Monday 9 September 2013

Kaijus, Jaegers and a distinct lack of spoilers...

I have planned to write a post about Pacific Rim since I saw the film, a few weeks ago now. I wanted to recommend that you see it at the cinema, in full 3D Imax glory whilst it was still running. Unfortunately I think I may have missed the boat on that one. I left it too long, and as time passed, whilst my love for the film remained, my argument as to why you should see it above any others became a bit hazy. Try as I might, I just wasn’t feeling this one. The only way to write a post like that is to do it with a fire in your belly. Being the dumbass that I can be sometimes, I left it too long and the fire receded to a smoulder. I had effectively boxed myself into a corner, I promised myself I’d make it the topic for the next post and I even referenced it in my last post. I’ve written other posts in the meantime, and held them back (still holding, it’s nice to have a few arrows in the quiver!) I thought the moment had truly passed, that was, until I saw Kick-Ass 2, and then I remembered what my argument was all about.

My partner and I rarely go to the cinema these days. It’s become a rather expensive pastime and in the new reality of video streaming and file sharing, legitimate or otherwise, one would question the validity of going to the cinema at all. Generally people go less and the costs go up, of course. To combat this, the cinema screens have got bigger and returned to the third dimension. They need to offer you something that even your blue-ray playing, surround sounding, flat screen TV can’t offer, a ‘fully immersive experience.’ The majority of films that I have seen at the cinema in recent memory have been either Imax or 3D, or both, and most of them have not managed to lift my skirt at all, not even a little bit.

I enjoyed the most recent Batman outing, but it didn’t knock my socks off. I kinda liked the first Star Trek re-boot, it was sexy and shiny (although that could have been largely down to the vast amount of lens glare in it!) But that’s your lot, in how many years? I’m probably vaguely referencing three or four years here, as I said, we go very rarely. There was one other film that I really enjoyed at the cinema within that time frame, and that one I saw in plain old 2D, that film was Kick-Ass. It was fresh and different and balanced the light with the dark really nicely. It had an edge to it whilst being funny and was steeped in lots of nice pop culture references. It still fell a bit short in places, but it does hold up, especially when compared to its successor.

The other films I saw, Tron Legacy, Avatar, yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film, and *shudder* Prometheus, all failed to achieve what a blockbuster should to my mind. Not even the brief cameo of Daft Punk in the first on the list changed that. They left me bored at points, laughing at plot holes at others, and generally just dismayed at the predictability of it all for the rest of the time. Despite this continued disappointment, we keep going back to see those so-called blockbuster releases because I do actually have a place in my heart for that sort of schlock and romp. As much as I’ll always fall in love with the quirky films or the smart films or the genre based films, I do sometimes just want to feel that stupid crazy excitement I felt when I watched films as a kid. They just don’t make films like that anymore do they? Where is this generation’s Star Wars exactly? It’s certainly not those god-awful lumps of inanity that claim to be Star Wars prequels. Where are the Back to the Futures, or the Indiana Jones films? Where are the Goonies and the Ghostbusters? Are we forever going to have to hark back to films that were already old when I was young to find those sorts of thrills? Is it really so wrong to want something new that actually fits the bill for a change?

Then the trailer for Pacific Rim came along, and I dared to hope, just dared to dream, that maybe, just maybe, there was a film that I could actually sit back and enjoy. The premise of the film is, of course, as silly as it gets, cthulu type monsters come through from another dimension (that’s not actually the silly bit as far as I am concerned, seems perfectly plausible to be honest) and the human race decides to build a fleet of giant robots to punch them all to death (and so enters the silly.) But it’s directed by Guillermo del Toro, the man responsible for Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage and the actually quite respectable Hellboy films. If there is any man knows monsters, it’s him. So that was one draw straight off the bat for me, and the other big draw was Charlie Day. If you’ve not seen It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the show that Charlie harks from, I would strongly recommend that you begin watching it immediately. It has been one of the most consistently awesome TV shows of recent years. But anyway, all of the ingredients were there for a blockbuster surely? As it turned out, the viewing public weren’t even willing to give this film a chance to wow them, and the film lost out in the box office to, get this, Grown Ups fucking 2. Yes really.

So what’s the reason for this snub, do we think? I honestly feel that it comes down to the legacy left by the barrage of films that have done their best to erode any regard we held blockbusters in. I’m talking about the stupid Transformers films and the embarrassingly bad monster films (think Skyline and Cloverfield) These hackneyed, cynical attempts at the genre have, quite frankly, burnt people out. This is why people have made assumptions about Pacific Rim I think, and dismissed it out of hand. And it’s a crying shame, because it genuinely was one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in the cinema for a long, long time.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I really do think you should see this film and judge it on its own merits. The plot is cleverer than you might think, the visuals are stunning, the cast is believable, and even though you could pull holes in the plot at points, it wowed with enough panache to make you just not want to. I got so excited at one point I threw my slush puppy in the air and had to sit with sticky raspberry flavoured feet for the rest of the showing, but it was worth it I tells ya! I was drawn in by the action and could not drink up enough of the incredible spectacle of a show they put on for the audience. Charlie Day was predictably awesome as well, delivering the charm that makes an audience root for him every time. They took the main idea, the mech-suit monster punching, and treated it as serious, which I think is the only way to play it. But the film overall is funny and exciting and did exactly what it said on the tin. For a change. And a little bit of me, the part that bothers to book the tickets and don the stupid glasses, the part that watches the trailer and hopes, was sated, finally.

Why did Kick-Ass 2 remind me of this? Because this was an example of how not to make a blockbuster, and it’s a crying shame, because the first film was really rather good (although still not on a patch on the truly brilliant Scott Pilgrim Vs the World) The characters are poorly developed, the down-with-the-kids foul language is played up to the point where it’s actually embarrassing, the construction of the super villain is totally unbelievable and heavy handed (whilst on paper possibly being a good idea) and the Jim Carey cameo brings nothing to anything, it’s just a damp squib. I noticed within the first ten minutes of the film that the writing was markedly weaker, and a quick IMDb check later confirmed that the original writers and director had been replaced for this sequel. And my God, you can’t half tell. Note to the money men, it’s all well and good getting the original cast on board, but if you’re not going to give them something interesting to do, why bother? It was this, yet another disappoint of a film, that reminded me why it was important to give a shout out for Pacific Rim. Because films that are worth your money rarely appear anymore, and when one does, it should be recognised and encouraged. More of that, yes please, and less of the rest if you don’t mind.

So I may not have got my words together in time for the cinema run, but I hope that you’ll consider giving it a watch when it reaches DVD land. I’m planning to buy the DVD of it, and I genuinely can’t tell you the last time I liked a film enough to do that. Although I might make it in time to save your money when it comes to Kick Ass 2...Or at the very least, let me say I told you so after the fact if you do decide to give it a whirl!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear, I haven't seen any of the films you reference here (apart from the 80s ones) - that makes me feel woefully out of the loop. The colonist has seen them all, I think, so I have sent him the link for his delectation.