***(WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD)***
Two pilots. That’s what you need. To control a massive giant battle mech called a Jaeger, you need two pilots. Each pilot devotes their entire brain to control half of the Jaeger. They share the neural load. And when a Summer movie brings this much geeky joy, you’re going to need a couple of fanboys who can take it head on. Two reviewers, one article. Together they will help guide you and give you six points as to why the new feature film from acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro is worthy of your Summer movie enjoyment. So, let’s get Jaeger pilots (and Agents of GUARD) Justin and Earl into their Jaeger: MEGA KAPRE…..
Join Justin and Earl as we shall call this article…..
1. It’s a tight film.
JUSTIN: It’s almost surprising to realize how much information is explained in this film. So much is going on, it’s almost information overload. We have to learn about the history of the Kaiju War, how the Jaegers work, who the characters are and where the Jaeger program is at when the film starts. And some how…it accomplishes doing all that with out it feeling sluggish. The pacing of this film is impeccable. Never rushing too fast to get to point “A” to “B”, yet never staying too long on a scene before things drag. The film knows when to build the tension and to deliver the excitement, yet it never forgets that we need to breath and learn more about the characters.
EARL: Definitely… tons going on. There was a bit at the beginning where I even felt a bit disoriented. I’m going to chalk that up, though, to lack of sleep and getting older. What I thought was great, however, was the fact that there was very little fat, if any, in the movie. Every scene played its part in moving the plot along, even Dr. Newton Geiszler’s (Charlie Day) foray into the Bone Slums of Hong Kong to find Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) felt needed. The scenes could have come off superfluous, but they were injected with enough charm and story to make them work. I still am not sure about the Kaiju finding Dr. Geiszler and scanning him with what I’m guessing is some sort of Jacobson’s organ type thing, but I’m sure someone will enlighten me at some point. Or, it could be planting seeds for a possible sequel… maybe.
2. Excellent worldbuilding
EARL: Say what you want about the man as a director overall, but one thing you will never be able to speak poorly of is Guillermo del Toro’s worldbuilding. From Blade 2 to Pan’s Labyrinth, the man has got creating an immersive world down to a science. If level of detail is standard by which we measure worldbuilding, then Pacific Rim is the pinnacle. True, the film is set in a possible near-future of our world, but there’s still quite a few details to hash out even then. The art direction of the film is downright beautiful. The Jaeger designs are badass and functional (few ridiculously exposed gears or bits arbitrarily jutting out, ready to be broken). The rules of Jaeger piloting are beautifully fleshed out, including the need for two pilots to share the neural load, and the repercussions thereof. Bone Slums. Hannibal Chau’s scaled shoetips. There was one small inconsistency: it was established early in the film that the Kaiju were clones. Later on, we find out that one is pregnant. But, perhaps Kaiju are non-diecious and use pregnancy as a secondary mode of proliferation. Hey, I said it was a small insconsistency. I also had an issue with some situational Jaeger fragility, but… really? It’s a giant robot movie. Physics went bye-bye a long time ago.
JUSTIN: Absolutely! I even feel like we’re only getting taste of the world that’s in this film. I love the crazy notion of people buying Hannibal’s blackmarket Kaiju parts for…whatever crazy things people want to do with Kaiju bones (is it a drug?) I love that the cockpit for each Jaeger is massive, and it makes it just a bit more believable that two people can occupy the same space to make giant fighting gestures to take on Kaijus!
3. Non-franchise/one-shot film.
JUSTIN: Is it sad that its almost refreshing to see a big budgeted tent pole film that DOESN’T want to easily be Part 1 of a series. While I’m sure they have plans on how to expand into a sequel, this is still a singular film to enjoy all it’s own. Hollywood has been too busy wanting to make new a new Star Wars that they forget that the first Star Wars works perfectly on it’s own. Simply put, Pacific Rim it wants to tell the story it has to tell, not seed things for Pacific Rim III: Tokyo Drift.
EARL: Agreed. There is something nice about this film being entirely self-contained. That “something” is the fact that you don’t have to wait another year or more for closure. Over the past few years, it seems like the movie-going audience has become conditioned to expect hanging plot threads or heavy-handed foreshadowing. That was not the case in Pacific Rim. The film’s sole responsibility was to resolve itself, not pave way for a sequel.
4. The use of The Drift as a storytelling device.
EARL: This ties in a bit with worldbuilding. The Drift refers to the neural connection made between the two Jaeger pilots, prior to neural handshake with the Jaeger. Through the Drift, the pilots share not only their current mental and neurological states, they share memories. It’s the computer-aided version of a mind meld. In the film, the Drift is visually represented by a blue vortexy-type, ghosts of days gone past-y, swirly flashy thing. The Drift, however, also functions on a storytelling level. Through the Drift, we see backstory without flashbacks, we get exposition without too much talkiness. It functions as a shortcut, which bypasses the question of how characters know or why characters know intimate details about each other.
JUSTIN: One of my personal things that I like that really makes the Drift such a fun storytelling device is that you also share emotions of your co-pilot. One pilot is just shaken up after the death of their co pilot, not JUST they saw their co-pilot die, BUT also they were able to FEEL their fear before their death, which I can imagine that can take a toll you.
5. Good Character Development
JUSTIN: Creating defined characters is harder then it looks. I’m not always asking for an extreme character study for every character in every film, I just need a few elements about them so I can understand WHY they are in this film. The best defined character in this by far is Mako Mori, who is beautifully played by Rinko Kikuchi AND by Mana Ashida who plays the younger Mako. Mako’s motivation is clear as day, and seeing the heart breaking performance that Mana Ashida does in the first few minutes of her appearance is all you need to understand Mako. That quality combination of writing/directing/and acting should almost be invisible to the viewer, and not one that should be noticed. Only till I see a film that tries to do the same kind of character development and stumble on it badly, do I then appreciate it when a film does it simply that they make it look easy, like Pacific Rim does.
EARL: Really… for big loud, fun blockbusters like this one I really only need the minimum amount of character development, and I think Pacific Rim delivers that at least. I kind of use the Star Wars test. Think about the original trilogy. Describe Han Solo without using his occupation. He’s a roguish, semi-untrustworthy, loner with a heart of gold. Now think about the prequels, and try to do the same thing with Qui-Gon Jinn. A little tougher, right? That’s my measure. If I can successfully, clearly, glean personality traits from a character within a big tentpole film like this, them I’m all good. Also, Stacker Pentecost is a badass name – and Idris “Motherfloggin” Elba is a motherfloggin badass.
6. Motherfloggin’ Robots AND Motherfloggin Monsters!
EARL: And finally… robots, the reason we wanted Pacific Rim to happen in the first place. Simply put, Pacific Rim is the giant robot film every 9-year-old (both chronological and inner) has been waiting for. The fights are intense, and at times frightening, because the Jaegers are actually quite fragile in comparison to their Kaiju opponents (but immune to gravity… ok I kid). Despite being cocooned in a giant titanium shell, no Jaeger pilot is safe, ever. The wide array of Jaeger weaponry is also pretty darn cool. We get to see long range weapons like in-chest missle arrays and plasma cannons, to up in your face melee fist blades. Plus,when Gipsy Danger unleashes some chain sword action on Kaiju Otachi, it’s just damn satisfying. With all the different Jaegers from around the world, too, the pan-PPDC battles feel a little like your favorite Gundam series. Mine is Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. The Voltron/Mazinger/Gigantor/
JUSTIN: Gipsy Danger uses a freight ship as a sword! A FREIGHT SHIP!!!!! How awesome is that! And least we forget how amazing the Kaijus are. Just as distinct, yet oddly familar, like any classic giant monster. A little bit of shark, a little bit of dinosaur, a little bat, etc. Each one can both frighten and excite an imagination. I can imagine being a kid and getting scared at the Kaiju scenes, yet also wanting to look at each one closely.
And with that, Mega Kapre successfully survives the battle. This Summer is safe. We got ourselves a film that is pure fun. So, you folks ready? Because we think it’s time we cancel the Apocalypse of an unsatisfying summer with this film!