Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim


In the not so distant future, the alien life forms that humans have long feared would come to invade us begin their attempt to do so, but not from outer space. Instead, they utilize some sort of portal deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. Named after a Japanese word pertaining to strange creatures, these Kaiju continuously wreak havoc on the planet, causing considerable amount of damage both financial and human, particularly in cities surrounding the Pacific Rim. As a defense mechanism, humans develop Jaegers, gigantic robots manned by two pilots strong enough to battle a Kaiju. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) used to pilot a Jaeger along with his brother, but their last battle with a Kaiju somewhere near Alaska caused his brother’s death and his eventual disenchantment with life in general. As the Kaiju prove to be more persistent in their recurring waves of invasion, the last remaining Jaegers gather in Hong Kong to defend the last stronghold. It is here where Becket is recalled and ends up being partnered with Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), an eager Jaeger pilot wannabe who wants to avenge her parents’ death.

Wow. Guillermo del Toro is channeling his inner Michael Bay, and the end product is another visual feast that will make you fall in love with CGI. As a difference, though, del Toro is a master of his craft, and by that we mean the ability to mesh reality in fantasy in one canvass and have them co-exist as if they have always done so. You only have to remember Pan’s Labyrinth to understand this sentiment. As for Pacific Rim, he decides to have a little fun and just unleash his creative side dealing with giant humanoid machines that fans of Japanese anime would be very familiar with.

The focus on everything mechanical and masculine, however, does not mean to say that this film will be an instant turn off for women. One, Rinko Kikuchi is here. Forget that desperate Japanese teenager from Babel. Kikuchi gets her turn to be Zhang Zi Yi in this movie, and man does she not kick some serious ass, both human and extra-terrestrial! If Hunnam is the epitome of brawn, then Kikuchi is definitely the heart. And when their efforts combine to save humanity from within their Jaeger’s cockpit, you just could not help but root for them, which leads us to one of the movie’s strengths.

Here, we have human beings saving us from aliens. Who does not want to see that, right? It is a formula that always works, but unlike most mainstream fodder than Hollywood churns out each year, here we get to witness actual human beings saving the world, with their strength just amplified to match that of a stronger opponent. The earth is the center of everything. We are not just the poor victims of some extra-terrestrial sibling or clan rivalry that finds its way to us by coincidence. In short, this is our problem, and a legitimate one because we are being invaded, for crying out loud. And they are not open for harmonious co-existence!

If you grew up watching Gundam Wing or whatever Japanese anime with giant mechanical creatures fighting some bloated bigger than life opponent from a neighboring universe, then you would enjoy Pacific Rim. In effect, it serves as some sort of live action movie that brings all these animated content to the big screen. For some, it would just be a montage of giant steel and alien flesh beating the hell out of each other, but if and when you feel some weird tinge of pain every time a Jaeger gets pounded by those giant reptile-like creatures, then that only means that del Toro has just accomplished what he has been aiming for after all.

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