There have been two movies in the past year that have moved me to see them twice in quick succession: Cloud Atlas and Pacific Rim. A surprising number of people seem to be either indifferent toward it or dislike it. This is not exactly a defense of it, more of a love letter and it is rife with spoilers so tread carefully.
9. The Contemporaries
My pet peeve about this movie is that people keep comparing it to Pan’s Labyrinth which is unfair on so many levels. No, what you should compare it to is Transformers, Godzilla and the like. And well… that makes it a little unfair to the rest of them. In a world where stilted acting and flat characters are par for the course, Pacific Rim stands out by the simple virtue of being itself.
8. The Sheer Stupidity
The best line ever in any action movie ever definitely goes to Herc Jansen:
We are the only ones standing between that thing and a city of ten million people. So we can either sit here and wait, or we can grab those flares and do something really stupid.
And yes, pulling out that chain sword for the first time when they’re about ready to die was pretty stupid too. But Pacific Rim embraces that stupidity and makes it AWESOME. For example, it would have made more sense for them to take out the sword before they were flying up into the upper atmosphere but holy crap that scene worked well visually. Unlike a lot of action movies, Pacific Rim doesn’t talk down to its viewers. Instead, it’s the child jumping into puddles, yelling “Look how fun this is!” And you inevitably find yourself jumping into puddles.
7. The Look
There’s no getting around it; the kaiju and the jaegers are simply incredibly cool. ‘Nuff said.
6. The Action
Despite everything bad that can be said about the action movie genre, I really do love it. I always make time to watch most of the action movies that come to a theater near me. There’s something incredibly carthartic about action movies that makes even bad ones entertaining. As it goes, the action on Pacific Rim is spectacular. And it never overstays its welcome. AND there’s very little of the nauseating “handheld” camera action so very popular in all the recent blockbuster films. Not to mention the tension-relieving humor sprinkled throughout.
5. The Science
There’s always a question of how much plausibility any science fiction story should contain. Usually I’m all for science fantasy because daring to dream big simply inspires me and:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
4. The Originality
We’re living through an era where everything, especially if there are any sort of genre elements, is either a reboot or otherwise based on an existing property. Pacific Rim is an original idea, never mind how much it takes from genre conventions. And I for one think that’s something to be applauded.
3. Idris Elba
Idris Elba is a fabulous actor. Simply by existing he can convey a lot of things lesser actors can’t bring out even in words. In a lot of movies that talent is quite simply wasted (*cough*Prometheus*cough*) but Pacific Rim takes full advantage of the sheer presence he has. When he said that they are canceling the apocalypse, I’m pretty sure even the Kaiju took a step back. Elba is not simply yet another president who rides in at the last minute to save the day. He IS Stacker Pentecost, a military leader, a loving father and a kick-ass action man.
2. The Little Things
Speaking of Idris Elba, Pacific Rim knows, really knows how to get the little things right. In the mandatory grudge match, supposedly defending the female lead’s honor, it is not only clear that a) Mako Mori is perfectly willing and able to defend her own honor, but holds back because of whom she is and b) that Raleigh is attacking Chuck to defend his own honor rather than hers. Then later, when Raleigh has the obligatory run-in with his superior officer and grabs Pentecost’s arm, it is not Pentecost who backs down like it would have been in any other movie, it is Raleigh. Because he just made a mistake and he damn well knows it.
1. Mako Mori
I could probably write a whole other love letter just for Mako Mori because I’ve been waiting for her since I first saw Ellen Ripley some twenty + years ago. I watch a lot of action and adventure movies and the one thing all of them have in common is that their female characters almost always suck. They tend to be either cold action girls or screaming, useless tag-alongs. And then came Mako Mori; Capable, vulnerable, headstrong Mako Mori who makes conscious choices on how to behave in any situation and yet it’s still believable when she loses control. She has a remarkable character arc, even better than the male lead. If everything else about Pacific Rim sucked, the character of Mako Mori would still raise it head and shoulders above most of the competition.