Pacific Rim

The Summer of 2013 has made me really happy that I’m not what the Internet dubs a “true movie fan.” If I were, that would mean I wasn’t supposed to enjoy the following movies: Iron Man 3 (“They ruined the Mandarin!”), Star Trek Into Darkness (“Star Trek shouldn’t have this much action!”), Fast and Furious 6 (“Another dumb action movie!”), Man of Steel (“They ruined Superman!”) and now Pacific Rim (“Just another Transformers rip off!”). I’m not saying you have to like those movies, if you don’t then that’s completely fine, but the reasons for not liking them seem to get more and more ridiculous, as does the hostility toward those who do enjoy them. Seriously, at what point did people start having their comments downvoted because they like a movie? When did it stop being ok to like things?

Oh, I liked Pacific Rim by the way.

Pacific Rim is definitely one of the more original visions of the apocalypse. Here, a rift has opened at the bottom of the pacific ocean and out of it have been coming a barrage of kaiju (Japanese for “giant beast”) that are destroying major cities and are so resilient that it takes the army days just to bring down one of them. When it becomes clear the kaiju are never going to stop coming, the world puts aside their differences and starts creating giant fighting robots known as Jaegers. Thus, giant robots are going to fight giant monsters.

I do wish they had shown more of the world coming together to take on the kaiju. Prior to the movie’s release, a whole mess of posters were released showing the robots that represent each country. It’s a cool idea but the movie itself portrays very little of that, sticking with only a handful of robots for the most part. I also would have liked to see the design meetings where presumably a bunch of world representatives were shouting out suggestions such as “Oh man give him a chainsaw arm! That will be sweet!” or “We want our country’s robot to have hell of rockets in his chest!” A Pacific Rim prequel may be in order.

Our lead is Raleigh, played by Charlie Hunnam, who is trying, and mostly failing, to hide his British accent. He makes for a fine, though bland, lead character. Idris Alba does well as the Sergeant leading the Jaeger (I’m honestly not sure if I should be capitalizing that word or not, it looks wrong both ways) operation, though his character is mostly required to act gruff and occasionally deliver a rousing speech (which Alba is damn good at). Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are on hand to play the comic relief scientists, and while they tend to go a little cartoonish at times, the humour thankfully never becomes eye-rollingly bad as it does in another giant robot-themed franchise.

Actually, you know what, let’s just get this out there right now. Yes, both Pacific Rim and the Transformers movies feature large robots, however that is where the similarities stop. All the cries of this being a Transformers rip-off are completely unfounded. If you want to say it’s a ripoff because it also features giant robots, then where do we draw the line with our accusations? Is Iron Giant also a Transformers rip off? That was a pretty big ass robot. Might as well throw anything with Mechagodzilla into the mix. Why stop at robots?

“You guys see Air Bud 2? It had a dog just like Cujo! Total Cujo ripoff!”

‘Ugh, I just finished watching Schlindler’s List. There’s so many humans in that movie! It’s just like Revenge of the Nerds!”

If you’re going to chastise a movie for featuring something another movie does, you may as well just give up on movies entirely. I’ll even go through why this one is nothing like Transformers.

#1 - Everything about the robots is completely different.

In Transformers, the robots are alien robots who morph into vehicles. In Pacific Rim, they are man-made, and entirely operated by man which makes things more interesting in my opinion. Also, none of them are racist caricatures and they don’t spout shitty one-liners, which is a huge plus and leads me to the second point.

#2 - Far less jaw-droppingly terrible humour

I remember being astounded at just how unfunny the three Transformers movies are. The scene in the second one where the Mom gets high on pot and runs around tackling people, in addition to being written by someone who clearly doesn’t know what pot is, is not humourous at all. The jokes in those movies are constant and terrible, whereas Pacific Rim peppers them out throughout the story and won’t use them to undercut serious moments. Does the humour always work? No, but at least it’s not as frequent so you don’t mind.

#3 - I didn’t want to punch the characters in the mouth constantly

Charlie Hunnam may be bland, but I’ll take him anyday over the spastic asshole that Shia Labeouf plays in those movies. The female lead here at least has a backstory and some character traits, where in Transformers the only trait is “your ass should be nice”. Pacific Rim relegates it’s comedic relief to two characters primarily. Transformershas every side character practically stepping over each other to see who can be the wackiest and shittiest.

#4 - Better direction means a better spectacle

Pacific Rim works terrifically as a huge spectacle movie. The fights are huge, thrilling and really fun to watch.Transformers should work as a spectacle, but you’re never completely certain what is going on. The editing is choppy, the action is often shot too close-up, and many of the robots are completely interchangeable. In Pacific Rim, you always know what is happening and what you’re looking at, even with most of the action taking place at night. They are proud of their effects work and will let the camera linger on a scene instead of cutting constantly.The action scenes in Pacific Rim are incredible to watch; in Transformers they are exhausting to watch.

#5 - Better story

I won’t say Pacific Rim has an amazing story (most of it admittedly is rather cliched) but there’s enough here dealing with the kaiju and their motivations to keep you interested. I’m honestly not even sure what most of theTransformers story is, especially the second one. It felt like they were just making shit up as they went.

#6 - Pacific Rim is well, good

That’s the biggest difference to me overall. I don’t like the Transformers movies, and I really liked Pacific Rim. It delivers exactly what it promises and is a huge, loud, spectacle of giant robots and monsters, but it’s fun and engaging instead of being just a bunch of noise. It never once felt like a 135 minute movie and even the parts with no robot/monster fighting (a sizable chunk of the first act) remained engaging as the movie was at least trying to give you likable characters and a decent story. It may not always succeed, but it’s trying and makes a damn solid go of it.

So there you have it, a whole series of reasons why this movie is leagues away from Transformers both in content and in quality. There are other movies this Summer I have enjoyed more than Pacific Rim, but this is definitely the most fun I’ve had with a movie probably this whole year. Besides, isn’t it kind of nice to see a Summer tentpole movie that isn’t a remake, reboot or a sequel? It’s getting rarer, so when an original IP comes along that’s actually really solid, shouldn’t we reward that? Whatever, if you don’t see it then at least promise me you won’t see Grown-Ups 2! Promise!