Objection! – Pacific Rim

Judge: Welcome ladies and gentleman to another edition of the “Objection!” In this week’s episode, I Judge will square off against Starshine on just how good the film Pacific Rim (review here) was. I will take the stance that while entertaining, it was just another monster vs. mecha movie. Nothing extraordinary.

Starshine: While I will be arguing that not only is it a great movie, it’s looking to be the best film of the summer blockbuster season.

Judge: Ok. First things first, I think it’s only natural to explain why you think it’s a great movie.

pacific-rim-poster

Starshine: I think it’s great because it shatters a lot of Hollywood cliches. It is a completely original film with original world building and characters. There are some fantastic practical and CGI effects, and has original monster and robot designs. It is well rounded, well written, and well shot. Its not hard to see why in a sea of remakes and adaptations, critics are in love with it. Why don’t you think it just another genre film?

Judge: I mean, monsters vs. mechas has been done quite a lot. Maybe not as grand and visually stunning, but it’s nothing new. From a design standpoint, I also don’t see why they’re so special. Monsters are monsters. They look a lot like stuff from Japanese monster flicks (which the film itself was inspired by). Someone even pointed out the fact that Otachi is awfully similar to the Cloverfield monster. The mechs are hardly amazing as well. Nothing ground breaking. It’s not revolutionary like a Gundam or a Macross mech (Valkyrie). Or even a Knightmare Frame.

I don’t see the original characters or how they break cliches. Mako, while the most likable character in the film, is comprised of a few stereotypes. Girl loses everything as child. Girl becomes badass fighter. Girl gets revenge. That’s been done before so many times. The one thing she has going for her is that not a single thing was said about her gender in regards to her capability, which was nice. On a side note, I can’t stand the continual Hollywood “White guy + Asian girl” motif they got going.

Raleigh is also very cliche. And a weak lead. The rest of the cast is composed of stock characters. Charlie Day’s role was humorous at the very least.

And even in a sea of remakes and super high budget films, Pacific Rim is still underperforming at the box office. While I do agree it is one of the better films this summer (and year), that’s not saying much in a weak year for movies thus far.

Starshine: Unfortunately, the best movies don’t always make a ton of money. I’ll be the first to admit that the marketing was absolute crap – the only reason I went to see it was because of word of mouth. Otherwise I would have passed it over. Not to mention everyone went to see Grown Ups 2 and Despicable Me 2.

As for Mako, the big thing is, in part, that no one makes a big deal about her being a woman. But there’s more. Unlike Black Widow or Cat Woman, she doesn’t have to be thrown into a sexy outfit, or rather she isn’t, just because she’s a capable fighter. And yes, the revenge plot line has been used a lot in cinema – mostly for men characters. To have a woman have AN ACTUAL PLOT LINE was so great. Mako isn’t a weak, wilting flower because of her traumatic experience, she is smart, capable, strong, she wants to help and she does. She’s also not perfect – she has flaws, and her first time in the suit is a disaster. She’s an actual character – that is so refreshing. Raleigh, I think, is sympathetic. And at least those stock characters are multi-cultural.

But down to business, the human characters are not central in these films – the monsters are. The monsters might look similar or familiar, but you have to admit, on screen they look damn amazing. The same with the robots. They are well rendered and entertaining. The fight choreography is spectacular, and the effects are great.

It's all just so pretty! Even if it is a murderous monster out to destroy humanity.

It’s all just so pretty! Even if it is a murderous monster out to destroy humanity.

Judge: Yes they are great. It’s very entertaining, and my inner nerd enjoyed it. Hideo Kojima even called it the “ultimate otaku” film. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. Everything has been done before. I don’t necessarily agree that the character aren’t central. Yes the movie is about monsters vs. mechas. But what makes the best mecha shows? Human drama. Stock characters just don’t do it for me.

In regards to your Mako analysis, I can think of a few revenge or strong women plot lines. Jodie Foster in the Brave One. Charlize Theron in Monster. Hillary Swank in Milion Dollar Baby. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens. Unless you’re only referring to science fiction/fantasy. In this case just Ripley and maybe Alice from the Resident Evil series. So it’s not like Mako is unique. People just tend to forget when things are out of sight out of mind. There’s probably more I’m forgetting.

This movie falls in line with me personally like Avatar: spectacular visuals and uber entertaining but awfully cliche and thin as paper in terms of plot.

Starshine: As a film buff, I can honestly say there are some movies that are great without the human drama aspect. In fact, some movies are ruined by it. And even the stock characters are well written, at least. Better than I could says lot.

First of all, Charlize Theron was a serial killer in Monster, so that doesn’t count [Judge’s notes: Why doesn’t this count again?]. Ripley and Sarah Connor [didn’t even mention her] fall under the “strong mom” archetypes so defined by the presence of children. Alice definitely doesn’t count [why not?]. Black Widow and Catwoman [didn’t mention these either, so why are they brought up?] barely get back story or character. There are lots of women out for revenge but its blind revenge, all consuming and proven often to be their downfall. Mako’s desire to fight does stem from revenge, but also a desire to fight for humanity, to save the world, to make her adopted father proud too. She’s complicated in her motivations in ways that are unique.

You did not just compare this movie to Blue Space Pocahontas. This is well written, and at least American audiences, innovative and new. The plot is a little on the trite side but it has the emotional power to make you feel for the characters, and understand where they are coming from.

Cameron's greatest achievement in mediocrity.

Cameron’s greatest achievement in mediocrity.

Judge: And as a mecha/monster buff, this is simply nothing special. It really isn’t. Ultimately, the consensus is similar to that of Avatar. It is a visually stunning popcorn film with little substance. Audiences on various sites and forums aren’t in love with the characters; they’re in love with the awesome visuals.

I think you’re extremely biased for Mako. Which is fine. But she’s not as unique as you make her out to be, regardless of whether other female characters fall into archetypes or not. It has been done is the point. I didn’t necessarily feel her overwhelming desire to fight for humanity as much as revenge for her family. She even yells in freaking Japanese, “For my family!” Yeah…

del Toro is a great writer, although this honestly isn’t his best work. Both Hellboys and Pan’s Labyrinth are way better. It’s an acceptable film. It did however accomplish its goal of interesting this genre to American audiences.

Pictured: Starshine's new favorite character.

Pictured: Starshine’s new favorite character.

Starshine: I still think comparing it to Avatar is a bit much. The world building is much better, the script is better, even the characters are less obnoxious.

I’d rather have a female character who doesn’t have to be a sexual object with complex motivations and an actual background over the other models we’ve seen, especially in sci-fi. There are well written female characters, maybe I just didn’t expect it to come from this source. I’d rather see someone fighting for her family than a poorly written romance that no one gives a shit about.

I think what this film does better than any other film that I have seen this summer is that it really works as a solid, fluid piece with actual heart and real stakes. I was way more invested in this than I was with most of the films this year.

Judge: World building is better? Very debatable. Pacific Rim: Earth. Let’s add monsters. Let’s add robots to fight monsters! And the monsters are products of aliens! I hardly call that great world building. It’s cliche. Script? I think I mentioned it’s boring…and cliche. Characters I will give you. Even these stock characters were better than blue people.

The only sexual character I can think of in sci-fi/comic book/fantasy is Black Widow. Catwoman is supposed to be sexual. I didn’t even mention those in my earlier examples, so I don’t why you referenced them earlier. It’s not like there’s a ton of sci-fi/comic book/fantasy films in comparison to other genres. Princess Leia, despite her bikini scene (which was nonetheless done well), is strong. Officer Lewis from Robocop as well. And as I said before, regardless of the “mom” archetype, Ripley is still strong. Same with Sarah Connors. In the end, I don’t care if the character is male or female. As long as he/she is written well. Mako is good, I said that. Great? Groundbreaking? Nah.

And yes, I said this film is one of the best this year. But it’s been a weak year for movies. Nothing “wow.” That kinda diminishes the value. If this movie comes out last year, then it doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim. In the end, if you love it, great. Maybe I’m just too familiar with this genre. At the very least, there’s going to be a sequel. So we’ll see if that can ease some of my complaints.

Flashing news report before our eyes does not good world building make.

Flashing news report before our eyes does not good world building make.

Starshine: The world building is much better: Kaiju-Blue, the new trans-dimensional aliens, the neural bridge, the cities build around Kaiju bones, the black market, the end of human conflict–that’s not enough? Just because it’s on Earth doesn’t mean it isn’t cool and interesting. It doesn’t compare to the Amazon-forest planet which we know next-to-nothing about.

Leia is one the “strong” women who gives up fighting the resistance for years to try and save her man. And don’t tell me they put her in that bikini for the sake of art. Not to mention Lucas writes female characters the way I write about nail polish–rarely and not very well. I think Mako is essentially one of best characters in the film, and one of the best I’ve seen in a while. We can debate female action hero stereotypes another time, but at least we can agree she’s a good character.

And to be honest, I don’t want a sequel. I think the film should be left as it is. Stupid Sequel Syndrome is hard to avoid, and it would suck if this franchise succumbed to it. I distinguish between fun to watch and good, and this film fits well into both for me.

Judge: Hardly anything you mentioned was explained at all in the film. The terms were thrown out there and then left to sit. A lot of detail-oriented sci-fi people were irked by this, including me. Sorry, just introducing things may sound cool, but there’s little substance. So no, the world-building isn’t that great.

Leia gives up fighting? For her man? If I recall correctly, and forgive me if I’m wrong, ALL the cast go save Han. So…your argument is invalid. Also, I’ve always seen part of why they put Leia in the bikini is to symbolize a loss of control. She’s stricken down and everything looks dim. That’s my interpretation. For the rest of the film she’s fighting the good fight along with everyone else. So, yeah, the whole “giving up everything for her man” argument is extremely weak.

Like it or not, a sequel is on the horizon. We’ll just have to wait and see. And we’ll continue to agree to disagree.

As with most nerdy film debates, it all comes back to Star Wars.

As with most nerdy film debates, it all comes back to Star Wars.

Starshine: I thought that it presented a lot of opportunities, and showed that they actually thought things out. And until you can see the full cut of the film, you don’t know if they do more with it. They had two hours and did pretty well. I like it better than plot-dumps in poorly written dialogue.

Leia is a princess and shown to be one of the leaders of the rebellion. A LEADER. And then it’s like well time to leave my post in search of one of many people in the middle of a huge war for the future of the universe. Because it’s not like she’s a high ranking rebellion member with knowledge of secret plans and bases who is being sought after by the Empire. Its not like the rebels would all be in jeopardy if she were captured. Nope, not at all. My interpretation was that Carrie Fisher looks hot in a bikini and they were like. “Let’s go for it.” I’m not saying she doesn’t fight well or that she isn’t as important, but it just seems like her motivations are weak.

And a movie isn’t for sure until it gets released. Movies have stopped mid-production before, and it wouldn’t be the last time either. At least Hellboy 2 gives me hope.

Pictured: Hope

Pictured: Hope

Judge: We could just go on forever but it’s really time to end. Agree to disagree. I will quickly say the argument “until you can see the full cut of the film” is irrelevant. Completely irrelevant. We’ve been given a film and must judge the film. Not any supposed “full cuts.” Leia is a leader yes. But where, in any work of fiction, does it state as a rule that a leader is not allowed to do his or her own thing, if they so wish? Nowhere. That’s what I thought. A leader fighting alongside her “subordinates” is admirable. She’s part of the group, and she’s integral. IV she’s captured. V she’s forced to go on the Falcon and therefore is thrust into danger. VI she wants to save Han and in the final battle, instead of sitting back, she’s in the fray. Like I said, we can go on forever, but it’s best to leave it here I think.

Starshine: I just need to make one point. Having Leia “do her own thing” is like in Independence Day when they let the President fly a fighter jet at the enemy. LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. LETS SEND HIM INTO BATTLE. NOT LIKE WE NEED HIM TO RUN A GOVERNMENT [Judge’s note: since when does it state Leia is the leader of the free galaxy? The Rebellion is composed of multiple leaders]. And he didn’t even have important information the way Leia does [this was stated where? This is merely an assumption]. It’s not that she can’t do as she wants, it’s just plain irresponsible. Like I said, it’s not that she’s weak or useless, it just seems like a giant plot hole. But yes, agree to disagree.

Judge: Yes, agree to disagree. That’s it for this week’s “Objection!” If you have any strong opinions, feel free to share them with us in the comments! Until next time!

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Nick

Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

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