Naftali Burakovsky, left, and Lorenzo Venneri
Pacific Rim: The Best Game of the Year
Guillermo del Toro, famous for his critically acclaimed contributions to Mexican cinema (Pan’s Labyrinth) and infamous for down and dirty action like Hellboy and Blade II, returns to the action arena with Pacific Rim, which we award an Alpha.
The story follows the pilots of giant war machines as they battle to overcome an alien threat from beneath the Pacific Ocean. Make no mistake, watching Pacific Rim will not change the way you think. It will not give you insight, and it will not enhance your perspective. But it will give you two hours of unparalleled computer graphics action fun on the grandest proportion.
Central to the film, is the concept of huge. The humanoid robots are huge, the aliens are huge, and the battle grounds (Honk Kong and the Pacific Ocean) are huge. Rendering computer animated objects in a way that conveys their sweeping proportions is difficult. But del Toro creates an enormous landscape that is truly convincing despite his slightly squarish aspect ratio.
You’ll notice that del Toro’s films use a smaller portion of the available wide screen, making his films more square. Anyway, the sheer vastness of the film is astounding. Nowhere else will you see skyscraper sized robots battling alien fish-like behemoths the size of mountains.
Every action sequence (most of the film) is well choreographed and existing and impressive. Del Toro is a true visual artist and knows how to frame an action sequence. These scenes are not at all like those in the messy Transformers films, which were hard on the eyes and difficult to watch. What this film lacks in terms of character and plot is overshadowed by its spectacular visual elements. Del Toro sucks you into the world that he has created, and his intense attention to detail keeps you invested the whole time.
If you think too much about the plot, you lose sight of the real purpose of the film, which is mind-boggling action on a colossal scale. We could go on and on about plot deficiencies, horrible dialogue, political incorrectness, and unoriginal material. Pacific Rim is not an intelligent science fiction film, nor does it contain any social commentary. But that is simply not the point of the film.
While we usually despise action driven films like Man of Steel, we will not condemn Pacific Rim because it didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. From the get go, it was action, pure and simple. There was enough substance in the film to make us care about the battles and about the fate of civilization. The acting was only good enough to carry the film, and of course, in the end, the stars of Pacific Rim are the robots and the monsters.
In a sense, watching Pacific Rim is like playing an extremely colorful and stylized video game. You fight monsters, meet weird new characters, including a hilariously over-the-top Ron Perlman (Hellboy), get some missions, wait for more monsters, and then blow them all up in an epic final boss showdown. It’s quite simple, and quite fun to watch.
So, if you want two hours of the best gaming graphics available, watch Pacific Rim. If you want to see something a little more thought provoking, watch del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth or Mud, which is now in theaters.
Editor’s note: Lorenzo Venneri is a film student at Rice University. He does his best to give the most unbiased, honorable, and critical evaluation of any film. Naftali Burakovsky is an economics student at UCSD who has had a passion for film from a young age. He loves film, but always gives an honest and critical judgment to preserve the integrity of quintessential movies. Venneri and Burakovsky have been watching films together since they first became friends many years ago. Together, they are committed to letting you know what’s good and bad, what’s worth two hours of your time, and what isn’t. Direct contact: firstname.lastname@example.org