STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Diego Klattenhoff, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
2013, 131 Minutes, Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro divides his time between Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse fare and has notched amazing achievements with both. This is the director who made both Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. This time, though, he’s gone high concept. The movie is essentially Godzilla vs. Transformers. For some that’s going to be more than enough. One doesn’t pop in the DVD for, say, Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla expecting to see The Seventh Seal.
The premise is that an undersea rift in the Pacific Ocean has brought forth increasingly ferocious giant monsters that are destroying coastal cities around the world. They are dubbed kaiju from the Japanese word defining the whole genre of giant monster movies. To fight back humanity has built the jaegers, from the German for hunter. The jaegers are giant robots that require two humans to meld their minds with the mechanism and each other in order to operate it.
That’s really all you need to know. Yes, there are human characters who are given sketchy backstories, but you won’t really care about them.
Raleigh (Charlie Hannum) lost his brother in a fight with one of the kaiju. Stacker (Idris Elba) is the leader of the human fighters who keeps popping pills to deal with some mysterious injury inflicted in an earlier fight. Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) was rescued by Stacker as a young girl and now helps train the jaegers. None of these characters are much more than cardboard cutouts.
There are a couple scientists (Charlie Day, Burn Gorman) who provide crucial information late in the film but who are essentially there for comic relief. Thank goodness for Ron Perlman who chews the scenery in fine style as Hannibal Chau, a shady dealer who markets in the remains of dead kaiju. His scenes come to life in a way that very little else does in the film.
That’s the problem. Pacific Rim exists primarily for the battle scenes between the kaiju and the jaegers and then does everything it can to make them difficult to follow. They take place mostly at night, often in the rain when not underwater, and are edited in such a way that it’s often difficult to know what precisely is going on except that two large special effects are fighting each other. Are those pieces flying away part of the kaiju, part of the robot, or simply pieces of yet another city being trashed in one of this summer’s movies? Who can tell? At one point one of the jaegers turns out to have a hidden sword that proves an effective weapon and one can only wonder why it wasn’t used earlier.
So, if you are all hopped up for Pacific Rim because you can’t imagine more fun than giant monsters battling giant robots, go and enjoy yourself. Just don’t expect it to make much sense logically, narratively or visually. It’s not a very good science fiction movie, but it is a heck of an amusement park ride.
– Daniel Kimmel
Today I’d like to discuss a series I stumbled upon called Starship Operators. I found it after doing a Google search on science fiction anime with female protagonists. It is an interesting piece of anime that I will go in depth over. First off the main character is a girl named Shinon and this is what she looks like:
It starts off with the battleship emerging from FTL and she’s on the bridge alerting the Captain that everything checks out. As a Cadet, she’s nearly finished with her courses and will be graduating soon. The Captain proceeds to tell her: “I’ve always found your voice to be soothing, Shinon. It’s like listening to a digital recording.” He then goes on to basically insult her and tell the girl she’d make a miserable secretary.
A aggressive Kingdom attacks her home world and the government surrenders without fighting back. The senior officers abandon ship-per orders from the conquerors-leaving Shinon and the cadets behind. From there things get interesting. The Cadets decide to fight back but they need to own the ship, so they make a deal with the Galactic Network to air themselves as a reality show. I won’t give the rest of the plot away but Shinon isn’t your typical female lead. She’s conflicted, confused by emotion and a more realistic portrayal than most are.
The series also plays fair, for the most part, with physics. Lasers aren’t seen until they strike-which is what would happen in real life. It also has ship battles taking hours before they fight due to the large distances involved-as would real life.
So, in a nutshell, if you want a science fiction anime that plays fairly nice with physics and has a different type of protagonist, then this is for you.