Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro outdoes Michael Bay in this rip-snorting, slightly meta update of the Japanese monster movie, writes ANDREW O'HEHIR in Salon.

Then there are all the film buffs, critics and so forth who’ve followed the twists and turns of del Toro’s peculiar career, with all its unfinished projects, impossible dreams and executive-producer credits. (He was supposed to direct the “Hobbit” movies – sigh! – and he was supposed to adapt H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” – triple sigh!) If that describes you, “Pacific Rim” draws a line in the sand and dares you to cross it, with a discordant otherworldly roar. Except that you won’t find any sand in this movie – it’s all rain-soaked sci-fi cityscapes and roiling Pacific Ocean – and I was having so much fun I lost track of where the line between good-stupid and bad-stupid might lie. Suffice it to say that if you were hoping for an allegorical and/or political fairy tale in the mode of del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth,” you won’t find it here. His first film as a director in five years finds del Toro in maximally geeked-out fanboy mode, the mode of the “Hellboy” films and “Blade II,” fulfilling a promise I imagine him making to himself as a teenage boy back in Guadalajara, circa 1980, while he was watching “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster” for the seventh time: As God is my witness, one day I’ll make a movie as badass as this one!

My advice is that you have to honor this movie at that level or leave it alone. If you feel no affection toward the Japanese “Kaiju” monster movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s, from “Godzilla” onward, or for other related pop-culture streams that flow into “Pacific Rim” – the giant-robot anime of the ‘80s, or the “henshin” tradition of shows like “Ultraman,” in which an oversize anthropomorphic hero defends humanity from alien invaders – then quite likely this isn’t the del Toro picture for you. I found the storytelling and characters in “Pacific Rim” highly appealing, but they’re built to conform to genre norms and stereotypes, or maybe to max them out to the point of distortion, but not quite to subvert them and still less to appear “naturalistic.” Someone in my Facebook universe described “Pacific Rim” as del Toro’s version of “Kill Bill,” meaning that it’s a personal declaration of love and loyalty to a disreputable popular genre, and an attempt to make that kind of movie as good as it can be. That just about nails it.

In Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, humanity creates giant fighting robots (dubbed “Jaegers”) to combat an invasion of gargantuan monsters (known as “Kaiju”) that come from under the sea — a larger-than-life war the Pan’s Labyrinth director constructs from the disparate parts of myriad genre predecessors. From the animal-in-the-city mayhem of King Kong and the eighties monsters-smashing-skyscrapers arcade game Rampage, to the cyborg crime-fighting of Robocop, the robo-punching board game Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, and the unholy goliaths of At the Mountains of Madness (the H.P. Lovecraft novella that del Toro has long tried to bring to the screen), the film is a brazen and boisterous summer-spectacular hybrid. Yet more than those aforementioned influences, del Toro’s latest is truly the awesome offspring of the following five source materials, which, in their own distinct ways, can all lay claim to having fathered this monster-and-machine blockbuster.
What the Hell Is a Kaiju? 5 Movies That Can Help Explain Pacific Rim.

Kaiju is a Japanese word that literally translates to "strange creature". However, the word Kaiju has been universally translated into English as "monster" or "giant monster" and refers to science fiction films from Japan featuring unnatural creatures of immense size. Kaiju films usually showcase Kaiju of any form attacking a major Japanese city or engaging another (or multiple) Kaiju in battle. The most famous Kaiju is Godzilla. Other notable Kaiju include Gamera, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla and Rodan. The term ultra-kaiju is shorthand for monsters in the Ultra Series.
More about Kaiju Here.

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