Editor’s Notes: Pacific Rim is out on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, October 15th. Special Features include: Audio Commentary from Guillermo del Toro, ‘The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim’, Deleted Scenes, and Blooper Reel.
When Pacific Rim was initially announced all I could see were transformers style robots fighting and I remember grumbling about another Michael Bay blockbuster for the summer. I’m not a Michael Bay fan, just in case you thought I was getting out the credit card to pre-book the IMAX in 3D. There’s petty little than he makes that holds much cinematic value for me, his wow-factor just doesn’t wow me and his choices in narratives are partly what I hold as responsible for my seasonal swaying away from the multiplex. Things going smash aren’t what I go to the cinema for, but wait Pacific Rim is no Michael Bay project…suddenly I’m stopped in my tracks after seeing nothing by robot imagery for months. Guillermo del Toro is directing this mush? Hang on, was that a Godzilla I just saw in the trailer? Get me a ticket!
The basis of Pacific Rim’s narrative is the basis of a pretty standard mecha narrative. The focus is on the human controllers of the giant man make battle droids, here known as Jeager suits.
It’s fair to say that via posters and imagery I had no interest in Pacific Rim until I found out that Del Toro was at the helm. As a director, Del Toro is most well known for his fantasy narratives. He started out in the film industry as a special effects make-up artist and moved on to make such cult classic dark fantasies as The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos, and Pan’s Labyrinth which won him three Oscars and several global accolades. Hellboy and its sequel are his most notable Hollywood productions to date raising his name in terms of production values and adaptation. Del Toro is one of the most imaginative and visionary directors and I follow pretty much all his work with eager anticipation.
Del Toro talks in interviews at length about his joy of having the opportunity to return to the database in his memories of anime and mangas that tackle the same issues. Del Toro very convincingly tells interviewees about the pleasure of growing up with these characters and being so impressed by the alien nature of their workings. The mecha genre is based around robotics that is controlled by humans from the interior machinery. One of the most famous Japanese anime and manga series’ is Mobile Suit Gundam. The basis of Pacific Rim’s narrative is the basis of a pretty standard mecha narrative. The focus is on the human controllers of the giant man make battle droids, here known as Jeager suits. Each Jeager is operated by two pilots operate in battle, moving in sync with each other physically and mentally. The pilots are attached to the Jeager by a complex process of bonding through the metal suit and with each others minds in order to move completely in sync with each other and the metal suit as a whole. As the trailer states ‘the deeper the bond, the better you fight’, so there is high emphasis placed on pilots being completely compatible. Both physically for the task of combat, and mentally for strategy and personality strength in even decision making for battle strategy.
A bit of a cameo from Del Toro’s actor buddy in a typically eccentric role, which Pearlman quite clearly enjoyed every moment of.
As an anime and manga fan, hearing Del Toro discuss his influences for Pacific Rim I was changed in my opinions about the film pretty quietly establishing that I would need to see his take on a mecha narrative. Mecha contains mostly science fiction based narratives and often involves giant other worldly monsters that the robots must do battle with. The sci-fi element here comes from the alien monsters called kaiju. In Japanese the word kaiju literally translates as ‘strange monster’ and stands for a wealth of filmic monsters. Kaiju are considered monstrous because they are based on conventionally animals, but supersized and often made more terrifying and distinct in certain features. Kaiju are often depicted as being related to folklore in Japan, or as in the case of Pacfic Rim being a sort of weapon controlled by a greater evil force. A long history of kaiju runs through Japanese film, including such monsters as Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. A more western version of a kaiju would be King Kong who’s based on the DNA make-up of a gorilla. Del Toro and his team have developed CGI kaiju that sort of Pokémon in nature take the features of the sea creatures from the depths of the ocean where the portal they’re coming from is based. The creatures from Del Toro’s films are always creative and these in fairness could be anybody’s kaiju. There’s little to distinguish them as a Del Toro creation, but fans will note certain features that ring true as taken from previous creations.
Naturally based on the Pacific Rim, aliens from another world are slowly trying to wipe out earth’s inhabitants using these monsters in order to claim the resources for their use. The heros are gathered from around the world and in a world’s end scenario work together to defend the earth and its citizens from attack. Insert father and son, brotherhood, tragic pasts, tormented individuals and a love plot here. Standard narrative that’s not got much going for it sadly. Ron Pearlman features as a black market kaiju parts dealer in China to much hilarity. A bit of a cameo from Del Toro’s actor buddy in a typically eccentric role, which Pearlman quite clearly enjoyed every moment of. Pacific Rim sums itself up in the trailer in terms of narrative content and there are little surprises to be revealed or fantastic acing scenes that’ll be remembered the next day.
Why you should see Pacific Rim rests on the visual effects. The CGI kaiju are spectacular and have been mentioned as a reference to the late great godfather of monsters in films, Ray Harryhausen who passed away earlier this year. Making a statement like this is very bold, but it’s clear that Harryhausen has been mentioned as an influential artist in the creation of Del Toro’s kaiju. I suppose it is just a bit of a visual treat of anyone interested in special effects monsters and their animated movements in this respect. Pacific Rim will of course be a bit of a spanner in the works of Del Toro’s filmography for fans, but I can’t imagine how terrible it could have been if it was placed in the hands of a director less interested in creating interesting landscapes and setting, like Michael Bay for instance. Del Toro’s tribute to mecha and monsters is at least treated with the knowledge of what he’s creating and where it came from. Big and bold, it’s an easy watch with little brain power required, but really entertaining for monster fans. I’ll certainly be watching it again on BLU and will probably enjoy it even more than in the cinema as this time I’ll be listening out for those amazingly bad dialogue quotes. ‘Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!’
[notification type=”star”]60/100 ~ OKAY. Del Toro’s tribute to mecha and monsters is at least treated with the knowledge of what he’s creating and where it came from. Big and bold, it’s an easy watch with little brain power required, but really entertaining for monster fans. [/notification]