Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Indistinct baby monster pursues scientist
PACIFIC RIM (2013). Director: Guillermo del Toro.

In the future a breach in the floor of the Pacific Ocean lets loose gargantuan monsters, called Kaiju [Japanese for monster],  that begin to decimate civilization. To combat them huge robots called Jeagers are built, which require two pilots, whose minds meld with each other and with the robot, as they go after the Kaiju. One pilot, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) lost his brother during a battle, and now is teamed with pretty young Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). Then there's the father/son team of Herc (Max Martini) and his obnoxious son, Chuck (Robert Kazinsky). Overseeing them all -- including two nerdy scientists named Newt (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) -- is Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). The scientists attempt a mind-meld with one of the Kaiju's brains so they can pick up important information, but this nearly backfires on them. Of course the mostly one-dimensional human characters hardly matter in this kind of FX movie, although the overly weird-looking monsters are never as impressive as even the lesser efforts of Ray Harryhausen, and many sequences simply look cluttered, messy, and indistinct. Meant as a homage to Japanese movies about monsters and giant robots, Pacific Rim is a macho militaristic monster movie along the lines of Starship Troopers but without the extreme gore of that picture. There are a couple of somewhat memorable scenes: one of the monsters breaks into an underground shelter after the terrified people hear it thumping just above them; and a dead but pregnant Kaiju unleashes a smaller but still hungry baby monster. Otherwise the movie sort of holds the attention without ever really knocking you out on any level. The acting in this isn't bad, with a charismatic Elba [Prometheus] and intense Martini taking top honors; Martini, in particular, has some very good moments. Ron Perlman also gives a flavorful performance as a man who makes money selling various parts of deceased kaiju. Most of the sentimental scenes in the movie fall flat because the movie has no depth at all. Chiefly for nerds who grew up adoring Godzilla movies. I mean, I normally love creature features but I could hardly wait for this rather long movie to finally end. For my money there's nothing in this as eye-popping as, say,  the tentacles of the huge octopus in It Came from Beneath the Sea jutting out of San Francisco Bay and wiggling over the docks and freeway. Director del Toro's big bug movie Mimic is a much, much better, scarier, and more entertaining picture. He also directed Hellboy. Giant robots with human pilots inside were also the stars of Robot Jox [aka Robojox] in 1989.

Verdict: It Came from Beneath the Sea is more fun, has better effects, and is only half as long. **.

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