Face to Face: Pacific Rim

Pat:

“Pacific Rim” is a rare experience: A film so awesome it transports you back to childhood while simultaneously making you feel exponentially more manly at the same time. This movie serves you a Jaeger-bomb of testosterone and strips away all of those cynical years of growing up for two hours of abso-fudging-lutely epic monster vs. robot action.

Now that “Pacific Rim” is going to show at the Procrastinator Theater on campus, you can catch this criminally underappreciated gem if you missed it the first time (and see it again, and again, and again). I made inappropriately pornographic sounds when I experienced the trailer for the first time and, upon seeing the full film, let’s just say I put Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” to shame.

“Pacific Rim” is the kind of film nerds like me (or “kaiju groupies” as the movie calls us) have wanted to see our entire lives: a legitimate, big-budget treatment of both the humongous mecha and giant monster genres with all of the city demolishing that entails. It’s the kind of film people joke about on the internet as being too awesome to exist in reality, but it is unquestionably real. Remember when you watched Godzilla movies as a kid, and even though the special effects were cheesy men in suits, our imaginations made it something much more amazing? “Pacific Rim” makes those fantasies a very visible reality, and it’s glorious.

The film doesn’t deal in unnecessary moral grayness — forget that kaiju stool — we’re here for the monsters. It delivers exactly what we came for: 250-foot titans of steel battling deadly otherworldly colossi to the bloody death. Normally, I would search for something to nitpick on, but nitpicking is for people with sticks inoperably lodged in their bums when something this monumental is involved. The metropolis-smashing whole is more than the sum of its burning, skyscraper-sized parts. Action is fast and fierce, the characters cool and relatable and the mecha and monster designs are amazing.

The film only raked in $100 million in U.S. box office earnings, which is considered a crime against humanity under the Geneva Convention. However, it scored nearly $300 million overseas, which was sufficient to green light a forthcoming sequel and even a possible crossover with the upcoming Godzilla reboot, which would indisputably prove the existence of a loving God that wants his children to be happy. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading this paper now and go to the next showing, face the monsters at our door and cancel the apocalypse.

Peter:

“Pacific Rim” is comical, imaginative, spectacled and simple. In short, it is an homage to the monster movie genre — celebrating everything that makes them great. However, this movie carries all the cliches of a Godzilla movie, but none of the charm. The same tropes that have supported the monster movie genre for decades are present, but the fact that a man in a rubber suit can conjure more sympathy than a normal actor (or entire cast) does not benefit this film.

However, the main fault of “Pacific Rim” does not lie in what it contains, but with what it omits. The neural handshake concept — where two people fuse their brains together (memories, emotions, everything) to pilot one machine — is brilliant. The Director, Guillermo Del Torro, logically and persuasively explains its origin, purpose and mechanics throughout the film. Unfortunately, Del Torro does not explore the most important part of the handshake: its effect on the human psyche.

In the first fight of the film, protagonist Raleigh Becket pilots a Jaeger (Gipsy Danger) with his brother Yancy. During the fight, Yancy is ripped out of the Jaeger and killed while the two are still engaged in neural handshake. This means that Raleigh experiences his brother’s death as if it were his own.

Del Torro, unfathomably, only briefly references this incomprehensibly tragic event throughout the rest of the film. The experience (of experiencing your brother’s death as if it was your own) is completely unique to the film, but the resulting effect (Raleigh being slightly hesitant to pilot a Jaeger again) is not. In fact, Raleigh’s new partner becomes the focus of the film when it comes time for him to fight again. Not exploiting the psychological possibilities of this situation — the confusion, the anguish, the reconciliation — is a crime.

The second great omission: Even though the world is under attack from giant alternate-dimension-alien-invader-controlled monsters (Kaiju), they aren’t enough of a villain for the film. In fact, it is because of their extravagance that they lose their power over the audience. We have nothing to connect to. There has to be a prominent human element of evil for it to be truly scary, and the Kaiju (and their overlords) carry none.

This movie accomplishes its goal of being a homage to the monster movie genre, simple as that. I didn’t want it to be anything more when I went into the theater, but the more I watched, the more I did: I want it to be an original statement. Sadly enough, “Pacific Rim” could have been that that statement.