(M) Paramount DVD/BD
What does one say about Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi monsters vs robots actioner other than that it is a ten year olds dream. And that it knows it wants to be a big blustery blockbuster of the highest order. So the script is a little clunky and there’s a surprising amount of Australian actors who I’ve never heard of in high profile roles. It’s just big dumb fun.
Let’s face it the film’s main selling points are its robot/monster smackdowns across ludicrously large landscapes on a preposterously large scale. The effects budget was obviously what chewed on the budget, with no high profile actors on the roster there was money to save where the talent was concerned.
The story was conceived by del Toro himself – obviously channelling his inner ten year old.
When I first saw the trailers a while back I have to say that it looked a little silly. Gigantic robots manned by people looked a little they were doing tai chi looked like those early nineties Power Rangers episodes.
The storyline is quite simple: In a terrified futureworld, spindly-limbed, whale-sized beasts emerge from a Hellmouth on the ocean floor and duke it out with immense robots called Jaegers because using military might means too much collateral damage. The robots are run by two-pilot teams whose movements are in sync – mind melded to the machines. They work in pairs because they use their minds and bodies to guide the machines in the way that puppeteers guide puppets, and the technology is too complex for a single brain to handle.
The creatures began attacking years as we are told in the prologue). Humans created the robots to engage them directly, before the creatures, called Kaiju, could make landfall. Over time the beasts have become bigger, nastier, more resourceful, as if they’re evolving.
And now they seem to be winning. Humankind is in retreat. With a countdown to all out war and the end of civilisation there is one more plan to save humanity.
You know the drill, every blockbuster from Independence Day to 2012 has dealt with the destruction of the earth and humanity winning out in the end.
With all its blustery action and melodrama I found it hard to believe it was the work of del Toro and then I remembered he directed Hellboy. With passable performances and some patchy action sequences (some of the gigantic fights are too close in to really appreciate the scale).
Nitpicks aside, perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is there is some genuinely emotional scenes among the mayhem.
The hero, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) is an ace pilot who gave up robot-piloting for coastal wall-building when his partner and older brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) died fighting a monster. The pilots don’t just share physical responsibilities, they have unfettered access to one another’s memories, and must struggle not just to control their thoughts during combat, but to avoid being thrown off when their co-pilot lets a distracting or traumatic image slip through.
Raleigh thinks the bond he had with his brother can never be replicated, that his loss was irreplaceable. He learns otherwise when he’s paired with a young woman named Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who lost her parents in a Tokyo monster attack many years earlier. The story of their burgeoning partnership is not just that of pilot/copilot, but brother/sister, or friend/friend (but not boyfriend/girlfriend, refreshingly). It’s about learning to trust another person enough to allow their consciousness to fuse with yours.
So there are some take home messages with a side order of smash ‘em up. It’s big noisy fun that I imagine would have been a blast on the big screen.
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