Pacific Rim (USA, 2013)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day
It's always tempting to create false dichotomies within a director's work, usually to make a point about their style or to create an artificial cut-off between their 'good' and 'bad' efforts. Sometimes such demarcations are useful and relevant: Steven Spielberg's filmography can feasibly be divided into 'serious' awards contenders and 'popcorn' crowd-pleasers (usually his better work). But in the case of Guillermo del Toro, such divisions are largely fruitless.
Gojira (Godzilla) and subsequently extended into Mothra, Gamera and a host of others. The other is mecha, a sci-fi sub-genre with its roots in Jules Verne's The Steam House and H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. More specifically, del Toro is interested in mecha anime, taking inspiration from many different sub-genres that all involve giant fighting robots.
Neon Genesis Evangeleon, which took the pulpy conventions of these series and pumped them full of fan-service, existentialist philosophy and emotional trauma. The series remains a landmark in anime, for good and bad, with most subsequent mecha anime sitting uneasily in its shadow.
Cronos is his vampire film, The Devil's Backbone is his ghost story, and Hellboy is his comic book film, Pacific Rim is del Toro's take on monsters and giant fighting robots. And while none of these quite match up to the incredible Pan's Labyrinth, they are still extraordinary in their own ways.
Star Wars and Tron in the suit designs and Blade Runner in the sequences set in Hong Kong. Guillermo Navarro, who also shot Pan's Labyrinth, lights the film superbly, matching the interior scenes to ILM's effects to create an intensely operatic atmosphere.
Inception's concept of shared dreaming and from Eva's idea of robots being powered by human souls. Like Eva, the pilots experience the pain inflicted on the robots, but it's not explained or calibrated in the same way.
Prometheus can trace their origins back to the Greek Titans, they adopt very different approaches to conveying their ideas. Prometheus rushed in head first, with all its ideas and themes being offered early on - but then its body, its mechanics, have to play catch-up, and neither the story nor the characters are ever strong enough to match the promise of its opening. Pacific Rim marches in feet first, inviting audiences to enjoy a great big rollicking monster movie, and then starts to feed us ideas when it has our full attention.
For a good introduction to Neon Genesis Evangelion, check out JesuOtaku's review here. Its feature-length follow-up, The End of Evangelion, was covered here by JO's TGWTG colleague Bennett 'The Sage' White. Dan Olson compares the two in great detail in this episode of his series Folding Ideas.
NEXT REVIEW: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)