Two staples of science fiction have always been aliens and robots. In fact, they frequently combined to achieve an optimal amount of thrills, excitement and push into a story that enfolds us in the fantasy and diversion from reality that Sci-Fi was made to achieve. Looking back at the mechanical servants of our alien perspective overlords has provided us with a detailed record of the ever-improving state of the art in the movie magic of special effects.
The artistry of special effects has undergone a considerable journey from aliens created by makeup and the application of crude prosthetics to robots thrown together with foil and metallic paint up through to the cutting edge blending of computer imagery blended with intricate cybernetics that can transform an actor into any creature a filmmaker can conceive. Each generation has witnessed remarkable advances in technology that make telling a science fiction more believable than previously imagined. Now with a technological leap that provides a level of 3D realism never before achievable combined with a discrete, multichannel audio provides a synergy giving the audience a full sensory experience.One of the filmmakers who has established himself a master of this new level of filmmaking, Guillermo del Toro, continues to not only push the bar but constantly resets it. He has managed to repeat previous successes with his latest opus, ‘Pacific Rim. While not the absolute best utilization of Real-3D he is helping to define the use of this technique.
The question of whether we are alone in the universe has been answered in 2013 but not in a reassuring fashion. An immense race of extraterrestrials called the Kaijus has descended on our little planet through the advanced technology employing an inter-dimensional portal opening on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Nations set around the Pacific Rim were forced to collaborate, putting aside ancient grievances to unify against this otherworldly threat. In addressing this problem, the nations of the world put aside their grievances to concentrate on the design and construction of gigantic humanoid battle machines called Jaegers. Piloted by a two man crew controls the machines through a shared cybernetic link distributing the intense load of command. In a fashion long seen as typical here on earth this unexpected degree of resistance forces the Kaijus into an arms race; enhancing their weaponry to rise to the new demands. By 2025 humanity could no longer keep up and abandon the offense mounted by the Jaegers for constructing huge walls around the rim as the last defense. To afford all possible protect during the completion of the wall the last four Jaegers are re-commissioned and based in Hong Kong.
The commander of the forces, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), approaches the one man he feels can be of assistance, retired Jaeger pilot, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam). Raleigh has a lot of reservations since he lost his co-pilot and younger brother Yancy. Raleigh agrees but demands his new co-pilot must be Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), the director of the Jaeger refurbishing project and the man that best knows the machines over the adamant objection of Commander Pentecost; Mako is his adopted daughter. In another familiar move a scientist, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), discovered a technique that permits a human being to form a mental link to the alien enemies.
The procedure exerts an inordinate stress on the subject which proved to be close to fatal. Despite the mortal risk, the scientist continues his studies which result in gaining invaluable information. He discovers that the Kaijus are not the extraterrestrial, they are biological weapons deployed by a race of aliens. They utilize these biotech weapons to further their racial impetus, expanding their colonial empire concurring one planet after another. Corroborating these findings requires further testing on an intact, living brain of a Kaijus. The only hope of obtaining one intact is to deal with the black market. There is only one to obtain the necessary specimen, the black market. There is only one potential source of alien artifacts of this rarity, the most successful black market profiteer, Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman). He is a shady character trafficking in illegally obtained Kaijus technology scattered after a battle. He is their only hope of obtaining a complete, intact Kaiju's brain. Without this, they will be unable to establish direct access to their hive mind.
There is a dual edged sword to this movie. It is not much in originality but then again that seems to apply to a majority of movies today. The filmmaker has gathered bits and pieces of popular tropes, and familiar character stereotypes are modernizing them to be conducive to appealing to a modern audience. While this instills a degree of predictability to the movie, it also had the effect of piquing my interest. I was fascinated by how Guillermo Del Toro and his screenwriting partner, Travis Beacham handled the modernization of story which generations of fans have enjoyed for decades. The hasty development and deployment of new offensive technology is a well-established staple in the Sci-Fi classic, ‘Earth vs. the Flying Saucers’. A plethora of science fiction staples has used this plot device demonstrated by such memorable films as the cult classics ‘Target Earth’, or ‘Kronos’ which incidentally also employed a nautical setting. These films have entertained us for most of our lives making it a form of classic storytelling deserving of revisiting with each generation. In our day the costumes and effects were a far cry from what most take for granted but keep in mind the imaginative men and women responsible for the modern wonders like those exhibited here grew up on the old movies and were inspired by them to create the level of sophistication we enjoy so much today.
Another often employed plot point is the best man for the job at hand hindered by the psychological trauma of losing a partner or family member in combat. Here both possibilities are worked in for a magnified emotional impact. Have the replacement serving as the love interest is a twist not as common but equally well executed here. Ultimately the movie can stand toe to toe with the beloved favorites of our youth and is certain to afford this generation with similar memories. It is what we used to travel to the local movie theater for on those Saturday afternoons; something to permit a couple of hours of fun and escapism as we scarf down handfuls of popcorn washed down by quantities of soda.
Guillermo del Toro has built his reputation as a cinematic visionary; a filmmaker that can imagine a fantasy and find a means to bring it to life before our eyes. His perchance for science fiction seamlessly blended with horror as exemplified by ‘Blade II’, ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Mimic’ solidified him as a director with a rare gift for visual élan and a creative grasp on imagery that always brings something special to his films. His artistic expression has garnered well-deserved praise and a loyal fan base. He is one of the current generations of filmmakers able to look past the illusion of depth as a visual gimmick. He is progressing to being able to use 3D as another tool available to a visually innovative auteur. Some of his work with animation was pivotal to the level of acumen he currently possesses. This movie is one that the family will enjoy time and time again. One final caveat; I realize that this is a work of fiction, and some of the natural laws can be suspended or altered to further the story. One such example of dramatic license is just so painfully obvious that some effort should have to be made, no matter how superficially, to address it. Water is inherently non-compressible. Anything with the sheer bulk and mass found in the aliens or the Jaggers could not stride through the ocean with the ease depicted. Again, I know it is fiction, but the current trend is to present science fiction is to make some effort to stay as connected as feasible to reality within the context established by the story. Such an attempt can be accomplished with something as obviously contrived as the Heisenberg compensators in Star Trek’s transporters. It can go beyond current understanding but give some respect to the intelligence of the audience by acknowledging the potential plot point objection.
Posted 10/19/2013 09/06/2016