Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mako Mori Versus the Kaiju: Pacific Rim

Indeed, Pacific Rim is a very noisy movie in which very noisy super-sized mecha units called “Jaegers” battle very noisy super-sized alien monsters called “Kaiju” that rise up from another dimension through a crack in the Pacific Rim to eradicate humanity! That means humanity must go mano a mano with the big beasts in very noisy combat – not that these 2020-something humans don’t have fighter jets that could fly circles around the lumbering Kaiju and pierce them with multiple ballistic missiles. The whole movie could have been about how they invent different types of missiles to shred and decapitate and blow the monsters to smithereens.

But with the premise as it is, what we get is a very noisy but highly entertaining movie about huge Transformers-like machines driven by pairs of human pilots engaged in colossal, substantially rendered CGI combat reminiscent of the city-stomping battles between Godzilla and Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, and many more. In fact, the variety of Godzilla's foes seems to inspire the variety of Kaiju that adds additional fun to the look of the film.

Pacific Rim is well made from beginning to end. It gets started quickly with newscast history of the advent of the Kaiju and the history of the deployment of the Jaegers in the Kaiju Wars. It is full of dark CGI vistas of beleaguered cities all over the world. Charlie Hunnam is more than serviceable as hot-shot pilot Raleigh Becket. Idris Elba brings solid presence to the screen as Stacker Pentecost, the commander of the Jaeger unit, and Burn Gorman and Charlie Day take their portrayals of mad scientists comically over the top. I could have done without the silly bits involving Ron Perlman (my God, sci-fi groupies love him!) as a marketeer dealing in Kaiju organs and bones.

But the best thing about Pacific Rim is the character of Mako Mori, sensitively portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi (Babel). Like a kickass anime character, Mako Mori is cute but formidable. When we first meet Mako, she is the commander's mild-mannered assistant, standing in the rain with an umbrella, waiting for the arrival of the new pilot, Raleigh. Ultimately, she is chosen as Raleigh's partner. During a training session crisis she flashes back to an episode when she is a little girl (played poignantly by Mana Ashida), the sole survivor of a ruined city running from a gargantuan monster, and her remembered fear almost maker her blow up the command center by mistake. Later, Mako becomes a competent pilot and a fierce Kaiju fighter. But the best thing about her character development is the visually stunning flashback episode, the film's most memorable scene, in which the little girl in the red coat and red shoes runs for her life from the Kaiju, and little Mana Ashida is tremendous in the one-scene part, a scene that establishes a touching relationship between Mako and Pentecost.

The film's resolution might seem a little too easy considering how difficult it is for a Jaeger to take down a single monster in the beginning of the film, and it's all kind of predictable, but the world created by this film's memorable art direction, the gripping action, and the character of Mako Mori make this movie a summer eardrum-splitter you won't want to miss.

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