(The following post contains feelings of excitement and joy, so please excuse the hysterical nature of writing...!)
I think I first became aware of it last year (from Comic-Con images), via a simple poster with the logo. Didn't think much of it of course, but I did muse that it sounded big. Forgetting about it after some time later, another poster emerged...This time it actually showed you how big it would be; two tiny people stood on the shoulder of a giant humanoid machine. After the Transformers films (which I do enjoy to a degree, but accept that they aren't the best examples of film-making), my interest was peaked. Then somewhere along the lines I realised Guillermo del Toro was directing it (interest peaked even higher) and then, after assuming that it was adapted from something...I discovered it was an original piece (interest SHOT THROUGH THE ROOF).
Original? Original CGI-laden blockbuster? These days? What?!
I saw an interview with del Toro last year, where he described his inspirations and his passion for the project. Of course now it's so obvious; monster films and mecha-movies...Both of Japanese origin. In an age of sequels, remakes, adaptations, reboots and spin-offs, I believe we now have a new category; INSPIRED.
Then came the end of 2012...We got our first trailers; first initial reactions (I laughed when I read a comment on the first teaser; "suck it, Michael Bay" XD) and then in February, the first Kaiju attack hit San Francisco (well, in the viral marketing/film universe it did).
Since then I've been getting more excited as more trailers were steadily released (that's steadily, Star Trek Into Darkness!) and more features were released...Kept watching and reading and hearing more about the making of it...Just generally becoming more eager to see the film! For an original project, I did feel that I was putting a lot of faith into something before experiencing it that could be destroyed. But as it was a Guillermo del Toro passion project that features smackdowns between mechs and monsters (and Ron Perlman), I knew there'd be something I would like!
I saw the film on opening day; Friday the 12th. I was not wrong. Far from it...It blew my expectations above and beyond anything that the promo material could portray!
It's now four days later and I am still buzzing from it, eager to see it again! I've read other peoples' thoughts on the spectacle and there are many things I agree with...So I'll try to form coherent sentences!
Guillermo del Toro has said that he wanted Pacific Rim to have something that is lacking in big films these days and that is 'heart'. Through his inspirations and his childhood (which he has still thankfully retained), it is clear to see the passion he has put into the film. His inner ten-year-old must have been controlling Toro as if he were a Jaeger himself!
As this very fascinating interview shows, Toro puts his passion into not just genre, but film itself:
Now Pacific Rim is not just Guillermo del Toro's vision; the story was conceived by writer Travis Beacham and the script co-written with del Toro. The beauty in the story lies in the simplicity; massive monsters emerge from the ocean...We make equally as massive machines to beat the living daylights out of them. To be honest, as soon as I heard the story, I thought that it would serve as the backdrop whilst there is a personal, character-driven journey that we follow. And yes, I was right, but I didn't realise how related the setting and characters would be...How integral they are to each other (especially compared to other pictures).
And the master-stroke? The creation of a neural interface that meant at least two characters had to share memories with each other...Now think for a second what that would be like; to have somebody else be able to see and experience every single memory that you have; all the bad things, all the good things, all the things you keep in the box under your bed...Everything that makes you...You. It seems incredibly risky and you may be put off by the idea, until you remember that it works both ways; you will have access to all their memories too...! Now it's a case of trust; being willing to let somebody else see how you tick, which is also why the Jaeger pilot teams work so well together due to familial bonds; siblings, father and son, husband and wife, etc (the latter of which to me seems the most beautiful). As a plus, the interface directly transfers to the body of the Jaeger; whatever happens to the machine, the pilots would feel.
This Matrix/Inception-level creativity allows for some interesting explorations in terms of mind, body, the self (psychology, philosophy, existentialism, etc) and provides instant character development in terms of emotions, experiences, trust, co-operation, etc.
One thing that I love about the film's plot is that the bulk of it happens in a setting where Kaiju and Jaegers have already been established. The setting is the basis for the story, rather than vice versa. To start with we have a montage that takes us through the lead-up to the story. Of course exposition needs to happen, so they've gone with the no-nonsense approach, straight from the offset. And, in relation to the rest of the film, it works a treat.
As I watched the story unfold, there was a moment where I was suddenly reminded of another large-scale alien-invasion film; Independence Day. Then later, when the plan to get rid of the Kaiju was in action, there was a slight reminder again. The first moment (learning the Kaiju plan) may or may not have been an intentional reference, but it certainly did ring a familiar bell! Nevertheless, I certainly prefer Pacific Rim now over Independence Day!
I may be the only one who sees the aforementioned reference; others may not and may see others. If so, then it goes to show how much Pacific Rim is peppered with inspirations from many forms of media. I love how Guillermo made extra effort to ensure that the elements (especially the visual elements) of the film do not reference anything in particular. He wanted them to be specific to western cinema; he wanted Hollywood to have their own mechs and monsters (and we remember how J.J. Abrams tried with Cloverfield...The monster of which I actually liked). I believe that the Jaegers and Kaiju of Pacific Rim will become rightfully iconic in western cinema (just like the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or Bruce the shark from Jaws) for years to come.
2012 appeared to have set a precedent for truly recognisable and iconic film scores for big movies with Marvel's The Avengers (Alan Silvestri) and The Dark Knight Rises (Hans Zimmer). This has carried on into 2013 with Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler), Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer...Again. Alright, virtually all of Hans Zimmer's scores are iconic/identifiable!) And now composer Ramin Djawadi has blown several Kaiju out of the ocean with the score for Pacific Rim. His eletric-guitar based rhythms and melodies seem to be a staple of his work (see; his brilliant score for Iron Man). As a fan of the spaghetti westerns, I get a feeling that Djawadi may also be an Ennio Morricone fan...! With del Toro directing the film with a western dialect ('Marshall', 'Ranger', etc), the electric guitar touch harkens back to Morricone's epic scores. Who knows; after this, Ramin Djawadi may become one of the hottest and sought-after names in cinema...I certainly hope he does!
Another thing I definitely love about Pacific Rim is the abolition of several cliches/stereotypes that have dogged films for years! On the slight downside, some still remain, but the ones that majorly influence the story have been banished:
- National & Social Identities - Okay, Pacific Rim has a brilliant sense of multiculturalism...But most of the time it's very on the nose; the Chinese triplets are bald, monk-like and are seen practising their martial arts. The Russian duo consists of blonde hair, beefy builds and very stern demeanours (even the music that accompanies them consists of the classic baritone male choral section)...Although, having said that, I do really like the Russian team; the character we get from them is virtually all visual. The representitive for the UK is a middle-aged-going-on-elderly white fellow with a clear sense of Eton toff-ness about him. As for the scientists, Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) can be seen as your classic 'science nerd'; introverted, lonely upbringing, dedication to work, cardigan-based attire, etc. And, as with the aforementioned UK character, a very clear Received Pronunciation accent.
- The reckless young hero - Yep, he's here, he doesn't follow the rules, but that's why we like 'im (supposedly)
- Not many female roles - Unfortunately...It's a real shame, considering how brilliant a character Mako is. The only other prominant female is one half of the Kaidonovsky team...Where she lacks in dialogue and screen-time is made up for in her physical performance. Any time the Russians are in the frame, you are always drawn to them. And the only other females I can remember are if you count two of the Kaiju, who are referred to as female...
- The 'Customary Black Guy' - *SPOILER ALERT* Now, I don't mean that he's a sidekick or anything, but what always happens to black guys in big movies? (As Darius McCrary once said; "Man, the brother always gets it!") *SPOILER ALERT*
- Romantic sub-story - No romantic interest! Huzzah! I was extremely pleased that Raleigh and Mako didn't become romantically involved. It was proof that you can have the two leads in a film of opposite gender without them falling for each other (passing the Bechdel test, I believe). It was brilliant. And, if my memory is correct, the fact that they were differing genders didn't become an issue to be raised...Purely because it wasn't necessary (lesson to be learned for Stephen Moffat, there). I loved that they developed a brother-sister relationship and really hope it continues into the sequel.
- 'America is greatest' - Perhaps Pacific Rim's greatest strength is that it isn't just America - one nation - saving the world, it's "the world saving the world" (as del Toro succinctly puts it). It's glorious; Russia, China, USA, Australia and Japan (with a splash of the UK) are the primary nations depicted. I was actually surprised as to how much involvement the Australian aspect got! Especially for their Jaeger (Striker Eureka)! Hopefully this will be something that will happen in other big films in the future. (And for the record, the Australians and the father-son relationship were depicted beautifully; non-stereotyped and rather touching by the end.)
- Perils of technology - Another major recurring theme in Hollywood is that technology is doomed to fail us one way or another. As such, it's a massive relief that Pacific Rim brings forth the simple idea that technology can help us, not hinder us. It's the Japanese sensibility and outlook, which is the basis for their mechs in the first place. And it adds to a sense of hope that Pacific Rim so boldy has.
- Death and destruction - It's a given that with any film these days with large scale destruction, we're to have a sense of loss and a sense of failure and tragedy on the largest scale possible. Which is why it's such a relief that Pacific Rim provides us with a sensible take. Most battles occur away from any city population and when fights do take place in the cities, the city has been evacuated. When any destruction happens as a result of the fighting, we're free from worrying about people in buildings or vehicles caught in the crossfire. We can just enjoy the smackdown between the two goliaths! Brilliant! Guillermo himself stated that he wants to be able to enjoy seeing things thrown and wrecked without having to worry about people...Us too; people get in the way so much! This point adds to the sense of hope, too.
- Revenge - Another thing brought over from Japanese sensibilities is fighting for your cause with honour...Not revenge. I love that they bring forth this ideal of fighting with form; for others, not for yourself (strength in unity, that sort of thing). As Stacker (Idris Elba) puts it; "Vengeance is like an open wound..." Again, this is another point that adds to the overall sense of hope.
I will have to do another post on the Jaegers and Kaiju. But in a general sense; I love them to bits! I actually think I care more about the Kaiju than other people do!
I heartily recommend you go and see Pacific Rim. I've heard many people of influence exclaim their enthusiasm (one of the best was from Edgar Wright; claiming that Toro 'Kaiju'd his eyeballs')! And this is one film that lives up to hype and, in some cases, cannot really be desribed because it needs to be experienced! Lots of people have compared the enjoyment to seeing Jurassic Park...As I cannot sing enough praise, I may just agree...!
And just in case you need further pursuasion, here's Amy Ratcliffe's brilliant review! She basically states that if you like anything awesome; then you should see it! (Go and read! I'll wait here for you! ^^)
Hello again! Still not convinced? Here's another great review; '9 Reasons You Should See Pacific Rim, and a Warning' (by author and blogger Ellie Ann) and she puts it more eloquently than I could ever do! (Go read it anyway! Hehe ^^)
Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro's childhood; heart-filled fan-mail to his favourite media...And I cannot be grateful enough for the epic adventure that he, along with the entire cast and crew, have given us.
Oh, you've already seen it? SEE IT AGAIN! I will! ^^
(NB: If ILM don't win any accolades for their hard and amazing VFX work...There will be words! Oh yes, there will be words! They had to give up Iron Man 3 for this! That's passion and dedication into original material you can't buy! Well...Maybe you could with enough money...)