn't as fun and feels slower and less creative. It's also weird that slow firing weapons are used so much instead of the super effective bladed ones, or that no military forces support the Jaeger pilots.

My closing thoughts were that it needed to be darker. The two people required to control each half of a huge robot brain is interesting, but the effects of damage to the pilot and the impact of being in someone elses head simply isn't explored enough. It's also set in a world of war propaganda and post apocalyptic scenery, as it's set decades after the first creatures arrived - but only small glimpses are shown. Perhaps a sequel can bring this to the table? It's not clear if that will even happen. I think this comes off as overly critical, and after all it's refreshing to see something like this done with some passion. It's very lacking in certain areas, but honestly it's fun enough and refreshingly lacks the sleaze of Michael Bay, which is a big plus.

3/5