So this week we were watching Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel to Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro‘s film about giant robots (AKA jaegers) battling giant monsters (AKA kaiju) in and around the Pacific Ocean. Guillermo del Toro, sadly, did not return for this film, but the jaegers and kaiju did, oh yeah, you betcha.
Now of course I liked the first Pacific Rim, because, well, I like everything. But shockingly enough, my wife enjoyed it too, for reasons I don’t entirely understand. This happens from time to time. (See also Pitch Black, Ink, and Lucy, among very few others.) In this case, her enjoyment of Pacific Rim was entirely down to Guillermo del Toro’s visual and storytelling style, which is on display even in a movie that features erector sets the size of apartment buildings battling misshapen chitinous lumps the size of skyscrapers. Without del Toro’s involvement, could the sequel possibly measure up? Well, what do you think?
Now one of the first things that the new movie reminds us is that a jaeger requires two pilots to control it. My wife was immediately unimpressed, because, well, there are those who can run a complex metal suit all by their lonesome.
Wife: “Two pilots? Tony Stark doesn’t need two pilots.”
Me: “Tony Stark isn’t in this movie.”
Wife: “If he were he could run one of those things by himself.”
Me: “Well, Tony Stark is smarter than most people.”
The first action set piece of PR: U, and the only one we’ve seen so far, is a short fight between an ersatz jaeger named Scrapper (which was built out of junk by Amara, one of the main charactes) and a much larger actual jaeger named November Ajax*, which is operated by the Pacific Defense League or the Pacific People’s Front or the People’s Front of the Pacific or the Popular Front of the Pacific or whatever it is the defense force calls itself. I honestly can’t remember at the moment**.
Me: “That little one looks like some kind of beetle.”
Wife: “That’s what I was going to say! She looks like a June bug.”
(Small giant robot runs into giant giant robot)
Me: “Oh that one is much bigger.”
Wife: “I don’t know why, but this reminds me: Maps tried to send me through Camp Pendleton today. I turned around like a hundred feet before the checkpoint. So, yeah, Maps thinks you can drive through military bases.”
Me: “Do they have giant robots guarding the gates now?”
In an attempt to escape from its enormous pursuer, Scrapper’s pilot rolls the robot up into a little ball, pillbug-style, and attempts to carom to safety.
Wife: “Oh, it’s a Transformer.”
Me: “It’s not a Transformer, it just turned itself into a ball.”
Wife: “But it wasn’t a ball to start with.”
Me: “Well, no.”
Needless to say, the fight between Scrapper and November Ajax is brief, but visually impressive. If you are easily impressed.
Wife: “I could see a seven-year-old really liking this movie.”
Me: “Or me?”
Wife: “Or you.”
Once Scrapper is, unsurprisingly, defeated by November Ajax, Our Heroes end up sharing a jail cell, much to my wife’s puzzlement.
Wife: “I thought the giant robot was going to stomp on them.”
Me: “No, it just wanted them to stop piloting their unlicensed jaeger.”
Wife (beat): “Well that sort of takes some of the tension out of the whole thing, doesn’t it?”
Almost immediately, Our Heroes get sprung from juvie, after Mako (one of the main characters from the first film) becomes aware of their predicament and brings them in to become actual jaeger pilots. This is of course because one of Our Heroes, Jake Pentecost, is the son of another main character from the first film. But because none of these people is Tony Stark, my wife doesn’t remember who they are.
Wife: “Who’s that one again?”
Me (after explaining who Mako and Jake are): “You don’t remember the first one very well, do you? Besides the big robots and monsters?”
Wife: “Big robots and monsters describes a lot of movies you’ve watched. There were giant robots and monsters coming out of the ocean****. A giant robot in a trashy ghetto junkyard―”
Me: “You mean District 9?”
Wife: “Uh-huh … Let’s see … what other giant robot movies have you watched?”
Me: “How long have you got?”
As it turned out, she had about 20 minutes, and then she was asleep. I’m pretty sure she stayed awake for the original Pacific Rim in one sitting.
And that’s the difference between a film by Guillermo del Toro and one by just about anyone else.
* All the jaegers have names like this. I’m pretty sure they came up with them using one of those password generators that combines words to form longer passphrases. Here, let’s try generating our own jaeger names using 1Password:
- Whippet Delicate
- Spillway Retainer
- Penumbra Inkling
- Brim Arisen
- Handsome Bird
Hmm, yeah, we’re all gonna die.
**** This could bew the original Pacific Rim, or it could be Battleship, or it could be any number of other movies that I don’t remember at the moment.