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The F*cking Black Sheep: Pacific Rim (2013)

04.13.2017by: Jake Dee

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

PACIFIC RIM (2013)

DIRECTED BY: GUILLERMO DEL TORO

Hey now, who’s up for witnessing the COLOSSAL mind-f*ck of a monster-movie when Nacho Vigalondo’s newest hits theaters this weekend? Word has been generally positive, with the often annoying Anne Hathaway leading the applauded charge for her blissfully boozy performance. I know I’m down to see it, if for no other reason than the impressions Nacho’s TIMECRIMES left me with back in 2008 or so. Dude’s got talent!

Another filmmaker with undoubted talent is the great Mexican visionary Guillermo del Toro, who, as you know, also mounted his own mega-spectacle pitting robots versus Kaiju monsters in 2013’s PACIFIC RIM. A highly ambitious labor of fan-boy passion, PACIFIC RIM drew more laudatory love than scathing hatred, with our own John The Arrow Fallon gifting the flick with a 8/10 rating. Well, John, I love you bro, but there’s no way in a flame-roasted hell PACIFIC RIM should ever be considered that critically successful. Straight up, PAC RIM might be del Toro’s worst flick ever. At the very least, given the dude’s pedigree, it fell woefully short of expectations. Expectations rightfully lofted by the gargantuan international success of PAN’S LABYRINTH and, to a lesser degree, the HELLBOY pictures.

Many reasons account for the letdown, which we aim to thoughtfully present to you below. All add to up to the final surmise though: PACIFIC RIM is an overblown, overhyped, underwhelming F*cking Black Sheep of a movie. Here’s why!

As we often do before the official lambasting commences, allow us to start with the good. In terms of the massive ambition – the sheer size, scale and scope of the undertaking – PACIFIC RIM is nothing short of impressive. Truly. Sure, a lot of this can be deceptively conveyed digitally with computer models and state-of-the-art CGI, but even so, you can tell the production of PAC RIM – with its reported $190 million budget – was, from the outset, an intended epic of a proportion we had not seen in awhile. For that, we cannot front on the attempt. Admirable, indeed. We can, however, castigate the execution of said ambition, which we’ll do on two fronts ahead. Firstly the diegetic, secondly the technical. You ready to roll? Let’s do this!

The first point of demerit in our eyes comes via enlisting Travis Beacham to write the script. Here’s a guy who’d only written two features prior, one being a tiny indie called DOG DAYS OF SUMMER (which was pretty good), the other being the proportionately sized (to PAC RIM) but equally lackluster CLASH OF THE TITANS...a movie most known for its atrocious 3D conversion. Failing to land a better writer for a nearly $200 miilion budget was the first crack in PACIFIC RIM. Look, there might be a reason that Beacham hasn’t written a feature since. And there’s also a reason why, after linking back up with his longtime pal and MIMIC co-writer, del Toro turned in arguably one of his best overall flicks with CRIMSON PEAK immediately following PAC RIM.

As for the latter story itself, it seems the overall experience would be better if it focused intently on a strict battle between the Kaiju and the Jaegers, independent of humanity’s role. That is, by dovetailing some sort of need to cater a tale of human heroics into a story that could have otherwise worked perfectly fine as a straight up mega-action flick, the movie feels a bit too contrived. Why must the Jaegers be controlled by the minds of humans? Why do humans even exist in this story to begin with? Why must they? Hell, especially if you’re going to cast those roles as unevenly as del Toro ultimately did.

Seriously, this brings us to another glaring detractor. Listen, I love me some Idris Elba (not that mustache though), Rinko Kikuchi (best name since Imogen Poots), Ron Perlman and Cliff Collins Jr., but Charlie Day? Charlie Hunnam? Diego Klattenhoff? Come on. This is uneven casting at best, uninspired at worst. And with a story that feels all too fabricated, all too familiar, questionable casting is the last thing del Toro needed to ameliorate the overall endeavor. You need excellent actors to elevate substandard material, not mediocre ones. Charlie Day ought to stick to losing FIST FIGHTS to Cube!

Most vexing about PAC RIM though is the indiscernible visual muddle that persists for giant portions of runtime. Seriously, SPEED RACER gave me less of a f*cking headache. It’s so antithetical to a typical del Toro effort, which is often so exact from conception to completion, so precise in what he wants to depict onscreen that there’s never a jumbled morass of action that leaves the viewer confused. Yet, amid the dazzling candy-colored whirlwind of marvelous VFX, the clashes in PAC RIM tend to become an unintelligible mess after awhile. There are times, usually during a blurry ocean-set rainstorm, when you can’t even tell who is facing off against what, which characters are battling either each other or alongside one another. It almost becomes tantamount to an upchucked Jackson Pollock painting, amounting to little more than an illegible collage of colorful stimuli with no real focal point to adhere to.

To wit, it’s all so damn repetitive. Incessant, droning, unbroken fight scenes seemingly go on forever, and when do finally get a chance to catch a breather, it often involves those momentum-killing expository threads with the aforementioned stable of miscast actors that by itself, in turn, also warrants a respite. In a way, it’s a lose-lose back and forth.

Here’s an additional potpourri of problems. PG-13 isn’t suited for del Toro’s macabre sensibilities. Sure HELLBOY was a PG-13 endeavor, but that’s about it. Even PAN’S LABYRINTH, which is often thought of as a movie for families and kids, is rated R. It just seems like del Toro is hamstrung in a way that disallows him to depict the gnarly, violent, otherworldly imagery he’s so damn good at envisioning. Along these lines, the Kaiju monsters and Jaeger robots aren’t terribly inspired from a design standpoint. Certainly not in the wildly imaginative way you’d expect from peak del Toro. Honestly, they look like something out of a goddamn TRANSFORMERS movie, spiced up with dashes of James Cameron (ALIENS, AVATAR, etc.). Worse yet, when seeing some of the images, undesired thoughts of REAL STEEL flashed through my skull. Not a good thing!

All in all, PACIFIC RIM is not only misstep for the otherwise sure-footed Guillermo del Toro, it’s a F*cking Black Sheep of a movie for the way it’s been positively received. The story is derivatively rote, the production design is goofy, the casting is dubious, which in turn leads to a slew of uneven performances. Worse yet, for an action movie so intent on scaling up to a size and scope we’ve not seen terribly often, the violent square-offs and showdowns are clumsily choreographed to the point of becoming a visual jumble of unidentifiable action. Seriously, the only thing good about PACIFIC RIM is that it forced del Toro to follow up with the far superior CRIMSON PEAK. That’s where you belong, Guillermo!

GET PACIFIC RIM ON DVD HERE

GET PACIFIC RIM ON BLU-RAY HERE

Extra Tidbit: Will you be seeing PACIFIC RIM 2 next year?
Source: AITH

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