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Friday, 12 July 2013

Pacific Rim

Giant Robots fight Giant Monsters. Sounds like an insta-win formula right? Yet...
"But Sining, WTF is wrong with you?" I hear certain people saying. "You damn hipster" To be very honest, I wanted to like Pacific Rim. I was one of the more hyped up to see it people I know. I mean, I like anime, I like Giant Robots, I like Super Robot Wars etc. Pacific Rim seemed like it would be my FAVE film of the year. So how did it fall so far?

I'm sure most people know the story for Pacific Rim by now but for those who don't. Monsters emerge from a dimensional rift and attack humans. We build Giant robots to beat them. We seem to be winning the war but the Kaiju ramp up in difficulty level suddenly and suddenly we're losing the war. Using our last few remaining mecha, humanity embarks upon a last-ditch suicide mission; American-style.

So what went wrong? I won't talk about the inconsistencies or plotholes in the film because frankly, for a super robot story, having your robot be powered by love or determination is par for the story so most of the plotholes in the film barely even stand out by comparison. Instead, I'll say this, the film is messy. 

The script writing was horrible. Not in the sense that there were a lot of plotholes, because like I said, I'm ignoring that. But in the sense that it just falls flat. I didn't care about any of the characters because there was no reason for me to care about them. Once they were introduced on screen, I could tell which archetype they were going to be and they never ONCE evolved beyond it. Not even the main character and his squeeze. For me, that's a horrible failing. Part of the fun of super robots is being able to empathise with the characters, being able to feel their triumphs and determination. So, characterisation was flat and shallow and never bothered going beyond that. And sometimes it even gets annoying, like the damn annoying doctor who was damn excitable and annoying. Even worse, he got so much screen time devoted to him. 
Obvious douchebag rival is obvious
we look cool but we do nothing
better than us. We died without even saying 3 sentences
This becomes a problem when you start killing off pilots for no reason other than to show things have become FUBARed. Such as the Russian pilots and the chinese pilots. Who basically appeared on screen and then died without doing much. At least the Russians got to speak more than 3 FRIGGING sentences before dying, although most of that consisted of various ways of expressing "Oh shit shit shit, we're in deep shit". Then the Australian rival also ended up sacrificing himself, and it looked like the main character and his partner were going to bite it as well. But through all this, I wasn't bothered at all. Why? Because they didn't make me care if the characters lived or died. 

Just to compare it with how Japanese Super robot shows do it. At least before they kill off people, they will actually attempt to build up a story around them to show them in a sympathetic light. So that when they eventually die, you'll feel it. In Pacific Rim, it was more like "Here are the Russians. They're Russians. Oops, they're now dead". Rinse, repeat with the Chinese and then the Australians. Because only America can save the world amirite.


And then there's the acting. Which was really really bad as well. I suppose it wasn't helped by the shitty characterisation most of the characters received. But still, holy shit bad acting man. I'm not really sure what the director told Idris Elba, but there's more to being forceful than just shouting or speaking in a really really loud voice. There were several instances in the film where he was supposed to have a commanding presence but it really just came off as him raising his voice. Same for Rinko, the actress who played Mako. When she first appeared, I thought she was being subbed because her lips didn't match the words she was saying at all. Apparently I wasn't the only one to have that impression either so yeah. 

So that's bad writing + bad acting. What was actually good about this film? Well, the action scenes are pretty good and the visuals can be stunning. Just look at the header for this post. That image makes my heart ache because it's just so right, it's filled with tension and beautifully rendered. If only it had cool characters to go along with that beautiful CG.

However, there are certain scenes which are definite shout-outs that Super Robot wars will recognise. A lot of the direction is reminiscent of older super robot shows, like Evangelion, Mazinger and Getta Robo. I would have loved even more shout-outs like that in the show. 

And this goes back to bad writing again but a lot of the plotlines feel forced. Pentacost is a SHITTY commander and I wouldn't trust him to command army men, let alone the last hopes of humanity. I don't even know how they justify his actions in the movie, especially the one which resulted in the Russians and Chinese being killed. "Here, we're facing 2 dangerous monsters which have a high chance of wrecking us in 1v1 . We'll bench 1 of the only 4 mechas we have and then we'll have 2 of them walk around in the ocean without any radar to tell them when the monsters are sneaking up on them while the 3rd stands a far enough distance away that he won't be able to help them at all" Seriously? Fuck that plan. He's probably the reason why they lost so many mecha in the first place and only had 4 left. 
I haz sword!
And despite the fact that the mecha get into so many close quarter brawls, they never seem to use melee weapons. Or have guns that can shoot faster and further. It's not until the end when the main character mecha suddenly pulls out a sword that he starts kicking ass. Dude, why does every mecha not have those swords? When a 250ton nuclear blast FAILS to kill the monster at close range, the sword can easily slice through it. Again, this is probably due to Pentacosts inability to be an effective commander. Because if that sword was so damn effective, I'd have made sure all my mechas had something like it. 

Also, just a personal message. Dear Hollywood, stop putting asian women in your film just so they can be the love interest of your male lead. Or at least stop giving them serious issues as well. It's kind of creepy.

So overall, while I would have easily recommended buying this film on bluray AS well as watching it in the cinemas before I actually watched it, I can only half-heartedly recommend watching it in the cinemas and maybe buying the bluray if it's on sale for 7.99USD. Hopefully if they come up with a sequel, it's not written by the same guy.