Tag Archives: Pacific Rim

Thoughts on “Godzilla” (2014)

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This blog has always been known for its tendency to go against what most mainstream critics agree upon. Other times, it definitely agrees with them. Most times, it stumbles like an extremely indecisive dude who can’t seem to agree whether he will buy a pair of rubber shoes or a booster box of a Magic The Gathering cards. This entry feels somewhat in between because while I understand what the critics are positively saying about the latest Godzilla film, I still can’t over the fact that those critics seem to be deliberately ignoring certain problematic elements about the movie.

“Enough with the teasing, Evil Dr. Bok, you harlot you; did you like Gareth Edward’s Godzilla?” you mindless minions groaning in frustration as I make a long winded introduction to this entry. To that I reply, “If you were expecting giant monster fights ala Pacific Rim, then you will be sort off disappointed. If, however, you belong to those who have an excellent knowledge of the Godzilla lore from the original 1954 film to the more recent ones, who jizz at the very sight of Godzilla charging up for his radioactive breath attack, then yes, you will enjoy this movie IF (that’s a big if) you can forgive the fact that Godzilla has less screen time than the human characters.”

Anti-Nuclear Allegory

You see, one has to be in a certain mindset before watching this movie. Those expecting the kind of film where Godzilla fights other giant monsters might feel pretty underwhelmed when watching this movie because this film takes off from the 1954 version. And no, I’m not referring to the American re-edit title Godzilla: King of Monsters, but rather to the original Toho film starring Kurosawa veteran, Takashi Shimura. That Godzilla film was meant to be more of a sci-fi horror/disaster flick where Godzilla was indeed a monster, an unstoppable force of nature. It was meant to reflect the Japanese anxiety towards nuclear weapons and, for the time, one can only imagine the film to be extremely effective considering that it was released a mere 9 years after World War 2 ended.

Kaiju Battle Royale

So there we have it; the 1954 Godzilla was meant to address a present anxiety among the Japanese. It was with the sequels when the movie started to embrace the inherent ridiculousness of a guy in a rubber suit fighting other monsters; that was when the films supposedly became more fun. In other words, it was a film that didn’t take itself too seriously. Now, the first “true” Godzilla film I saw was the one film where Godzilla first teamed up with Mothra to defeat this alien monster. I was too young to remember precise details but I was pretty sure I was laughing my butt of with the sheer awesomeness of Godzilla drop-kicking the other monster. That’s the fun kind of Godzilla. To an extent, and I know some of you might violently disagree with this, but I actually enjoyed watching the terrible 1998 Godzilla. Yes it is the poor man’s Jurassic Park, and it was just a huge mess, but it is the kind of fun mess that I would want to watch drunk with my friends just so we can make fun of the film’s stupidity. In a sense, despite it having no relation to the Japanese Godzilla, at the film can still be enjoyed ironically with the help of a couple of beers and some boorish company.

Godzilla 2014 (SPOILER WARNING)

Which leads us now to the new Godzilla. I understand that it was meant to follow in the footsteps of the 1954 original, and for that, at least I can applaud them for echoing some of the post-nuclear anxieties of the 1954 film (the film’s prologue echoes the Fukushima disaster a few years ago). And the climactic Battle Royale with the two other monsters, was pretty satisfying (the radioactive breath’s introduction was pretty cool). However, this is where the audience’s patience will be tested for between the monster appearances and their fights, we are subjected to the human element of the story.

Now I know that I have said before that for a film to be effective, one needs the human hook; the investment towards the characters. This hook worked to an extent in Inception, The Expendables, and Captain America:  The Winter Soldier. These are summer blockbusters, but one they had which the current Godzilla didn’t are well developed characters (or at least, developed enough that they do not upstage the more brainless part of a summer blockbuster). Inception had Cobb wanting to return to his kids, The Expendables had Barney and Tool’s inner demons, and The Winter Soldier had the chemistry between Steve Rogers and Agent Romanoff. Godzilla, unfortunately only had Bryan Cranston who dies roughly 20 minutes into the film. Even if the writers’ intentions was to focus on the human element and their actions during a kaiju invasion, at least let the story have memorable characters that MAKE major and believable contributions to the plot. Other film reviews also mention Jaws and the Spielberg influence in Godzilla. I thought that the reference was invalid as Jaws had Chief Brody, Hooper, and Quint. Aside from Heisenberg, which human character stood out in Godzilla? If I were to summarize this portion in phrase, I would echo what my friends and I said about the first Transformers film, “More Godzilla, less humans.”

Closing Words

I may have been a bit harsh on the film as I enjoyed certain portions of it. The three-way climactic fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs was pretty fun. It was just unfortunate that the film had us wade through the sludge that was the boring human story elements for almost 90 minutes before we got through the kaiju fights that have been teasing us since Godzilla’ arrival at Hawaii. But heck, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings book even as it had me go through 2 to 300 pages of walking, unpronouncable names, and scenery descriptions so who am I to condemn this film. That said, if you are indeed one of those hardcore Godzilla fans, or is simply willing to wait for 90 minutes for the giant monster extravaganza at the end, then consider this a recommendation on my part. Otherwise, stick to Pacific Rim or even the old Godzilla films if you want more no-holds barred kaiju action.

The Year Ender Post of 2013

Hey, it’s the end of the year and my gosh has it been a year; the year when I left the singlehood despite my geekish and grumpy tendencies, the year that I finally got to teach literature among high school students despite poetry being my “math”, the year that I finally got to record podcasts with friends, the year that… “Okay, Evil Dr. Bok! We appreciate the fact that all these things happened to you, but what about the movies?!”

Oh yeah, sorry about that. Yes, I acknowledge that I was not able to update this blog as much as I wanted to because of life stuff; don’t worry, nothing too serious happened, but there are just too many stuff happening at work and at post post-grad school that I wasn’t able to review that many films this year. Regardless, here’s my Tops, my Bottoms, and my Honorable Mentions. As usual, my Honorable Mentions aren’t necessarily the movies I loved or hated, but rather these are the films which I thought should be mentioned for the sake of exposure. As for my Tops and Bottoms, they aren’t arranged in any particular order.

Top 5 for 2013

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1. Pacific Rim: My mentor complained that this film is plagued by the Transformers syndrome, that is “too many humans, too little Transformers”. While I do acknowledge that problem with Pacific Rim, that the human story isn’t entirely too impressive, and that there were certain plot-holes that could have been ironed out some more, it doesn’t change the fact that this film is quite possibly one of the most stupidly fun and entertaining films of 2013. Sure there were more human drama than giant robots and monsters fighting, but at least in the latter category, this film delivers.

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2. Prisoners: Man was I unprepared for this movie. Sure it takes its sweet time for the story to unfold, and there were scenes which, arguably, went on for too long, but I stand by my argument that if this film were paced faster than it already is, it would have been one of the most tiring films to see for the year. The timed and tested premise of a father taking matters into his own hands to look for his missing daughter and the cop assigned to solve the case works in this thriller. The police procedural took a backseat for this one; instead it focused on the effects on the individuals affected by the tragedy. Once more, the examination of the human condition put in extraordinary circumstances makes for great stories, and Prisoners is definitely one of those great stories for 2013. And speaking of extraordinary circumstances…

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3. Gravity: This again is one of those films: an astronaut gets stranded in space and has to get back home safely even if Fate (or Providence) had been quite shitty to her. While some praise this film for being deeply profound (it’s not, I’m telling), I enjoyed this because of the direction. For a film to be able to hold your attention for 90 whole minutes with minimalist casting is an achievement.

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4. Olympus Has Fallen: This could have been Die Hard 5 as it follows the classic Die Hard formula: a group of lowlives hijack a place, and a lone meathead kills them one by one. Okay, maybe that’s an oversimplication, but it still delivers some solid action set pieces.

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5. The Last Stand: Are you serious? Do I really need to explain why this film is in this list? Isn’t the poster enough? Okay, fine: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sheriff who has to prevent an escaped drug lord from heading back to Mexico because… Oh screw it, it’s the Governator killing bad guys and Peter Stormare, and that’s awesome!

Honorable Mentions

1. The Conjuring: I feel bad that James Wan is leaving the horror genre because The Conjuring is proof that despite having the most cliched horror script (minus the more obviously stupid characters which plagued horror films), atmosphere, build-up, and the ever important human element is what makes horror movies terrifying.

2. Ender’s Game: This is a film adaptation of one of the most influential science-fiction novels of all time. Despite Gavin Hood‘s rather lackluster direction, at least shadows of Orson Scott Card‘s brilliance found its way into the film.

3. Man of Steel: This is neither a Christopher Nolan film nor script; this is a film directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer. As such, you can expect certain issues in plotting and even logic, but where a solid story fails, Snyder and company make up for it in the spectacle. Yes, this is a “sound and fury” kind of film, but at least we finally get to see the Last Son of Krypton slug it out with ridiculously overpowered bad guys.

4. G.I. Joe Retaliation: This could have been side by side with Pacific Rim, the only issue being that I didn’t have that much with this. Regardless, the film fixed certain issues with Rise of CobraRetaliation is a live-action cartoon, nothing more, nothing less.

5. Thor: The Dark World: While I wasn’t too impressed with Iron Man 3, at least this film managed to put on some pretty impressive worldbuilding. It’s still nothing compared to the first one by Kenneth Branagh, but it manages to expand on the world of Thor. That and Tom Hiddleston once more steals the show.

Bottom 5 for 2013

1. Evil Dead: I really wanted to enjoy this film, I really do. But the one thing you do not do in a film about blood, dismemberment, and gore is to take it seriously. Put stupid characters, but wink at the audience; let them know that this is a whole joke and we’re just having fun. You do not tell the story of a recovering addict and make the possession a metaphor for the distrust friends have towards a junkie, most especially if the title of the film is Evil Dead!!!

2. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters: This would have been more forgivable, but again it committed the same mistake Evil Dead did; it took itself more seriously than it should have. Plus, I don’t see how Hansel and Gretel turned out to be the best witch hunters in the country, considering that they spent most of the time being thrown around by the witches. “But surely the action sequences are fun?” you asked, to which I reply, “No. They’re generic, they’re boring. Pirate this film some more.”

3. The World’s End: Now take note that this movie isn’t as badly made as the first two choices in this list. Rather, I’m placing this here because this is one of the BIGGEST LETDOWNS of 2013. The charm which made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fun is gone in this installment. Simon Pegg’s character is one of the most unsympathetic characters around, unlike Shaun and Nicholas Angel from the first two Cornetto films. And my goodness, that argument with Bill Nighy’s voice is one of the preachiest dialogues in recent film history.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Same complaints with no. 3, as this is a pretty big letdown. You’ll know something’s wrong when all I can remember from the film while watching it on 48fps is that the higher frame rate isn’t as distracting as it was in An Unexpected Journey.

5. Blue is the Warmest Color: Just watch porn. I’m sorry, but if this film happens to be the best movie of 2013 according to the Cannes Film Festival, then I wouldn’t be surprised if some  actress wins awards for her extremely believable facial expressions during coitus. “Wait, Dr. Bok; didn’t they award Halle Berry an Oscar for his performance in Monster’s Ball?” … … … Yup, Western Civilization’s going down.

Happy New Year, fellow minions! 😉 Here’s to the film industry for 2014: may the bubble that is superhero movies not burst yet. 😛

Pacific Rim (A Review)

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*This review contains some minor spoilers.

All I can say about Pacific Rim is that it seems to have been made by someone who understood what makes giant mechas fighting giant monsters fun. It’s not so much as adding as much computer generated mayhem on screen but also adding a basic human element alongside the spectacle. Granted, the storyline might be derivative from every blockbuster out there, and that the plot almost feels like an extended Saturday morning program (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers come to mind). However, director Guillermo del Toro knew what made the genre fun and so he goes all out on the fun factor for this particular outing.

The Good

The biggest draw to this film was the idea of seeing giant monsters slugging it out with giant robots. That alone is the reason to watch the movie. In that aspect, the movie delivers well. The visual effects don’t overwhelm the story, they serve a purpose. Despite my appreciation of Michael Bay’s Transformers, these robots look and feel more real than Optimus Prime, Megatron, and Bumblebee. A jaeger’s footsteps send tremors to its surroundings, and so does a kaiju’s. Both the jaegers and the kaiju feel colossal. These creatures feel more like the CGI armies in The Lord of the Rings than the robots in Transformers; they have depth. It’s not just a CGI robot; it’s a fully functional CGI robot. And if that alone just describes the scale, wait till you reach the slugfests.

We see a jaeger using an oil tanker as a sword (I shouted “Power Sword Now!” in that sequence). A jaeger has rocket-powered fisticuffs, and upon making contact upon the kaiju, its snot, skin, and others comes flying from its face. Kaijus are sliced in half and blown to bits with an ion cannon. These descriptions should be sufficient.

As for the acting, while it’s not exactly Oscar worthy, they function well for the story. Some might complain that the characters are too cartoony or cliché, that they are more of sketches than actual characters. It doesn’t matter, it fits the story. It’s a live action Saturday morning cartoon, so it’s only fitting that everything about the movie feels like a cartoon. While it’s not bad to brood about the meaning of life (ala The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel), it wouldn’t fit in a movie whose single premise (robots vs. monsters) is the main reason for watching it.

The Bad (minor spoilers)

I don’t believe in perfect movies (even The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings and Leon the Professional have its issues) and Pacific Rim has its share of problems. However, while the rest are, for me, more nitpicking than actual criticisms, the biggest problem of the film would have to be the 3rd act underwater fight. Coming from the extremely exciting Hong Kong fight, the underwater fight near the dimensional rift seems a bit uncreative and, to an extent, overlong. Some argued that the 3rd act fight was meant to highlight the sacrifice and the not the slugfest, but if that’s the case, then how it was presented seemed to be a bit off. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t entirely bad. It’s just, coming from the previous fight, one expected an escalation. As presented, however, it just felt a bit anticlimactic.

The Verdict

As a whole, however, none of the more problematic parts of the film are deal breakers. Despite the anticlimactic feel of the 3rd act, the film’s presentation of the 2nd act slugfest mostly undoes every wrong thing about the film (plot holes included). The film set some expectations about what to expect and it delivered on it. My personal take on it when asked if it has a stupid story was this, “Story? What story? I came to watch giant robots fight giant monsters! That’s good enough for me!”