Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pacific Rim: Plot? No. But who cares?!

I still remember going to see Independence Day. The trailer was awesome, and it was one of the first movies I remember to open early in the week, on a Wednesday, and run into the weekend rather than opening Friday night. My boyfriend and I went to see it at midnight on Wednesday, lining up in advance... and at 2:30 am we walked out of there, disappointed and wishing we'd just gone to sleep like normal people.

The plot was terrible. The acting... was terrible. Sure, it was a visual spectacle, but that wasn't enough.

Fastforward to... whatever year Avatar came out (not feeling like hittin' the Google today). ;) It was just before Christmas, shortly after it had come out, the kids were at daycare for the day and we sneaked out to go to a glorious matinee. 3D, high price, ENTERTAIN ME... and three hours later we came out thinking that was the biggest disappointment since... well, since Independence Day. During the movie, I enjoyed it. It was like a rollercoaster ride, a spectacular-looking film unlike anything I'd ever seen. But after? We tried to retrace the plot and realized that James Cameron had actually spent 20 years imagining what the blue people would look like, and probably hastily wrote out the script on a paper napkin the night before production began and they just went with it.

He is the king of the world, after all.

Like I said, it was a rollercoaster ride, but when you get off the ride, you say, "Well, that was fun," and think nothing more of it. And that's pretty much Avatar. I had no desire to ever see it again.

Now... fastforward to last weekend. My husband and I went to see Pacific Rim. I'd heard good things about this, even from people who hated Avatar. It was co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, who made one of my favourite movies of all time, Pan's Labyrinth. And it had Jax Teller and Stringer Bell in it. Nuff said.

I know my standards haven't lowered; if anything, I'm tougher on movies and books and TV shows now than I've ever been. And this movie had plot holes in it so big you could drive a kaiju through them.

But OH MY GOD I loved it. Loved loved loved it. The fights in the Pacific Ocean, the awesomeness of the jaegers (and despite a certain British professor friend of mine always telling me that I overuse that word, "awesome" could be correctly used to describe nearly every minute of this movie), the terrifying look of the kaiju, the pounding music... I just loved it.

Even during the movie there were questions that flitted across my mind: why are the two people in the jaegers talking out loud if they've mind-melded and can read each other's thoughts?... Why did they open the movie with such a long explanation of the rise of the kaiju and the origin of the jaeger program when that would have made an incredible film all on its own?... Is Idris Elba supposed to be British or American?... In order to determine which two people can accurately 'drift' together, shouldn't they be doing some sort of mind tests rather than martial arts?... If the kaiju have been rising for 15 years now out of the Pacific, why haven't the civilians all moved inland and leave the Pacific coast as a military state?... Why are they worried about killing those five people in a boat when they just went on land and trampled hundreds of people to death?... How can I get my hairdresser to go see this movie so I can tell her I want Mako's hairstyle, right down to the blue streaks on the side?!

But then there would be a fight, or the jaegers would get flown out to the ocean by the helicopters (if the jaegers weigh several hundred tons, how are four helicopters flying them through the air?!), or the kaiju would rise up, or Jax would get into a fight with Sean Slater from EastEnders, or Idris would just just speak, and I would just forget every question. The fights were mindblowing, the visuals were AMAZING, and I loved it. Every single second of it.

And I walked out, and I still loved it. And my husband and I discussed the plot holes as we walked down the street, and I still loved it. And I thought about it more the next day, and I still loved it. And I want to go see it again. And then I found this excellent writeup by my Game of Thrones co-author, Christopher Lockett, who pretty much asked every question I had, and then some, and then talked about it at length (seriously, go read it, it's hilarious and amazing) and even HE said despite all this, he loved it.

What is it about this movie that makes us love it so much that we're willing to forgive everything wrong with it? Maybe it's Guillermo, that fan favourite director that we all adore for Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth and Cronos (OMG remember Cronos??) and somehow forgive him for Hellboy 2 and Blade 2. Maybe it's because Ron Perlman is in this and is SO FREAKIN' HILARIOUS in every scene. Or that I recognized the Scarborough Bluffs in the scene where the jaeger lands on the beach near the beginning and that reminded me that he was filming a lot of it out in the Beach in Toronto last summer and then I began spotting Toronto landmarks all over the place.

Yes, it has plot holes in it. But Independence Day was too overblown and "USA!! USA!!", and pretty much the reason Trey Parker and Matt Stone wrote the Team America theme song (The audio is NSFW if anyone unwittingly clicks on that song). And Avatar was done by James Cameron, a 20-year pet project that just felt like the director did it because he could.

But Pacific Rim is smarter than all of that. It actually had me thinking at one point, "Wow, what would we do if this actually happened?!" What?! Why was I thinking that? Because it was so real, and the devastation so giant. It was fun, a LOT of fun, and you had to follow the origins of the war, the alien technology being used; there were goofy scientists played by Owen Harper from Torchwood and Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and you had to follow their research. This wasn't about America coming to save the day, but about the world coming together to stop an invasion from underneath, not above as with every other alien film. And frankly, in just about every scene I was on the edge of my seat, my palms were sweaty from anticipation, and I couldn't wait for the next scene to happen.

I loved it. Loved loved loved it. Plot holes be damned.


yourblindspot said...

If you haven't seen it already, his Devil's Backbone is my favorite and one of the best ghost stories I've ever seen on film. Criterion is releasing a brand new edition before the end of the month (having cleaned up the image and re-translated the subtitles as well -- a longtime complaint of del Toro's), so there's never been a better time to check it out.

Colleen/redeem147 said...

The more I hear about Pacific Rim the less I want to see it. The things everyone's raving about (fights, effects, giant robots) don't interest me at all.

Maybe I'll just re-watch Hellboy.

Nikki Stafford said...

Josh: I want to see Devil's Backbone SO BADLY because I've heard such good things about it, but I'm a complete wuss when it comes to horror movies. I literally watched an episode of Hannibal the other day through my fingers. I don't think I could handle it. ;)

Dale Guffey said...

I, too, want Mako's hairstyle.

Anonymous said...

did you see the mid-credit scene?

yourblindspot said...

Nikki: It's eerie and tense (and the fact that the individuals in jeopardy are largely children does intensify that stress somewhat), but I certainly wouldn't call it a horror movie. If you could handle the grisly face-smashing, cheek-sewing hijinks in Pan's Labyrinth, then Backbone should be a Sunday walk in the park by comparison.

Forest City Fashionista said...

I just saw Pacific Rim last night, and although I've really enjoyed del Toro's previous films (Pan's Labyrinth is one of my top ten) I didn't think I'd like this one, but to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it, for the reasons you mention. Yes, the plot holes were huge, but Jax and Stringer Bell in black, shiny body armour? Ron Perlman in gold accessories? Geeky scientists? AWESOME!

Nikki Stafford said...

Mockingbird: OMG we should both do it and show up at Slayage as Bobbsey-hair twins! ;)

Nikki Stafford said...

Anonymous: NO!! Dammit, there was a mid-credit scene?! I really have to stop going to movies with my husband; he's that guy who wants to leave pronto. I totally missed the Shwarma scene at the end of The Avengers. What was the mid-credit scene?

yourblindspot said...

Unknown said...

I found I had a slightly different experience.

I agree that the effects were mind-blowing and the concept was great, but the execution was just so bad.

The main three actors were awful, the plot holes were gigantic and the clich├Ęs just kept mounting up.

Your review is very well written. I enjoyed reading it. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this particular movie.

Marebabe said...

Here’s the thing. Car chases bore me. So do lots of epic fight scenes. My husband and I went to see “Pacific Rim” last night, and during the end credits I leaned over and paraphrased Woody Allen in “Love and Death”:
“I was never interested, although the part of the kaiju was played with gusto and verve!”
My favorite part was the little girl who played little Mako in her memories. She was incredible and awesome, and I think she can have an amazing career in movies, if she wants one.