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  • Writer's pictureA.J. Sobel

Pacific Rim: Knowing Exactly What You Want to Be

Pacific Rim, by today’s standards, is a movie that shouldn’t have worked. It’s big, it’s loud, the story is thin, and the acting is cheesy. It should’ve been a disaster, relegated to a WalMart bargain bin six months after its release.

Sandwiched between the tentpoles of Man of Steel (terrible movie, get at me) and The Lone Ranger (too easy to take a pot shot at this one), it shouldn’t have stood a chance.

Then the lights in the theater dimmed, and the opening rolled, and people were treated to two hours of one of the best monster movies of all time.

I. Fucking. LOVE. This. Movie.

Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to the popular Mecha/Monster genre of Japanese anime stands as a testament to what can happen when a movie plays to its strengths and doesn’t overreach.

It may seem funny when I say a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters doesn’t overreach, but bear with me. In the same vein as the John Wick franchise, Pacific Rim does exactly what it sets out to do.

It doesn’t slaughter the pacing with a shoehorned love story, it doesn’t spend forty minutes pontificating on some barely-there moral dilemma. It gets in your face and it never steps back.

I’ll be honest, I was lukewarm on it until about an hour in. I’d excused the stunning visuals as nothing I hadn’t seen before, trying to critique the smallest of details for any flaw I could find. Maybe it was the other movies I’d seen recently, maybe I was just a little shit in 2013, but I was focusing on all the wrong things.

I was watching the actors throw cheesy one-liners (except Idris Elba, he can do no wrong), I was looking for story where none existed. Then I watched a thirty-story robot pick up a cargo ship (those really big fuckers that do the transcontinental shipping) and bash an interdimensional monster in the face with it.

Then all the pieces clicked into place. This was a movie that knew exactly what it was doing, exactly what it wanted to be. I actually went back for a second viewing because I felt I’d robbed myself of the experience.

Whenever I’m watching a movie these days, I find myself thinking of that old chestnut, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” While I am by no means knocking it (look at what I’m trying to do with writing), I find myself wondering, “What’s wrong with grasping what you know you can get?”

Pacific Rim was a trend setter. It stood up proudly amongst the grimdark blockbusters, and the Oscar-bait dramas, and the played out romcoms and said, “This is me – nothing more, nothing less.”

John Wick, Deadpool, Mad Max: Fury Road, Godzilla vs. Kong — each one unapologetically doing what it set out do and nothing more. Of course, Fury Road probably would’ve been fine, but still.

And you know what? They made a ton of money doing it.

I know, I keep coming back to John Wick but, as of right now, it’s the poster child for this trend. A simple plot, balls-to-the-wall stunts, visuals so slick you could grease an engine with them. 90 to 120 minutes of pure, unadulterated, escapism.

You don’t have to think, you won’t be talked down to, you don’t have to deal with other people’s thoughts and opinions being forced down your throat. You go in knowing exactly what you’re going to get out of it (I have high hopes that the new Top Gun is going to be this type of movie — ooh, and Free Guy).

I don’t know, maybe Pacific Rim wasn’t the first movie to do it, but it’s the one that sticks out in my mind the most; the one that beat the concept into my brain with massive, massive fists.

For a man that made his bones using practical effects (a dying art in Hollywood. God, I’m sick of greenscreens), Guillermo Del Toro knocks it out of the park with the visuals, brilliantly using light (the neons just make everything look so damned cool) and shadow as well as water, and earth (wind and fire) to make battle sequences that still stand up today.

In my humble opinion, the man can do no wrong (although he didn’t seem to be at his best with Crimson Peak), and with this film he proves, once again, that he is one of the greatest and most visionary directors of his generation.

Side note: He was slated to do an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness, but the deal fell through, and I feel that the world is lesser without that movie in it.


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