Tuesday, 23 July 2013

No, Pacific Rim is not another dumb action movie

I haven't written up a review of Pacific Rim yet, but I will tell you that I loved it. I loved it for so many different reasons, but mostly because it hearkened back to 1980s Saturday morning cartoons - it's full of energy, character and heart. But for some reason it's seen by some critics as an unintelligent film because of this.


There are spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

Right now it's sitting at 72% on Rotten Tomatoes. I realise RT isn't the be-all and end-all of film criticism, but it's generally a good gauge at what the press are saying about a movie. The detractors are generally saying it's another dumb blockbuster. Mark Ramsey of MovieJuice! said: "As I watched Pacific Rim I could literally feel myself shedding IQ points the way Kate Hudson sheds a big lunch in the bathroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel." We also get multiple comparisons to Michael Bay's Transformers flicks: "PACIFIC RIM speaks the disaster language of the original Godzilla, yearns to be in the same league as Star Wars; but unfortunately its style over substance ethos delivers Transformers results."

This is bullshit.

Sam Keeper at Storming the Ivory Tower has written an exceptional analysis of the visual storytelling in Pacific Rim. Please go and read it. Sam and his girlfriend have identified some fantastic visual cues that very subtly tell an intelligent tale beyond big mech smashing big monsters.

Mako isn't the weak, uninteresting character that critics make her out to be. As Sam points out, all you have to do is look at the subtext - the shock of blue in her hair and her grey shirt directly tying to the memory of everyone that she knows and loves being killed by a kaiju. In this memory the colour scheme is very grey and she is wearing a bold blue coat. Mako is carrying her vengeance with her everyday - it's part of her.

Similarly, when Stacker rescues Mako he is bathed in golden light, making him an almost angelic figure. This shows how significant Stacker is to Mako and why her decision to go against his wishes upsets her so much but also shows how utterly determined she is.

Sam explains much more, such as the characters of the Kaidanovskys, the Russian pilots. They probably get a total of 30 seconds screen time in the whole film, but in this half minute we find out a lot about their relationship and their characters just through visual cues.

People forget that the guy at the helm of Pacific Rim was Guillermo del Toro. He's not exactly known for his dumb films. He's a smart guy and there's nothing that he does without putting thought into it. Everything is done for a reason. Critics forget to give him credit.

If you've seen Pacific Rim and didn't pick up on any of this then go and see it again. I didn't realise many of these aspects, but now it's so obvious. Pacific Rim cannot be said to be a dumb movie. Transformers is a dumb movie - these two should not be equated.