Pacific Rim (2013)

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Image iverged.com

“To fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.”

Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to the giant monster genre, “Pacific Rim” is a treat for fans of kaiju, tokusatsu, and giant robots everywhere!  “Pacific Rim” is what happens when a giant monster movie is given a large budget and a director who is a fan of the genre.  While it isn’t the most original movie ever made, it takes the various pieces that make it up and does them well enough that the movie never feels boring or bogged down with cliches.  And the visual effects were apparently so good, the Academy felt it would be unfair to pit any other movie from 2013 against it at the Academy Awards (no bitterness there…)

(Note: The movies so far have been several decades old, but since this one is so recent, I feel the need to warn everyone…HERE BE SPOILERS!!! And lots of fanboy gushing…)

The first kaiju, Trespasser, appeared in San Francisco in 2013 and laid waste to the city and two others before it was finally destroyed six days later.  Mankind picked up the pieces and moved on, but six months later another appeared, then another, until it became apparent that we were under attack.  To combat the threat, the Jaeger program was initiated.  Giant robots, piloted by two people connected by a mental link called a “drift”, were created to repel the monsters.  Everything was going well, until seven years into the Kaiju War.  The jaeger Gypsy Danger, piloted by brothers Yancy and Raleigh Becket, was dispatched to intercept the kaiju Knifehead.  Gypsy initially has the upper hand, but Knifehead attacks the cockpit and Yancy is killed.  Raleigh manages to pilot the jaeger by himself, something believed to be almost impossible, and manages to kill Knifehead and pilot Gypsy back to shore.

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Image flicksandbits.com

Five years pass and the frequency of kaiju attacks has increased.  Most of the worlds jaegers have been destroyed, and the leaders of the world have decided to pour the remaining resources into an Anti-Kaiju Wall.  Marshall Stacker Pentecost sets out to find Raleigh Becket, now a drifter helping to build the wall, to recruit him back to the last jaeger base in Hong Kong to attempt a final strike against the portal that spawns the kaiju.  His return puts him at odds with Chuck Hansen, the pilot of the jaeger Striker Eureka, before he is pitted against a series of potential drift-compatible by the Marshall’s star pupil and adopted daughter, Mako Mori.  When none of the candidates prove to be adequate, it turns out that Mako herself is drift compatible with Raleigh.  Their trial run almost ends in disaster, as Mako is distracted by her memory of her home in Japan being destroyed by a kaiju.  Meanwhile, kaiju-obsessed scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler successfully drifts with a piece of a kaiju brain.  He discovers that the kaiju are being created and sent by a malevolent group of inter-dimensional aliens who are attempting to wipe out humanity in order to colonize our planet.  In an attempt to learn more, Dr. Geiszler is sent to meet with Hannibal Chau, a black market dealer who specializes in kaiju parts.

Two kaiju, Otachi and Leatherback, suddenly appear from the portal and head for Hong Kong.  Jaegers Striker Eureka, Crimson Typhoon, and Cherno Alpha are sent to defend the port.  The two kaiju prove to be more cunning and better equipped than their predecessors, and Typhoon and Cherno are destroyed while Striker is incapacitated.  Raleigh and Mako head out in Gypsy Danger, and after a long battle are able to destroy the two monsters.  The Marshall then enacts his plan to drop a nuclear weapon into the portal as it opens.  Since Striker Eureka’s other pilot, Herc Hansen, was injured in Hong Kong, Stacker Pentecost co-pilots the jaeger with Chuck Hansen.  Dr. Geiszler manages to drift with another kaiju brain and discovers that the only way to enter the breach is to be in close proximity to a kaiju because the breach reads their DNA in order to let them through.

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Image fantasticalandrewfox.com

As the two jaegers head for the breach, the kaiju Scunner and Raiju appear to protect it.  A fight breaks out, and a third kaiju, the enormous Slattern, appears from the portal.  Gypsy successfully kills Raiju, but Striker Eureka is forced to detonate the nuclear payload early to destroy Scunner and severely damage Slattern.  Since Gypsy has a nuclear core, Raleigh and Mako grab Slattern and use it to head into the breach.  While in the breach, Raleigh sets the self-destruct sequence and the pilots eject.  Gypsy detonates in a nuclear explosion on the other side of the breach, which seals the portal and ends the kaiju threat.

This movie was made for me.  I honestly feel like the creators set about to make a movie that included everything I could possibly want in a movie (it only lacks a spaceship battle).  It is a fun roller coaster ride from start to finish.  The robots and monsters are imaginative and well-designed, and the visual effects are simply gorgeous.  As stated before, the pieces that make up the movie are familiar, but they are so well executed that the movie never feels like a giant monster rerun.  While the world contained within this movie is larger than life, it is earnest enough that we believe in it.  Things that would come off as cheesy and ridiculous elsewhere seem perfectly acceptable here.  All of these factors come together to form one of my favorite movies, as well as the best giant monster movie of the modern age.  Of course, we’ll need to see what May 16th brings to see if it can keep that title…

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Image nerdpride.com.br

Trivia

The kaiju were designed to look as if they could be played by a suit actor, even though they were all computer animated.

Cherno Alpha’s head was modeled after the Mr. Fusion engine from “Back to the Future Part 2”.

Godzilla’s roar can be heard briefly during the prologue.

Striker Eureka was originally supposed to be the “hero” of the movie, but the creators felt it looked to “mean” to fill that role.

This movie was dedicated to stop motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Godzilla director Ishiro Honda.

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Image wall-height.com

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~ by Chris on April 12, 2014.

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