Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dear Charlie:

So my Chiefs lost three in a row, but we're back on top again. I will admit to being a little bummed about that second loss to Denver, mostly because we owned that game in the first half, and I can't for the life of me figure out how it slipped away. It's like a different team came out at halftime. We started to get back on track and only ended up losing by a single score, but... yeah. We should have won that one.

Anyway, the 45-10 almost made up for it. We need to win the rest of our games, though -- especially the two division ones. We can't afford to fall any further behind Denver, since they're two up on us divisionally. The bastards.

ANYWAY.

So I've managed to not blog about Pacific Rim yet, though I watched it the first time two or three weeks ago and enjoyed it so much that I was sad when I had to take it back to the rental store and couldn't buy it before my next paycheck. I did buy it, though, and have watched it many times since. As Guillermo del Toro himself said, this is him at his least restrained, and it's a beautiful thing.

I love everything Señor del Toro does. Lemme just get that in print. I think he's a genius. I think he has an extraordinary vision that encompasses everything from fantasy to science fiction to horror, all of which are my favorite things. He is, hands down and no competition, my favorite director/writer/producer.

So, yeah. I loved Pacific Rim. I had no idea how much I was going to love it. I had deliberately avoided reviews and articles about it because I wanted to see it for myself and make up my own mind. All I knew when I popped it in was that it was Guillermo del Toro (which was really enough, right there), and it was giant robots fighting giant monsters from a rift in the Pacific.

I spent that entire first viewing as excited as a little kid watching Godzilla fight the Transformers. I enjoy movies, of course. They're my favorite thing besides books and music and football. But some movies really stand above the pack, and this is undoubtedly one of them. It was so entertaining that first time through that I immediately watched it through again.

I've... er... done that a couple of times since then.

Now, it's not a perfect movie. I don't want to give you that impression at all. There are a few little nitpicky things that other reviewers have said that I tend to agree with. The lead guy couldn't hold his American accent (he's British), which I find a little silly because, really, there's no reason for him to be American in the first place. The cast is intentionally multi-national, including the awe-inspiring Idris Elba, who is unashamedly British, and the two Australian strikers (one of whom is actually American, ironically enough, and has no trouble keeping his over-the-top Australian accent), and the lead's new Japanese partner, Rinko Kikuchi (who, I think, does a much better job than the lead, but that's just a personal preference).

[Edited to add: I've seen a few special features and interviews since writing this, and I take back a little of what I said about the lead guy. When using his own accent, he is charming and affable and endearing. I think having to force the American accent hampered his performance in some scenes. And he really doesn't do that bad a job with it most of the time. It's just noticeable in some of the quieter scenes where his enunciation slips back into British on the vowels. But hey, accents are hard when they're not yours.

I guess my only real complaint there is the prevailing assumption that American audiences demand an American lead. That may or may not be true for most Americans, but it's definitely not true for me. I would have much preferred that particular actor use his own accent and be his own nationality, because he really is much better when at his ease.]

And, really, some of the dialogue was... cheesy. And delivered with a bit of extra cheese on the side. Not all of it, mind you. Just some. And all the Ron Perlman cheese was fully intentional and priceless. I'd watch Ron Perlman read stereo instructions. I love that guy.

And honestly... the hyper little scientist just kinda made me want to smack him. I understand the choice -- he needed to be a foil for the staid and proper British scientist who thinks numbers are as close as humanity can get to the handwriting of God (a brilliant line brilliantly delivered, as was the "Heheh, what??" from said annoying character). I didn't mind the hyper so much as the rising shrillness in his voice every time he got overexcited (which was frequently). If he comes back in the sequel, I hope his up-close-and-personal with a kaiju has calmed him the hell down a little.

But seriously, who cares about all of that?? This is giant, telepathically run robots beating the ever-loving shit out of enormous interdimensional monstrosities. This is a little girl walking the devastated and empty streets of Tokyo, sobbing because she's so traumatized by the loss of her family that she can't even think to put her little red shoe back on. She can only carry it as if it's her entire family in her hand and she will not let go.

And that's why it works. On one hand, it's a big, crazy cross between hard-core sci fi and the cheerful insanity of a kaiju movie (think Godzilla or Mothra, etc.). On the other, del Toro is a master of reminding us that a story is only as good as the characters we either do or don't sympathize with. He excels at putting human emotion in a robot's armored, unfeeling body.

It's a beautiful thing. I love it. I wish I'd seen it at the theater because I know I missed something of the grandeur of it, but that's okay. At the theater, I would have been irritated to have to fork over another ticket price to turn around and watch it again. At home, I just have to push the button.

My favorite, most iconic scenes from the flick all have their share of that crazy crossing of sci fi and human emotion. The horrifically damaged Gipsy Danger stumbling out of the whiteout to take a knee and then faceplant on the frozen shore (a powerful scene because you know it's nearly impossible for one pilot to drive a Jaeger alone, and yet Raleigh is doing so even after watching/feeling his brother torn away from life). The oldest Jaeger in the service banging its fists together before trying to avenge a fallen comrade. Marshall Pentecost (the amazing Idris Elba) climbing out of a Jaeger and standing, limned in holy light from the sun at his back, and smiling down at the little girl he just saved, the little girl clutching her one red shoe.

And then one that's badass because it's just badass: the again-grievously damaged Gipsy Danger throwing up her chain sword and slicing the charging kaiju right down the middle because screw missing and damaged limbs!

No, TWO that are badass because they're just badass: Gipsy Danger strollin all up the streets of Hong Kong, dragging a huge freighter as a club. God, I love that scene.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Señor del Toro has made yet another masterpiece, in my humble opinion, and I cannot wait to see what he does with the sequel. Because while they closed the Breach, the kaiju are connected as a species with a hive mind. Because they are planet-purgers by nature, there's no way they were all in one place when Gipsy owned them.

They will be back.

And this time, I'm seeing that shit in the theater!


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