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Pacific Rim - Elf M. Sternberg
Pacific Rim
Omaha and I went to see Pacific Rim, the "giant robots beating up giant invading aliens" movie by Guillermo del Toro. I wasn't expecting that much, but there was a lot of money thrown at the screen so it should be a pretty good beat-em-up.

As it turned out, it was a way better beat-em-up than I'd expected. In case you're not familiar with the film, it's "giant monsters (called Kaiju) start attacking cities along the Pacific Rim, and humans build giant robots (called Jaegers) to destroy them."

It had a lot of the del Toro tropes-- lots of underground basements, falling angels, clockwork, Ron Perlman. But he managed to avoid most of his usual suspects and concentrate on making a movie about powers much larger than humanity, creatures capable of wiping us out without even thinking about it, and humanity fighting back by becoming as gigantic and monstrous as necessary in order to fight back, in a way that actually makes the audience feel the gargantuan nature unleashed in the film. You have to see this in IMAX, I think; even that screen doesn't quite seem big enough to hold everything going on.

Omaha spotted the best thing about the film. The main character... isn't. The camera focuses on him, and tells the stories going on through him, and yes, it's his crisis at the beginning that describes the film's premise, and yes, since he's the hero he delivers the final blow... but his crisis doesn't need a resolution. He's simply the hero. It's everyone else who needs prodding. The father/son team that mans a different giant robot; the father/daughter team in conflict because he doesn't want her driving a giant robot and maybe getting killed; the two geeks, one intellectually messy, the other brilliant with Germanic precision, who have to put aside their differences in order to solve the puzzle of the giant monsters. Their stories are told in the hero's wake through the movie.

You can see Hollywood's Save the Cat Rule at work in this film. At almost exactly 12 minutes, the hero, who is now working at a lowly job, gets a visit from his mentor who tells him, "Do you want be here when the world ends, or do you want to be fighting it from the cockpit of a Jaeger?" It's the pure Hollywood "State the theme so the audience knows what's going on within 15 minutes of opening" formula. The beat sheet is slightly re-arranged, but otherwise indistinguishable from that of any other "male protagonist saves the day" movie. But del Toro understands this, and knows it's a problem. Which is why the other personal conflicts, in the B/C/D plots, are so much more interesting.

Ramin Djiwadi-- one of the least inspired composers working in Hollywood today-- did the soundtrack, and it does its job and gets out of the way, but I wouldn't pay money for the album.

All in all, a good, well-made movie, with a well-written script, solid acting, and phenemonally good direction, cinematography, and animation.

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