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Monday, October 7, 2013

Guillermo del Toro is not Peter Jackson

Around the city block, we found a modern marque, and a door that led up the stairs to the box office.  It was neat to go out to a movie at seven o’clock in the evening for $3.    Of course, I had to pay $5.50 for a small soda, but if it keeps them in business...  

Another nice aspect of this second-run cinema in Hilo: no commercials or movie previews.  While I generally enjoy watching previews, the baker's dozen most cinema operators serve up can get annoying, and that's not a good frame of mind to begin a movie with.

"Pacific Rim" reminds me of the Godzilla-type movies I grew up watching on my small B&W TV.  Director Guillermo del Toro clearly intended to do more than just pay homage to the Japanese monster movie mini-genre.  If you've ever immersed yourself in a video game for hours, days, or weeks at a time, you're guaranteed to identify with, if not idolize, the specially trained pilots who operate the immense metal robots called Jaegers.  It's like Rock Em Sock Em Giant Robots Versus Ugly Giant Monsters, and you're inside one of the gigantic robots alongside the pilots, defending the last vestiges of civilization.  "Take this, you Godzilla wannabees!  Return to the Earth's Core from whence you came!"

Guillermo del Toro exhibits his unique visual style that makes all his movies memorable, as well as the quirky, hokey humor of the “Hellboy” movies.  One thing "Pacific Rim" doesn’t display, however, is any great depth of story.  Unlike "Avatar," in which the human soldiers deploy similar mechanical travel-and-fighting machines, you can’t apply reason or rationale to any aspect of his world.  For example, ask yourself this question: could a helicopter lift this second-run cinema and deploy it within minutes on a battlefield?  Now how about several helicopters that lift and carry one of these Jaegers--each as tall as a skyscraper--out to fight the monsters? Don't expect to leave the cinema wondering how del Toro created such a believable world.  This isn't an example of a storyteller suspending your disbelief by slowly introducing aspects of the Fantastic.  Still, if you can disengage your brain for two hours, you'll enjoy the movie!

As I said, I've seen several of del Toro's movies now, and even those I haven't seen for two-or-three years ("Pan's Labyrinth") or sixteen ("Mimic") left me with unforgettable visuals.  Still, that seeming inability to convey reality and depth to his worlds makes me glad that Peter Jackson took over the reins of "The Hobbit" when del Toro’s New Zealand visa expired.  Although they shared a lot of the same movie-making roots, Jackson is clearly someone who understands how a strong and intricate backstory can add weight and interest to his characters and his worlds.  I can’t help shake the feeling that "The Hobbit" movies would be vastly different had del Toro remained in charge of that production.

"Pacific Rim" demonstrates how every director and storyteller is better at some things than others.  It's a great ride, and every once in a while, you need a movie like that to remind you exactly why you love the Fantastic so much.  Just don't expect more from it than that or...well, let me put it like this.  With the exception of one other Hawaiian, everyone bolted after the credits started rolling.  After part of the credits, there was an additional scene, during which one character emerged unscathed from what had seemed, during the movie, to be a deadly encounter.  For me, the short scene exhibited del Toro's quirky humor.  The Hawaiian grunted, "That's stupid!" and marched out.

"Pacific Rim" may not be Tolkien, but it's a lot of fun.  (Thankfully, for Tolkien adaptations, we have Peter Jackson).  Now, where's my DVD of "Hellboy?"  I want to watch that movie again!

Dragon Dave

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