Friday, July 19, 2013

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

As regular readers will know, I don't do much in the way of movie reviews. I tend to stick to movies that are pretty closely tied to my gaming background. Pacific Rim owes more to anime and Japanese Kaiju movies than anything like 40K, but let's be honest. Most of us were into that stuff before we got into 40K and many of us still are.

I loved Godzilla movies when I was younger, and was an avid fan of Transformers. I never really thought of it, but they're both easy introductions to science fiction, even more accessible than Star Wars. What kid doesn't like giant robots and monsters throwing down and destroying a city around them?

Pacific Rim brings that battle to the screen better than any movie I've ever seen. The mechs (called Jaegers) are interesting looking, diverse, and well-realized. They're more designed for close-range combat than our familiar firepower based Titans, and they remind me more of Eldar Titans than anything else. On the other side are the Kaiju, Lovecraftian monsters from an alternate dimension. While many of the Kaiju are obviously based on animals, the Lovecraftian elements make sure that there's lots of interesting points. Their weirdness reminds me a bit of the Cloverfield monster, but while people often complained that it wasn't threatening enough, the Kaiju are terrifying bio-weapons, easily as nasty as any Tyranid monstrous creature.

On that note, many movies along this line try to hide the monster to build tension for a final reveal. While this can be effective, it often means that the final monster is not as cool as how the audience envisioned it and that we never get a clear look at the monsters. That's not a problem here. It's obvious that they spent a lot of time designing the Kaiju and the Jaegers and they want us to see every detail. The battles are well-choreographed, easy to follow, and really impressive. I remember when the Space Marine video game came out, players remarked how they loved the sense of weight and inertia the game had. You really felt like the Marine weighed 800 pounds. The same is true here; the battles have a sense of weight and impact to them than many CG heavy movies are lacking (I'm looking at you, Transformers).

The plot of the movie is fairly straightforward and predictable. I know many people think this is a problem, but I'm honestly tired of movies desperately trying to have a surprising twist. The vast majority of them are horribly disappointing and don't make any sense. I prefer a straightforward plot that does a good job over a thrown together mess that tries vainly to surprise me. That's why Dredd was so great; I haven't seen such a well-done action movie in years. Pacific Rim strikes the same tone. Sure, you know what's going to happen but you still really want to see it.

The actors are all solid, with no big names to hog screen time. Everyone plays their part well, but the stand out for me was Charlie Day (of Always Sunny in Philadelphia). He plays a biologist that studies the Kaiju, and like many biologists that study dangerous organisms, he's really into them and makes other people uncomfortable. I used to work on rattlesnakes, and that point is absolutely true. It was great for me to see that on the screen.

Overall, I highly suggest it. This is the stand-out sci-fi movie of the year, compared to the lackluster offerings we've had recently (I do have some hope for Elysium, though). More than that, it's our type of sci-fi, including giant robots and monsters, plasma cannons, and chainswords.

Oh, and unlike many movies where the studio converts them to 3D after they've been shot so they can charge more for tickets, the 3D in Pacific Rim looks great. It's never gimicky, things don't fly out of the screen at you. It just makes the film more immersive. I saw it in IMAX 3D, and it was definitely worth the higher ticket cost.


  1. I loved it, too! It just confirmed to me that I want to purchase that Eldar Wraithknight, but I must pose it more dynamically than the standard model. What I took away from the Jaegers is that there are multiple colors and textures working for each "model", something I want to try with my larger set pieces like the new Wraithknight. Thanks for posting!

  2. I liked it. Not pretentious and whilst the plot was wholly predictable, it wasn't obnoxiously so. And damned beautiful too.
    Good review.

  3. Thanks! I didn't really comment on the visuals, but I agree that everything was beautifully done.

    And it definitely made me want a couple Wraithknights too!

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