Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pacific Rim: Front and Centre

Would you buy kaiju body parts from this man?
After the disappointment of Man of Steel, I was glad that I really enjoyed Pacific Rim. Often there's no substitute for a simple story told really well and that's what Pacific Rim delivers. What could be simpler than, 'giant monsters are destroying Earth, so we build giant robots to defeat them?' Actually the first few minutes of PR very effectively and economically set the scene and delivered the backstory in an enjoyable way that reminded me of the gold standard for info dumps - Joss Whedon's Serenity.

A lot of commentators are shaking their heads over why the director of Pan's Labyrinth chose to do what to the uninitiated looked like a Transformers rip off. Those guys don't realise del Toro also made the Hellboy movies and that Pacific Rim is giant robot head and shoulders above Transformers in evoking the Japanese giant monster 'kaiju' idiom as expressed through manga and anime. While PR delivers great action and a well-paced storyline, I also enjoyed those little nods to PR's anime/ manga roots like Idris Elba's suits, haircut and nervous grunting; Burn Gorman's apoplectic/ eccentric English scientist whose mugging recalled some of those strange anime expressions you see in older cartoons; and the whole Miss Mori flashback scene with the small girl holding her shoe while kaiju and mecha destroyed the city around her. It was all so magical.

The other thing that made Pacific Rim stand out was the photography and staging of the kaiju/ mecha fight scenes. Too often - and I'm looking at you Man of Steel - it's hard to follow the flow of the battles because of extreme close-ups and poor shot composition. Del Toro displayed his compositional eye to great effect with the fights and showed a natural progression with fight elements growing in complexity from battle to battle as the stakes rose higher and higher.

And who couldn't love a movie with Ron Perlman as a golden shod black marketeer? If you haven't seen Pacific Rim yet, get out to a cinema as quickly as you can. It's exactly what monster movies should be like.

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