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Thursday, 25 July 2013

PACIFIC RIM. FILM

What is the story with apocalypses this summer?

In the Superman movie Zod wants to destroy Earth, in World War Z, the zombies threaten to wipe out humanity, in Oblivion the Earth is already mostly laid waste to, and in This is the End the apocalypse arrives complete with demons and devils and hell. And that's not even to mention World's End, the new Simon Pegg movie, the title of which is pretty self-explanatory.

And now comes Pacific Rim. The end of all humanity is threatened this time from under the sea. More specifically this threat comes from a breach in the Earth's crust somewhere the Pacific Ocean, from where monsters called Kaiju emerge to wreak havoc on the coastal areas of Asia, Australia and the US.

As the attacks increase the world must come together to combat the monsters. Gigantic robots called Jaegers are built that have the size and fire-power to defeat the Kaiju. The robots need to be piloted by two people, and because of a neural link between the pilots, they are normally relatives, brothers, fathers and sons, triplets.

The showdown happens as the Kaiju attacks increase in frequency, and the agency (led by Idris Elba, from The Wire, whose character's name in Pacific Rim is the fabulous Stacker Pentecost) plan to try and nuke the breach in the ocean's crust in order to close it.

Cue massive explosions, cartoon type violence, combat between mountain-sized creatures and gargantuan robots, destruction on an incomprehensible scale, and then an attempted mind-meld with a Kaiju.

It is a silly, entertaining, vivid, spectacular piece of nonsense. There are two things that I think are especially worth noting about the film, beyond the CGI and the implausible plot.

Firstly, at least it is an original idea from an original script, and not a remake, or a sequel, or a reimagining, or a tired new treatment of an old theme, like ninety percent of the big-budget movies of this year.

Secondly it is not as massively Amero-centric as most of the Hollywood films produced at the moment. Involved in the final battle are robots from Russia, Australia and China, as well as the American one, and it is a Japanese woman who accompanies our hero on his mission to save the world.

This, I assume, is down to Guillermo del Toro, who directs this film, a Mexican who has worked in Spain. It is safe to say that the more international feel to the movie is down to his wider perspective, and also to the Asian influence that can be seen in the Godzilla-type monsters and the fact that a lot of the film is set in Hong Kong.

For these two reasons alone it is worth seeing. It just remains to wonder about this obsession about the end of the world at the moment. Is it born of some kind of preoccupation with coming environmental calamity, or else the feelings of insecurity in the US (where all of these films are produced) about economic collapse and the terrorist threat?

Whatever the reason, it has now become a trend. The world is about to end, who will save us? Is everything really that tenuous? Is humanity truly in that much danger? If you watch Hollywood blockbusters at the moment, you could be forgiven for believing that the end is very much nigh.


2 comments:

  1. I was very much expecting to hate this film but, surprisingly, like you, I didn't. It was, by no means, perfect but I was able to appreciate the subject matter and the film for they were, pure entertainment. I think you're right to point out that this is one of the very few original concepts to be made into a film (especially a summer blockbuster) in years. I must say, however, that it is not entirely without precedent (Godzilla, Robotech, Robot Jox) but then, there's nothing new under the sun.
    I was wondering about your idea that apocalypse themed movies have been especially popular this year and I'm not sure it's such a recent trend. In fact it has been going for quite a while. Remeber when "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon" came out in the same year? That was 1998!
    I think we always have something of which we're afraid, or at least, something that we're told we should fear; and we have a perverse desire to see the realisation of our fears. Disaster movies, apocalyptic movies and horrors have been popular for a really long time no matter how dreadful their premise or execution (The Core, 2012, ugh.)
    On the other hand, to be fair to you, we do have two movies out within weeks of each other called "This is the End" and "World's End." What I think is most interesting about this is that these are both comedies. It kind of suggests a move towards post-post-apocalyptic movies in the near future, I think. Or maybe it's just that it's best to laugh in Armageddon's face

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    1. Yeah, I can see that the threat of the end of the world has always been a theme for film-makers, but this year it seems to have become the default setting for movies - put humanity in danger of being wiped out. My impression is that, even if some of them are laughing at the concept, it is still the apocalypse that is forming the central setting for these stories. Maybe if we see it on screen, the real threat of mass destruction won't seem so frightening!

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