Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Pacific Rim

2014 Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form nominee: Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

A few spoilery thoughts behind the link.

Yay GLaDOS! Is it bad that one of my favorite things about the movie is that the computer is GLaDOS?

Plot summary: Giant human-driven mechs (Jaegers) beating down on giant Kaiju to save humanity. That's all you really need to know. That's all you really watched it for, right?

Again, I had an expectation from the previews, which bothered me throughout the entire movie. The previews gave me the impression that the human mech pilots were piloting the Jaegers remotely. From a nearby base. Or perhaps from inside a nearby mountain where they would be safe. That would make the most sense, wouldn't it? What a brilliant idea! We can beat these monsters up as fast as we can build the machines, meanwhile we've evacuated all of the civilians from the area and our pilots are kept somewhere safe. All we lose are our machines. 

Well, no. The pilots are INSIDE the Jaegers. Where they're extremely vulnerable to all of the damage the Kaiju inflict. I suppose I can make it make sense in my head - maybe there's too much lag time to fight effectively if the pilots are kept safe and separate from the fight? Overall, it just felt like a plot device meant to add to the drama. Harder to kill people off if they're somewhere safe, and harder to have character development if you don't kill loved ones. (oh, wait...)

Similarly, the coastal zones weren't evacuated, at all, ever, as far as I could tell. I was able to mostly brush that aside. After all, I live in a coastal zone that is frequently affected by hurricanes. Millions of us choose to live here and in places even more severely affected by weather. Be fair, I did move out of the tidal surge zone, but many millions of people don't. Home is home. The more I think about it, though, the more it bothers me that they wouldn't evacuate in the face of a disaster like these monsters. True, there's no such thing as a "safe distance" when you've got giant monsters like this. If you can't stop the Kaiju, they'll just keep on tromping inland until they get to the people. Still.

So, the Drift. The Jaegers have to have two pilots because the "neural load" of piloting a Jaeger is too much for one human to manage by themselves. Which also doesn't make sense to me. Couldn't they just use motion capture thingies to drive the mechs? Hmmm... But, let's give them the Drift and the need for multiple pilots, for the moment, even though we don't really want to.

Why do the linked pilots need to talk to each other while Drifting? Aren't their minds completely linked? So the audience can hear, yeah yeah.

Why isn't there a simulator for the drift? Surely every person would have some negative memories in their heads. Wouldn't it be a good idea to work through the hidden negative parts of their minds, and the rough "first Drifts" with new partners, OUTSIDE of the greatest weapon humanity has ever built??

Also, Pacific Rim played very much like a video game for me. And not just because of GLaDOS. :) 

"OK, guys! The monsters are coming at predictable intervals. The smaller ones come first, and less frequently. As we level up, the monsters are getting bigger and harder to beat, and are coming more frequently. Eventually we'll start getting more than one at a time, even bigger, even more frequently. And by the way, the first weapon you had at the beginning of the game? I hope you didn't throw it away or sell it - it's going to have magical properties that will be necessary for you to beat the game at the end."

Bechdel test: Fail. There were two named women. But they never talked to each other. Mako was supposed to be a complete badass. And she WAS, at the beginning of the movie, when we met her, and as she built up to gaining her position as a pilot. But then she was paired up with the Man. She became an almost completely passive character who needed saving and needed to be told what to do at every step. She did surprise Raleigh by activating a sword he didn't know about while they were fighting, once. And I get that he has the experience as a pilot. But she has overseen the restructuring of the machine, so should have more experience with THIS version of the machine. And she was SUCH A BADASS earlier in the movie! Now she knows nothing? It just really bothered me a lot.

The lack of diversity in the cast was pretty disappointing. There was no reason why they couldn't have had a greater variety of ethnicities represented in the speaking role cast, and more than two women.

Up or down ballot (note for myself): DOWN. I get that it's a fun giant-robots-beating-up-giant-monsters movie, but it doesn't feel Hugo-worthy to me.

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