Category Archives: Movie/TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow – Find a better use for your time

Arrow

Summary

Arrow is a TV series about the DC Superhero commonly known as Green Arrow. Oliver Queen is a young billionaire who likes to tie up young women…. Oh, wait, wrong story about a young billionaire. Actually, you could probably sell a 50 Shades of Green by mashing this vigilante superhero character with a light to medium BDSM setting – what am I thinking? There is no probability that this has not already happened in the juvenile cesspool that is fan fiction. Nevermind, back to my review.

Oliver Queen is a young billionaire by day and a buff, bow wielding vigilante by night. He spent 5 years marooned on a mysterious island after his father’s yacht was sabotaged and sunk. There, he learned a bewildering array of skills related to his survival. When he finally is rescued he comes back with a list of people his father told him were bad. His goal is to make these people right the wrongs they have perpetrated on Star City.

The Good

I liked the set up of a vigilante living a double life and trying to re-integrate into the modern world. A bit like Zorro meets Batman while being a fish out of water. I liked to see how the people who have all thought he was dead for the last 5 years come to accept the fact that he is alive, and come to adjust to having him around. There was the nice angle of this being about his redeeming his father’s legacy while at the same time redeeming himself from the person he used to be. The combination of this dual character arc and the interweaving stories really made me want to watch Arrow.

Also, I was interested in the superhero story. I like superheroes, even more so ones that have to deal with real world problems and situations like parents, friends, business, how to keep your secret hideout a secret…in addition to all this, the set up promised to see this from the ground floor. We get to see Arrow start out and make his inevitable mistakes as he learns what it takes to be a billionaire vigilante.

The Bad

There was all this promise for this series. Then there was the reality.

First reality – there are no characters, only walking props. The characters don’t speak, they deliver lines. They don’t have any independent or lasting motivations other than to make whatever implausible plot point that needs to happen, happen. Arrow’s first sidekick/helper does nothing for three or four episodes other than show up in the secret hideout to act as an emotional or rational foil to Arrow’s on again off again brooding. He just shows up, in a suit, and slips right into the inner monolog to spout off inanities.

Second Reality – If you don’t have real characters, why have real dialog. Nobody talks to each other. They say things that they say, but they bear very little relation to what the other person said, or to what is going on around them. The sister character, Thea, thinks her mother is fooling around and she brings it up constantly for several episodes whether anyone if talking about mom, the stepfather, relationships, the morality of vigilante justice, global warming, or how did a trust fund poof survive for five years in the wilderness.

Third Reality – Without characters, or dialog, relationships that look remotely like the interpersonal or intimate interactions between higher primates are impossible. It’s like if you had to image how a society of lizards would relate to each other, then you just added random dialog and let people deliver the dialog then you would have the relationships in this series.

The Other

There are other things that are irritating, but compared to the bad really don’t qualify at bad. First, this series often looks like a bunch of kids playing dress up. Yes, billionaire would likely have more opportunities for fancy dress, but the women are putting on the ritz ever other episode. I would worry about a shiny fabric shortage, but the dresses are so short and the women so thin that isn’t likely a problem. Sitting down or getting out of a car without exposing yourself would be an issue though.

Secondly, Oliver Queen and his skills are implausible even by comic book standards. A pampered, spoiled rich boy spend 5 years on an island and manages to become an expert in Archery, MMA-style fighting, emergency medical treatment, Russian, Chinese, underworld criminal activity, and parkour. The problem is that you are never worried that he won’t succeed because his abilities are so wide ranging that he will always have a way to get out of it.

Final Verdict

Initially, I was intrigued by the early set up. A changed person comes back and his to re-integrate into his old environment all while he has a very different purpose in life from the one he has before. That early promise has never been fulfilled. Quite the opposite. That early promise has been splattered with no dimension characters delivering moronic dialog in completely unbelievable situations. I’ve given this series 17 episodes to start showing some level of competence. It hasn’t and it’s showing no signs of doing so. Sorry Arrow, this one sided relationship is over.

Movie Review – The Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies – Probably a few armies too many

Battle of the 5 armies

 

Movie Review – The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies

Summary

There once was a little story of a little Hobbit in a little house…. Then it was mutated, added-on to, stretched and expanded until it was barely recognizable as relating to the original story. A bit like Hulk vs Bruce Banner. Yeah, hulk is humanoid in form, and has dark hair, but that’s where the similarity ends. In my analogy, the movie is the Hulk and the little story is Bruce Banner, just to be clear.

The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies is the third installment of the movies based off of the beloved book called The Hobbit. This book serves as sort of a prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also made into three films. Note the subtlety here – Lord of the Rings was three books made into three movies. The Hobbit was one book made into three movies. This is the single biggest problems with these movies. They are augmented with things that add only time. Not depth, not character, not interest, only time. This complaint has been voiced by the Geekaverse and the mundane world, so this is the last I will mention of it.

The Good

Smaug is pretty freaking cool. He is powerful, smart, selfish, and cunning. More Smaug, less everything else would have made this a better movie.

The dwarven castle under the mountain was cool. Layered, complex, art-deco meets gothic stone, and moody.

King Thorin was good. A king with more than a little chip on his shoulder develops a world class case of paranoia (a mash up of his performance in clips from the Shining would be great) and causes a horrific loss of life. He was a good character.

Bilbo was great. He is the best character, his is our stand in. He is the outsider, like us, taken along on a grand adventure. He has a strong sense of loyalty and right vs wrong that is unwavering in the face of circumstances. He is clever, likeable, and funny. Every scene with Bilbo was a joy.

The Bad

Deaths. Death should have meaning in a story. Without meaning, we don’t know what to feel when the character dies. Is it funny, as when the bad town leader was squished during Smaug’s attack, or is it tragic as when we see the bodies washing up on the shore afterwards. There are two deaths that are supposed to have meaning in this story, but they fall far short – Thorin, and Filli/Killi

Thorin’s death comes after a long, long fight sequence set up by a ridiculous set of events and assumptions (riding mountain goats? It’s a trap, but the trap is never sprung? Let’s split up when we faced with a likely overwhelming force waiting for us… ugh). So, by the time Thorin get skewered, your disbelief has been stretched beyond suspension until it is a limp, flaccid thing unfit for use. I will talk more about Thorin later.

Filli/Killi. They are brothers/cousins. The point is that they are inseparable. And they idolize and are utterly devoted to Thorin. They are his ersatz children. So, rather than keeping these devoted warriors close, he sends them to scout the likely ambush. They, having the combined IQ of a fine shire grown gourd, split up to scout the tower. These two dipshits seem to be auditioning for a teen slasher film – as victim 1 and 2. Killi get caught, gets steel poisoning, and then gets dropped a few stories off of a tower and lands right in front of Filli. Filli flips and storms up the tower. Then he has an extended fight, saves and is saved by his forbidden love, and then gets stuck with a pointy thing and dies. Wait, you say. He fights with his forbidden love? How can that charged situation be meaning less? Well, I’ll tell you.

These two star crossed lovers, a dwarf and an elf, have as much chemistry as raw liver and a pile of lukewarm rice pudding. The lumpy kind of rice pudding. They are utterly unbelievable as romantic partners. Interestingly, when they are fighting together, it’s kind of fun, but that quickly is over and it’s back to their incredulous yearning. His death ends up being a relief.

Last problem – not enough Bilbo. He has scenes, but in this ensemble story that includes no less than 5 armies, 5 wizards, 3 kings, and a guest appearance by the sandworms from Dune, there just is not much room for our little likeable hobbit.

The Other

The biggest problem is structure. Bilbo is telling this story, so the book is from his point of view, but it is not really his story. At the core, this is Thorin’s story. He is the character that wants something and it is his need that drives the plot. But our view of him is all from the 3rd person point of view. We don’t get to like him enough to have his turn to the crazy side then his eventual demi-redemption, be the emotional closure that is necessary. There are several other stories going on, but none of them get enough air time for us to be vested in the outcome enough to care. Brand and his people – will they get a new city? Will he lead them? Will the uni-brow weasel get his come uppence? We never know. Will the other dwarf king take over the mountain kingdom? We never know. Will the elven king get his people’s artifacts back? We never know. All we know is that Bilbo and Gandalf ride home – but then Bilbo’s house is getting auctioned off because he was gone too long. He stops the auction, but we don’t’ learn anything else. Who was behind the auction? How is Bilbo regarded in the shire now? We never know. There is not closure for anybody but the dead in this movie. The endings are completely open. This movie is a flimsy hospital gown in a drafty hall.

Final Verdict

I’m a sucker for these films, and for these books. I’m not a purist. I don’t think that Arawen was an affront to the legacy, so I’m realistic here about the sausage that has to be made when adapting a book for the screen. This was worth watching for me simply because I needed to see the last film. I accomplished that. What was not accomplished was the ending of a story.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Movie Review

captain_america_the_winter_soldier_movie-wide

 

Spoiler Warning – to paraphrase Elvis Costello “Spoilers will happen…” I am going to blather on incessantly telling you about what goes on this movie. I’ll talk about the plot, the characters, the whiz-bang effects and maybe even the big pivotal moment (hint: probably involves a beefy dude and an explosion). If you are worried about learning something about this movie that you would rather not learn, then stop reading and skip down to the final verdict part of this post.  If you are at all concerned that I might let it slip that the Winter Soldier referenced in the title is an operative for the Cold Miser whose mission is to eliminate the Winter Warlock and put a mind control devise on Kris Kringle so that he alienates Jessica and drives her into the waiting arms of the Cold Miser, then you should have stopped reading a while ago. Anyway, spoilers may happen. You are warned.

Summary – If I need to explain who Capt America is, then you are in the wrong spot. Go see the first movie to get up to speed. Go ahead, I’ll wait. And if you haven’t seen the Avengers movie, then go watch that one to because it is relevant.

You’re back? Good. So, in this film Cap is shown to be having issues acclimatizing himself to modern life and, surprisingly, to his new job in SHIELD. His inherent goodness and boy scout demeaner is not comfortable with Nick Fury’s Nick Furyness. On a rescue mission he gets his chisled jaw out of line when Black Widow has a different objective than the rest of the team. Back home, he confronts both Black Widow and Fury, but gets no satisfaction. Meanwhile we learn that Nick Fury is keeping significant secrets and they worry him. Not to tell it all but Nick get killed (yes, comic book killed), SHIELD gets compromised, and there are lots and lots of explosions over our nation’s capital.

The Good – There were plenty of things I liked about this movie. This movie has just about the best, most realistic action sequences of any comic book movie. Now note that I did not say that the action was realistic in the absolute sense, but realistic for a comic movie. The action was believable enough to be fun and let you feel like the heroes were actually in danger (this is ignoring the Cap-escape-across-the-bridge sequence). The plot pace is very good, fast enough to keep me interested yet slow enough to actually explain what needed to be explained. I enjoyed the little touched that showed how Cap was a media figure, I just would have liked for it to play with that idea a bit more. Finally, I like the tone of this movie just like I liked the tone of the first one. It is earnest without being corny. It’s a nice change in a movie today.

The Bad – This is a comic book movie, so some of what I am going to call Bad is simply the genre. That being said, these things can be done better and until a comic book movie does them better they will still be second class cinema.

Dialog – Ugh. I can live with dialog not being meaningful, but it had at least better be quipy and delivered well. The only person who can deliver a line in this film is Nick Fury, and he seems to be refusing to do so in this film. So, we are left with Cap who cannot quip because, well, he’s Cap. We have Black Widow, who would be perfect to quip if it were not for the lifeless performance by the actress.

Black Widow – Cap could be an interesting character but it isn’t necessary. Black Widow is an interesting character, but you wouldn’t know it from this film. The weak writing is done no favors by the disinterested and clueless acting. Fail and fail.

Villian – It’s nice to see Redford still getting work and he managed not to twirl his moustache, but it was a lost cause. From the first moment you knew he was the villain. And to add to that, people in charge of govt agencies are so often the villain that you’d think that if SuperHeroes really wanted to help society they would throw a coup and put good honest people in charge. That’s the comic book movie I want to see.

The Other – I probably could have listed these in the Bad section, but while they would be bad in a normal movie, this is a comic book movie. These are America’s version of Greek Myths. They define us, our hopes and fears, our ideals and our weaknesses. They are giant metaphors told by people who have wildly varying degrees of competence. That being said, these are the things that had me scratching my head during this film.

Why would you put your the chips that control your firing systems on the most vulnerable part of the flying ships? And not have them guarded?

They built a huge, huge underground complex that can open up  in the Potomac and nobody knew about it? Thousands working down there and it’s a secret? It’s a huge ass swamp, just how well did that digging go? Where did all the dirt go?

So, a guy wearing a wing/jet pack combo capable of having him run with fighter jets can execute high G turns without blacking out? Without burning his legs off from the jets? With only goggles for protective gear?

Washington D.C. has two huge running gun battles in three days time and the streets are still open? No military swarming the streets? No checkpoints?

Final Verdict – For a me the final verdict on a movie is whether or not I an happy that I paid the money to see the film. That’s significant if you are hauling a family and springing for popcorn and drinks. For this movie, my answer is yes, this movie was worth the money. It didn’t change my life or make me consider the human condition differently, but it was entertaining without being insulting. Where does this fit in the pantheon of Marvel comics? It is below Avengers, Iron Man 1, and Cap America 1, and above the rest.

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Black Sails – Pilot Review

Black Sails

Review – “Black Sails” Pilot Episode

Spoiler Warning –  Few things are a tragic as a spoiler. Popping someone’s delightful balloon of anticipation by exposing the important details of a piece entertainment is bad. You don’t stick your finger in the wedding cake, you don’t pee in the snow just outside the living room window, and certainly don’t let people know that a show called “Black Sails’ is actually a play on words referring to the origin of the Black Friday retail sales event. It was started in the Pirate age as a way to dispose of the dregs of the pirate booty on the last day of the week. Who knew?

Summary –  “Black Sails” is a pirate series set in the early 1700s from the Starz network. For years the English has commissioned privateers to harass and attach Spanish ships in the new world. The kept the Spanish from fully benefitting from the riches of the new world, kept some income coming to England while they established their own foothold. But, in the early 1700’s, the English had enough of a presence to gain the benefit of colonies. But they have a problem that the area is thick with accomplished thieves of their own making. Two empires, the English and the Spanish, seek to civilize the new world and reap its bounty, but the pirates stand in their way.

The Good – Let’s talk about the good parts first. Overall I liked the look of the series. The locations – Nassau in particular – looked not only realistic but they were original enough to surprise me. The town was lush, but it wasn’t a jungle. There were ships, but no big docks. The buildings were shacks and the work took place out in the open, but shaded. This all felt right to me. I don’t need a show to be a history lesson, but getting most of the details right helps.

I also liked the set up and the early plot. The period is very interesting with the English turning on their former partners, the pirates, and calling them criminals. They created a fighting force not fully under their control to hurt an enemy and now that they no longer need them they are inconvenient. Yes, Empires have been doing that sort of short sighted thing for a long time and continue to do so today. The interplay between the English, the Spanish, the colonies, the riches of the new world, and the pirates is rich with plot potential.

The early plot involves a Spanish treasure ship and its schedule for transporting the treasure. One person has come into possession of the page but only knows that it is important, not really what it is. Another person knows what it is, but not where it is. Layer onto this a pirate captain who is losing the confidence of his crew, the traders that turn the ill-gotten gains into money, and the teeming underclass of morally weak yet ambitions people looking to make their way in the new world. I really like the potential.

The Bad – The first thing that struck me was a couple of the actors were completely unbelievable. The daughter of the merchant seemed like she wandered in from the set of a CW series and didn’t realize she was in the wrong spot. She did not seem either tough or smart enough to be in the position she was in. Secondly, the “John Silver” character was in a similar position – a modern person who appeared on a ship and muddles his way through the lines. Lastly, there is a character, a roguish opportunist, who looks like he is from and 80’s keyboard band. It’s really distracting.

This being a Starz series, there is nudity and sex. Handling these aspects is critical. In the pilot, they sucked. The two sexy scenes didn’t make sense. First, a captive joins the pirates and the initiation involves the pirates putting him in a room with five women. I doubt pirate initiations were quite that enjoyable. Secondly, there is girl on girl scene that just popped in out of the blue. It has the potential to add quite a bit to character depth over time, but in the pilot it really felt cheesy.

The Other –Any pilot is a crap shoot. They have to show enough characters, plot and features to get the audience interested yet still tell a story that satisfies. This series suffers from a Game of Thrones number of characters all who only get a few minutes to be on screen.

The writers/producers have made the curious choice of choosing a mix of characters from the classic book “Treasure Island” and historical characters. In the pilot I was playing the game of “guess who will pop up next”. This pilot felt a bit like pirate fan-fiction. I hope it gets better.

Final Verdict – The pilot was good enough for me to pencil in two more episodes. The acting was disappointing, but that can get better. The plot potential and the setting are interesting enough for me to give this series some more of my time.

Kick Ass 2

“Kick-Ass 2″ – Movie Review

Kick Ass 2

Spoiler Warning – I am going to talk about the characters, situations, and dialog in this movie. If you don’t want to hear about those things, skip down to the paragraph labeled “Final Verdict”. If you are not afraid of spoilers, read on.

Summary – What happens when ordinary people don personas and costumes to match, then take it upon themselves to fight crime? You get the movie Kick-Ass, a fun decent movie if you didn’t examine it too closely. What happens when the people who made the first movie think they can make more money? Kick-Ass 2. In this movie our hero has stopped being Kick-Ass and is leading a normal life again, but he misses the life. There are others doing what he did, those that took inspiration at what he did and are doing good on their own. On the other side, Hit-Girl is not settling into normal life all that well. She really never was a kid, so expecting her to just slide into high school was a little nuts. She shows up at school, waits until her guardian leaves, then goes to her hide out/armory and works out, works on equipment, or researches. At night, she fights crime with her brand of brutal and efficient tactics. The villain the son of the last movie’s villain, bitter at this death. He takes the family fortune and sets out to become the first super-villain and to kill Kick-Ass in the process.  Add into this a plot where Hit -Girl tries to get into the cool crowd, another plot involving a group of super-heroes that Kick-Ass joins, and Kick-Ass’s father thinking he is doing drugs. There is a lot going on.

The Good – The good in this movie come is small chunks. Good lines delivered by Hit Girl and Colonel Star & Stripes, tender believable moments between Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass, and some really terrific monologging by the villain are the good parts. Hit-Girl is a pretty good actress, and at time she shines. When she is starting to accept her new life and she tells off Kick-Ass it is a wonderful scene. When she shows up at his house after a bad date, it is a wonderful scene. She just isn’t given that much to work with. Jim Carey is Colonel Stars & Stripes and he is so likeable and believable as a decent guy who is trying to make up for a bad past and trying to make life a bit better for people. Carey once again shows he can act in character roles. Finally the politically not even close to correct villain does a great job talking about his crew, his goals, and even his mother in scenes that the more sensitive will find hard to watch, but that I found really good. The movie has some fun sight gags, and a few more laughs here and there. That’s it for the good.

The Bad – This movie has two major flaws: who is the story about and tone. First, this movie is shot like a comedy, it feels a bit like a TV sit-com. The situations are silly – people dressed up like super heroes, a villain wearing woman’s bondage clothes, a 15 year old girl with an armed hide-out. Silly. A lot of the jokes are even silly. This feels like a light comedy. Then a secondary character is killed, graphically, slowly, with plenty of spurting blood. Now maybe the makers meant for you to feel the jolt of the death, but even then, it didn’t fit. At one point a villain kills 8 or so cops in truly comic fashion, yet your are frozen in your seat due to the graphic nature of each death. The movie continues putting silly juvenile jokes next to very real violence and it never works. The second major flaw in this film is that there are too many competing story lines. They barely relate to each other and the stories are all slowed down. You go through a long piece with Hit-Girl and the cool kids that barely resolves and it does not advance the story. You go through a long build up of Kick-Ass and the super team, but it only serves to make Colonel Stars & Stripe’s death feel stronger rather than add to the overall story. By the way, the movie could have been made without the Kick-Ass character and it would have been a better movie. You don’t get one whole movie here, you get two-thirds of two and a half movies all served on day old bread.

The Other – John Leguizamo is in this film. I haven’t seem him in quite a while and he is good as a gangster with a bit of a heart. The woman who plays the Russian villain is two parts sexy and eight parts terrifying. The audition dance by the cool girl is as good a pole-less pole dance as I have ever seen, but it was 5 times longer than the story needed.

Final Verdict – This could have been a good film if they had simple chosen to tell the story of Hit-Girl trying and liking to be a “normal” teen, yet being drawn back into her former life. It would have had emotional range, action, and an actual narrative arc. Kick-Ass and his crew could have been comic relief, like little funny sprinkles on Hit)Girls two scoops of thick rich story. But it was not to be. I cannot reccommend this movie, unless you have Kick-Ass movie posters on your walls and a green costume in the closet. I give it two stars and I might be being kind doing that.

Desolation of smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Desolation of smaug

The Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Summary

The Desolation of Smaug is the second movie in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Yeah, I know “The Hobbit” wasn’t a trilogy when it was written. It was a longer novel-type thing that meandered about an imaginary countryside and assaulted the reader with Hobbit travelling poetry. The book is actually better than I just described it, but I was scarred by the poetry. Anyway, Mr. Jackson has seen fit, or seen enough profit, to warrant stretching this one book into something close to 9 hours of cinema. This movie is the middle section, the “Return of the Jedi”, the morose middle child of the series. In the first movie, our hero, Bilbo Baggins, is talked into going on an adventure as a burglar to assist a group of dwarves to regain their ancestral home. Adventures ensue: escape from Ogres, escape from Goblin King, and escape from Gollum. Plot is layed: The vengeful orc, the Necromancer, Big Dragon in the mountain. Character is established: Bilbo has inner strength, Thorin is a bit of a dick, Radagast is a shroomer. So in this movie our party continues their journey towards and reaching the Lonely Mountain on the one day when they can find the keyhole to the secret passage. Along the way they meet up with the Slyvan/Wild Elf King (it doesn’t go well for the short dudes), get chased by Orcs, get smuggled into Laketown, meddle in local politics, get inside the mountain, and, finally, antagonize the dragon with dire consequences.

The Good

This is a heck of an adventure. There nothing left out, in fact most of this movie was not in the book. There are fights with orcs, fights with spiders, and a cat and mouse game in a treasure strewn dwarven citadel with a dragon. You get your money’s worth in this film. The scenery is lush, the settings are magnificent. The Elven king’s stronghold is only bested by the depth and scope of the dwarven home under the mountain. There is enough geeky eye-candy here to give you ocular cavities big enough to park a cave troll in.

The Bad

Two elves cut through about one-hundred and fifty orcs with minimal effort. I’m not so sure why anybody is scared of orcs being around. Maybe they move in to the neighborhood, never cut their grass and leave junk cars in their yard. The point is, they are not a threat to anybody or anything, except maybe property values.

The elf girl-dwarf boy romance  – I don’t buy it. I can see how she would be interested in him and his stories of the outside world since she has rarely ventured out and has a wider view than the elves around her. I don’t think they played up this part of her enough to make her seem like someone who would fall for the dwarf. As for the dwarf, well, they each have so little character that it’s hard to tell what they would or wouldn’t do.

The Other

This is a nearly 3 hour movie. A lot happens. In most movies, the narrative arc clues you into when the story takes turns, when it starts the middle section where things are difficult, when it starts the final battle, and when it starts the ending. There is so much going on in this film that I lost track of the narrative arc. I didn’t have any feeling, other than that from my bladder, as to when the movie should end.

I don’t get dragons. Something that huge would need a considerable amount of nourishment. Yet he simply sleeps under a pile of gold rather than heading out periodically to roast an Oliphant with his fire breath or raze a village and snack on the inhabitants like at atapas bar, or demand human tribute from the idiots who built Laketown right next to his home when they knew he was there. And the gold…why? He cannot spend it, he can’t buy a new Ipad with it, he didn’t do any dragon sized redecorating to his home which was built on a dwarf scale. He just wants to sleep in it? Hell, at least Scrooge McDuck invested his money as well as swam in it.

How did Bilbo keep a hold of his sword all through the barrel ride and getting captured in Laketown? And, I think that the ring keep hopping from pocket to pocket.

I saw this movie in 3D. The 3D is done quite well, but didn’t add much to the movie and I thought is made the movie feel a big small, like I was watching it through a window. I cannot recommend it.

Final Verdict

Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. Being a geek who first got hooked on the Tolkien thing in his teen years I really cannot help but enjoy this movie. I even liked the cartoon versions from way back when. It’s not art, it’s not great cinema. But it is a lot of fun. If you go, see it on a big screen, and avoid the big fountain drink. It’s a long movie so bladder management will be key.

Movie Review – Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 1 Pacific Rim 2

Summary

I like to preface things, so I am going to do so here. (It’s probably an ego thing, but lets not delve deep where I have no depth, ok?) While I do not consider myself a giant monster or giant robot fanboy, I have seen quite of bit of both genres. Maybe it’s because of Chicago’s UHF TV stations playing them during my youth, or my never ending search for odd films in the video stores in my 20s, or maybe I just in the closet about the whole fanboy thing. Anyway, this review will be viewed through the filter of someone who watches this stuff, not through the lens of someone who is out for seeing great cinema. Oh, and by the way this review may contain spoilers.

Now, Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters and giant robots that has more than a head nod to the Godzilla (or Gojira) movies from the distant past. The director, Mr. Del Toro, wasa big fan of these movies growing up and he apparently wanted to update the genre. The premise here is that an extra-dimensional rift has opened up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and that allows giant monsters (called Kaiju) to pop into our world and wreak havoc. (Why is “wreak havoc” the default mode for most extra dimensional beings anyway? Why don’t they ever come here to get some really good fudge, or catch Cirque du Soleil show, or even just spend a day reading on the beach? Their tourism bears a striking resemblance to American foreign policy actually…). In response Earth bands together to build giant robots, called Jaegers (German for hunter) to fight the monsters. We seem to hold our own for a while, until the critters come through more often and start to adapt their bodies and tactics to our efforts. We shut the Jaeger program down and start building walls around the ocean. There are a few Jaegers left, a few pilots left, and a leader who has a plan to end the monsters once and for all. That’s the basics.

The Good

This movie looks good. Yeah, that sounds stupid, but that’s the best I can do. Everything in it, all the set and prop details look really good. Much, much of it is CGI, but it is too the point where the CGI is not at all noticeable. I think this little fact goes a long way towards making this an enjoyable movie. Much like Lord of the Rings looked “real”, which made it easier to watch. Ok, now you are saying “it’s a movie with giant monsters and giant robots and this knob is going on and on about the scenery!”, I hear you, but don’t overlook the scenery here.

The giant monsters are cool, but I think that the robots are the better of the two. In the old monster movies you saw a lot of the monsters, full shots, as they smashed up model Tokyo. In this movie your rarely see a whole monster, or see them for very long. It is all in little bits and pieces, a bit like “Jaws” actually. Only here it does not build suspense like in Jaws, here I think it really only exists to keep costs down. You see more of the robots, but still a lot of the details are left out – I will get into an explanation of that later. The fight scenes between the Kaiju and Jaegers are fun, but a little confusing. When there are multiple robots or monster involved it is kind of hard to tell who is doing what to whom. The fights keep you in the story though, and why else would you watch a movie like this anyway?

The Bad

All that beautiful scenery is covering up a mountain of plot holes and impossibilities that are going to make George Lucas think he made this film, or at least make him mad that he didn’t. I am not going to enumerate them here, but I will talk about them further in the “Other” section.

Acting. I hear that people in movies do this. If that is so, this was not a movie. Interesting dialog. That must be something that happens in plays I guess. Characters with motivations who grow. If I squint my eyes and turn sideways, I can see where some of that may have been present in this movie.

The Other

If you willingly went to a movie that features the idea of extra-dimensional monsters on this scale, humungous robots piloted by pairs of pilots through mind control, and a dimensional rift on the bottom of the ocean then you are on thin ice when you complain about plot holes and impossibilities when it comes to the details. No debris or clouds of silt just after you detonate a nuclear weapon on the bottom of the ocean? Don’t worry about it… look a giant monster! 8 helicopters carrying a giant robot that weighs hundreds of tons? Whatcoo talkin ‘bout Willis – and hey look another giant monster! Not mentioning the giant sword weapon to your partner until it is narratively necessary? You are thinking too much… hey look, giant monster guts! An EMP shutting down parts of a city, but the streetlights are still on? Ok, well that’s just dumb.
My point is that this might be the ultimate suspension of disbelief movie, on par with professional wrestling or a presidential debate. It is one of those where to enjoy it, you have to tone down that critical thinking part of your brain, and just let the art wash over you.

Final Verdict

Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. I saw in on one of those giant 80’ movie screens and I am so happy I did. If you like this type of thing, and you can turn off that logic critic, go see this movie. Do not wait for it to be streamed somewhere, unless you happen to have access to a giant screen of your own. This movie will not move your emotions, tell you anything about the human condition, or even make you like any of the characters. It will give you the thrill of giant robots flinging giant monsters around a big wet neon infused city though, and if that isn’t entertainment I don’t know what is.