Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pacific Rim: Simple is Good, but it Could be Better

So I went and saw Pacific Rim. It was awesome. I could leave it at that, but I think it deserves more than a two sentence opinion.

I was expecting a dumb, cliche monster verses robot flick and, while I got the cliches I expected, they were heartfelt. Let me try to explain.

The premise is laid out in the film's opening narration, a textbook example of tropes are not bad. It sets up the story, and while this could have been done more subtly, it didn't need to be. This movie is many things, but subtle...

... is not one of them.

Basically, Kaiju, monsters from another dimension, staring coming through a portal in the pacific and attacking people. Once they become common, the world unites to defeat them using Jaegers, giant machines that can match them punch for punch. However, these monsters are coming more frequently, and they soon realize that soon they will be overrun and must close the portal before it is too late.

Our characters are not incredibly interesting, but they are at least likeable. Our hero, Raleigh Becket, is a washed up Jaeger pilot, who quit after his brother died. With the end of the world neigh, he is brought back in by our heroic Marshall Stacker. Raleigh ends up partnering with the skilled, but inexperienced Mako to save the day. Each character is given a back story that, while again predictable, helps flesh them out. They are serviceable and do their job.

Our Hero, Raleigh Beckett.

What annoys me is how much time they spend on them. The movie takes itself seriously, spending plenty of time showing you the characters and the world. The problem is that I know these characters already. If they had been a bit more creative with them, it would have improved the movie. Still, the fact that they spent any time at all on the people in the film is to their credit. It helps make the cliche's heartfelt, rather than bland. The actors are solid enough to fill their roles, but special mention goes to Idris Elba, who plays Stacker Pentecost.

I like to call him Marshall McAwesome
Oh, and the two scientist side characters are hilarious, and, as I am beginning to notice with blockbusters, more interesting than the leads. It's fun watching the bickering pair throughout the film, and the moment when they finally work together got plenty of smiles.

Let's talk about visuals and action, because this is where the movie shines. And, yes, there is plenty of orange and blue. Unlike, say, Star Trek: Into Darkness though, it doesn't feel quite as forced here. It is also only in a few places, and is usually justified.

The fights range from cities, underwater, and even (in an incredibly awesome scene) through the sky. The designs for the machines and monsters alike are very cool and interesting. I especially liked the Chinese "Crimson Typhoon", which had three arms and basically used kung fu. I began to have some flashbacks to Lost Planet as I looked at the monster/mech fights, and this is not a bad thing.

All of the designs are distinct and visually appealing.
One of the more memorable sequences is a fight in Tokyo (yeah, it gets attacked by monsters, go figure). It's raining, making everything reflect and gleam off of the metal of the mechs. The fights in the streets are illuminated by the multicolored lights of the city... it was quite stunning.

Some great colors here that help offset the orange and blue.
Of course the action is dead on, and I hardly need to talk about it. It is over the top, epic and a thrill to watch. A lot of the action and art design makes a lot of sense when you realize they were drawing on anime as an inspiration.

Another thing of note is the concepts and plot. See, the mechs have to be run by two people, as one brain cannot handle the stress of running the machine. The two people's minds and memories are connected, meaning they have no secrets and know everything about the other. I like this concept, but it falls slightly flat since the characters are so bland. Still, it plays into a few twists in the plot.

Yes, surprisingly this plot has twists, and I did not see them all coming. I won't spoil them, but they are interesting. Sadly I got confused occasionally, due to my theaters sound quality. (You have to sacrifice some luxuries when you go to the 2$ theater, my friends.) 

In the end, I like the movie. I like it a lot. The problem is I can see what they could have done with it as far as writing is concerned. It knows it's silly, and so does the audience, yet somehow they pull off an epic story. If only the characters had been more interesting, this movie would not have been "awesome", it would have been fantastic.

Perhaps my view is colored by my low expectations being surprised, but I would recommend this movie. Content wise it is pretty clean, with only a few bits of profanity thrown in and almost no other objectionable content, aside from some colorful alien blood. One of the best movies? No, but it is enjoyable. If you can handle a cliche plot and enjoy a heartfelt effort and truly awesome fight scenes, check it out.

The best part though? Sequel confirmed! Here's hoping for the best.

Friday, October 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Character Drawing

The yearly event where I try and fail to write a novel in a month, more info here.

Anyway, I don't have much to say about it, other than I am excited. I seem to get closer every year, so I might make it all the way this time. One of the people on the forums was nice enough to draw one of my characters for me, so I figured I'd share it. (Thanks darkcity for making it!)

Granted, in the book he has a more of a Victorian London look, but this is the gist of it. Just felt like sharing The next post will get back to the regular posts.  

EDIT: Just needed a place to post this banner. Art by magge