When the electric guitar riff kicked up amidst a torrent of metal and lights, I knew that Pacific Rim would be a fun movie. Not necessarily a "good film," but a fun movie. Any anime or Japanese monster fan, I imagine, knew the exact same thing.
We needn't spend time plucking Pacific Rim to pieces. Fans of director Guillermo del Toro already know his love for video games and nerd culture. We adore him for that. Most of us could easily list off all the influences that Pacific Rim had, and the nods that co-writer Travis Beacham included in its conception. We can largely ignore the corny dialogue, and the baffling direction giving to Charlie Day and Burn Gorman in their absolutely manic "dueling scientist" shtick.
What we really need to do is celebrate the thing that Pacific Rim did best, and it's one of my absolute guiltiest pleasures: giant robot launch sequences. Not the robots themselves, which were already spectacular, but the launch sequences.
Like many of you, my love for giant robot launch sequences started with Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I conveniently wrote about in my previous blog. I still remember the thundering drums, the mind-boggling digital displays, the barked status reports, the LCL-filled entry plugs, the bolts and restraints, and -- of course -- Unit 1 rocketing up through its launch tunnel to emerge in the neon-lit streets of Tokyo-3.
Pacific Rim really nails this part of the giant robot genre. It's obvious that serious thought was put into it when the Becket brothers, played by Charlie Hunnam and Diego Klattenhoff, are fitted with their Jaeger pilot suits. The detailed armor clicks and hisses into place while dozens of workers scurry around them, prepping to launch Gipsy Danger. The brothers are strapped into the elaborate harnesses that let them interface with the machine, and its head slides down a shaft to be literally screwed into the torso. All the while its reactor whirs to life, appropriately placed on its chest for maximum lighting. So absurd. So awesome.
Just like a piece of music, the launch sequence is the steady build of tension and excitement that comes before the crescendo. When properly paced, it can make the following fight even more invigorating, because the audience has already been coaxed (and in some cases shoved) into readiness. It feeds the action like kindling, sparking and flickering before bursting to life with 100-ton punches and chest missiles.
Really, you couldn't have giant robots without giant robot launch sequences.
Also, some important side notes. How awesome was the Russian Jaeger, Cherno Alpha? With its nuclear reactor head and background choirs roaring to life in every fight scene? Again, absurd and awesome. If you disagree, please see yourself to the door.
Pacific Rim does a lot of things well. It's not a great film, I admit, but it's hugely fun -- especially for those of us that grew up with mecha and monsters. If you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend checking it out. At the very least, you'll be treated to a pretty amazing score -- which I wondered why I liked so much until I found out it was composed by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones). Enough said.
Best viewed with an internal and external smirk. Beer optional, but encouraged. See with lots of friends that like anime.
Spoiler P.S. I'm always a big fan of films that dare to avoid sexual/romantic tension in their lead characters. I was blown away that Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi never kiss during the film, and only embrace in the seconds before the end. Fairly rare for "mainstream" films, yes?