Pacific Rim Rocks

I really enjoyed Pacific Rim. Here’s what they did right compared to other action movies of that genre:

The story may be simple but it’s refreshing to have a movie that is not a “dark and gritty” remake of something. It’s a can-do action movie with an atmosphere of movies like Top Gun or Independence Day.

At the same time, it’s not a celebration of the US military arsenal saving the world (I’m looking at you, Transformers and Battleship). While the main hero and his mecha are definitely western/US and other nationalities are caricatures like in a video game straight out of the 1990s, the action takes place in Hong Kong and the destruction of the Golden Gate bridge is shown as a 5 second byline in the prologue.

Pacific Rim doesn’t waste time on stupid subplots about family drama and teenagers breaking free from their parents to save the world. Nobody felt the need to mention Youtube or Facebook. There’s no romantic subplot although there is a nice kind of chemistry between the main male and female characters.

Pacific Rim - Jaegers Mech Warriors Featurette-1The VFX are awesome. If giant robots were fighting giant monsters that’s what it would look like. The animation and camera work of the cgi scenes plays an important role here. While the physics of those robots is of course ludicrous, the machines are believable because their moves convey mass and momentum. In Transformers we are forced to believe that giant heaps of metal are somehow able to fold up into regular cars while jumping around like trapeze artists. In Pacific Rim there are actual gears and pistons. The robots can’t fly. They can jump, but you feel the effort it takes to move hundreds of tons of steel.

Pacific Rim - Jaegers Mech Warriors Featurette-2Pacific Rim also doesn’t succumb to the temptation of shoving a cgi camera anywhere simply because you can render anything you like. Almost all of the shots look like they could have been done by an actual camera man on the ground or in a helicopter. This restraint and the non-use of a constantly shaking hand camera is effective and refreshing.

Only in one particular underwater battle the illusion breaks down. The robots don’t move any slower than above ground, nothing seems to have buoyancy and the scene feels like it takes place in a container of slightly darker air.

It’s completely unnecessary to see this movie in 3D. I hated every stereo movie after Avatar and Pacific Rim thankfully didn’t build its plot around gimmicky shots of stuff flying into your face. I’m sure they took great care to keep the interocular distance in range to prevent the robots from looking like miniature toys. All of which are things that I approve of. But at the same time that diminishes the pros of 3D while keeping the cons: fast moving sparks and water spray close to the camera still turn into a flickering mess.

Conclusion: Pacific Rim is a highly enjoyable action movie about giant robots punching giant aliens that isn’t trying to be something it isn’t.

9/10 (way way better than its genre companions Transformers, Cloverfield, Godzilla…)

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