Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why Pacific Rim Worked

One of the pleasant movie surprises this summer has been Pacific Rim. When I first saw the trailer a few months back, I rolled my eyes.  It looked like a mash up of Transformers and GI Joe - neither of which were worth more than a Netflix view.  Godzilla like monsters attack coastal cities and we fight back with giant robots, piloted by guys who yell and high five each other every few minutes.  Sigh.... I already had my allotment of building crashes during Man of Steel.

Fortunately, a few friends saw it and recommended it highly. So we got a group of guys together and hit the theater. It turned out to be a very, very good summer action popcorn flick. In fact, I liked it better than either Man of Steel of Iron Man 3 - which I find interesting. I have been pondering why, and here is what I have come up with so far.

First - Pacific Rim was believable.  WHHHAAAA?? you say.  It was believeable.... not within our world, but in its own.  It stayed consistent within the rules it had set up.  Whereas there were times in Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel that things struck me as being absurd.  It was like those movies were violating the physics they had set up within a game and it made things look odd and stand out in a non-complementary way.  I think this happens when a director or storyteller wants to do something in a particular scene, but they don't take care to see if it violates any parameters they had set up in other scenes (e.g. R2 sprouting rockets in Episode II).

Second - It had great pacing. I remember when I was in the play Into The Woods last year, our director was specific about pacing.  He once said something along the lines of "This is a long show and we need to keep the story in constant flow. I don't want to give anyone reason to start thumbing through the program." I've noticed pacing a lot in plays and movies since he said that. I was keenly aware that if I got up to go to the bathroom during Pacific Rim, I was going to miss something.

Third - I felt like I knew the characters.  They were all engaging and fun to watch.  Both IM3 and MOS had numerous characters who appeared to simply be along for the ride.

I am sure I will think of some more things later, but that is what comes to mind presently. Somehow this movie about Hong Kong-smashing monsters fighting giant robots was good enough for a round 2 today with my son.

I have to add one more item that PR did that I hope comic movies take heed of in the future. The first 10 minutes filled you in on all of the backstory you would need. Having laid a quick foundation, they moved ahead to the story they wanted to tell.

With all of the reboots we will face with various comic properties in the decades come, I think we would all be better served if we started to skip the origin story or maybe just set up a quick 10 minute recap, then move on to a story we HAVEN'T heard. Batman and Spiderman have both done origins twice now, it is territory we do not need need to retrace. Let's just take it as read that we know the general framework and approach it James Bond style. There have been 20+ Bond flicks and we all just move on.

That's my opinion, what's yours?

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