PACIFIC RIM got beat by a mediocre sequel starring mediocre people getting hit in their mediocre balls. But given the response to Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film, there can be no doubt which film will have more longevity. But this Journal isn’t just a review of PACIFIC RIM, but also of the film I watched in order to prepare for some robot-on-kaiju action.







gamera_postGAMERA THE GIANT MONSTER (a.k.a. GAMERA, GIANT MONSTER GAMERA, DAIKAIJU GAMERA) (1965) – A fleet of military jets drop an atomic bomb in the arctic, which causes the earth to open up. Gamera, a prehistoric flying turtle thought previously to have only existed in legend, is brought back to life by the blast. Contrary to initial expectations, the radiation does not kill the turtle, but also gives it the power to breathe fire, consume heat and atomic energy for fuel and propel itself through the air with a series of jets. The world is looking for a solution to their Gamera problem, and the major world governments decide to work together to combat the threat. But through it all, there is also a little boy named Toshio, who mistakenly believes Gamera to be his lost pet turtle, Pee-Wee. For reasons that are unexplained, Gamera is indeed protective of Toshio and Toshio’s insistence on wanting the best for Gamera puts him in considerable danger.

GAMERA was Daei’s answer to GOJIRA (a.k.a. GODZILLA), and was inspired when the head of the studio claimed to have seen a vision of a flying turtle while traveling by plane. Though Gamera does cause quite a bit of damage and does irradiate a few people, the tone of the film is considerably lighter than Toho’s monster. The film does not portray Gamera as a vengeful force of nature like Godzilla, but as a misunderstood monster with an insatiable appetite that causes untold destruction. It’s interesting that Daei introduced children to their kaiju franchise from the start, while Toho would do so later on.

As a kid, I had only seen the washed-out, blue-tinted dubbed print of GAMERA that drew a great deal of justifiable ridicule. Seeing it restored, in its original aspect ratio and with the original Japanese language is a major revelation. The film is considerably more impressive and entertaining than previously believed. Shout! Factory, a.k.a the best DVD company out there right now, did a good job with these a few years back and those prints are worth seeking out.  ★★★ (out of ★★★★)






pacific_rim_ver10_xlgPACIFIC RIM (2013) – In the future, a rift opens up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Monsters called “kaiju” spill out and wreak havoc on our world. In order to combat this, all the world governments get together (something that was shown in GAMERA and other films of its type) and develop giant robots called “jaegers” to combat the beasts. This film starts out with an insanely long and incredible pre-credits sequence that would almost be enough for most films by itself. Instead, it’s just the warm up. The real action picks up five years later when the jaegers are being retired because the politicians believe that simply building a wall to keep the kaiju out will be a better idea. Naturally, this does not work out, but the bureaucrats are slow to admit their mistake. General Pentecost (Idris Elba, in his best performance yet), now working without any government funding, salvages the last four jagers and sets up a base in Hong Kong. Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam – SONS OF ANARCHY, FRANKIE GO BOOM) is brought out of early retirement to help lead a mission that Pentecost hopes will close to the rift for good.

Of course, there’s a lot of other stuff going on too. For one thing, Raleigh has to get a new co-pilot, due to the way jaegers are piloted. The perfect fit is Mako (Rinko Kikuchi – THE BROTHERS BLOOM, ASSAULT GIRLS, BABEL), but there are reasons why she might not be as ideal a fit as Raleigh believes. There are also a couple of scientists, including one (Charlie Day – HORRIBLE BOSSES, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) who believes he has a way to discover crucial secrets about the kaiju. And there’s all sorts of personality clashes with other pilots and with Pentecost himself. In fact, PACIFIC RIM’s only real flaw is that even at 131 minutes, it felt like more time could have been devoted to these side stories, which would have given us an even greater dramatic oomph along the way.

Instead, PACIFIC RIM is a “rah rah” movie. It’s giant monsters vs. giant robots and a whole lot gung ho attitude along the way. It’s STARSHIP TROOPERS without the irony. And why not? This is a geek dream come true. Director Guillermo del Toro knows how to take a silly premise and bring a certain amount of intelligence and grace to the project while preserving the pulp aspects. The influences are right there – “kaiju” is the word the Japanese use to describe beasts like Godzilla, Gamera, King Ghidorah et al and also the name given to that particular genre of film. PACIFIC RIM is a technological marvel that never stops being gorgeous. It’s a two and a half hour adrenaline rush. If you’re not grinning from ear to ear, it’s because your mouth is agog, staring at the screen in wonder.  ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)

Want a second opinion? Check out Jesse’s review HERE!

How about a third opinion? Austin wrote a review too! – RIGHT HERE!



Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 244

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity! New episode available now!

Categories: Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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