Self-Contained Fulfillment

Pacific RimPacific Rim (2013)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro

Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko
Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman

Rating: B

Amusement parks—your Six Flags, your Canada’s Wonderland—I’d like to think we all love them, or at least aspects of them, for the sense of wonder, thrill, and overall happiness they can provide. For that brief moment in time, be it waiting in line, being on a ride, or just strolling through the park itself, you are confined to a place that is not of your world anymore. It’s an escape from the daily grind. It’s just you and fun, together again.

Pacific Rim returns you to the depths of fun you always knew you could have, but perhaps stopped having after the age of about twelve.

I could spend some time summarizing the plot of the film, but I wouldn’t need much of it: welcome to a world ravaged by Kaiju and the Jaegers we designed to fight them. If you’re not on board with the mere concept of gigantic monsters fighting huge mechanical robots (respectively), it would be wise to skip this altogether, because you will not be getting a subtle character study. Our heroes are two mentally interconnected pilots, played by Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarcy) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) with their own set of thinly developed personal baggage, led by their stern, yet legendary leader Idris Elba (The Wire), while working alongside the comedic stylings of Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and the always eccentric Ron Perlman (Hellboy). Given the talent amassed for this film, it’s ultimately a shame that no one truly rises to the occasion. And how could they? None of the actors are nearly as engaging (or their characters as insanely detailed) as the Kaiju or Jaegers that surround them, Ultimately, it’s that aspect of the film that doesn’t seem to work in the bigger picture; and make no mistake: this is a huge picture.

I’m inclined at this moment to plug Travis Beacham’s prequel graphic novel to the film, Tales From Year Zero, as the more nuanced and better balanced work, at least in establishing the world and the characters. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Guillermo del Toro, who first caught my attention with Blade II (2002), has been an almost consistent filmmaker in regards to shaping his vision, be it with Hellboy (2004) or Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), or even with his lesser known films such as Mimic (1997) or The Devil’s Backbone (2001). With Pacific Rim, he enters entirely new terrain: the $200 million dollar summer blockbuster, and more or less, he delivers a product that he should be immensely proud of; it’s a labor of love to a genre that Hollywood has never seemed to have gotten right. It’s pure self-contained fulfillment, and del Toro, known for perfecting/revitalizing any genre he touches, knows this very well. Alongside writer Travis Beacham, he’s created a world that is a joy to witness and inhabit. There’s no doubt a plethora of backstory that was left on the cutting room floor (a reported hour is said to have been trimmed from the final cut), and dare I say, the film could’ve greatly used that time to fine tune the more human elements, because it already more than brilliantly captures and realizes the monster/machine dynamic. This film is a cinematic amusement park, full of groundbreaking and showstopping use of CGI, and entire stretches of screentime devoted to your mouth being agape in sheer awe of the spectacle before you. While you’re in it, you don’t want to be anywhere else, and when you’ve left it, it remains a fun, but distant memory, that you won’t relive until you revisit it again.

It’s the end of the world. Where would you rather die? Here, or in a Jaeger?

you can call me frankenstein.

Kicked out, burned out
No respect I’m turned out
Lungs smoked out
Heart strings choked out
Tell me, you think you have it bad now?
Cause I’m drinking til I pass out
I’m not a doctor, but diagnose this
I’m thinking I need an overdose, quick

You’re think you’re invincible?
What were you before me? Invisible.
Sorry I made my own monsters
What happened to all your long stares?
I don’t think you belong here
But what do I know, this isn’t my year
Come back on my team, player
And I’ll give you the future, soothsayer

You pour your regrets in me
While still forgetting me
Only a lightning rod usage
Lone survivor in God’s wreckage
I try so hard to please
I mean it’s my fault you’re diseased
Cause you grow like cancer
And I’m forgetting what my plans were
I thought I made it out alive
But the second coming has arrived

So hold on hold on Mr. Fair Weather
You think you can fare better?
Being there isn’t the same as drinking there
Why am the one overthinking here
It’s not like you’re a sell out
Cause that’d require worth, nah,
you can get the hell out

I know, I know you’re so chill, man
Wrecked so bad you can’t even stand
You get brain like zombie thanksgiving
You dish’s pain and you keep on giving
I’ll find a way to end you though
Ill put you back where you belong, below
Even if I let you chose
Think, what have I got to lose

You think all I know is how to fuck
Ya you forgot one part, it’s fuck you up
Like me, you’re shit out of luck
Let me teach you how to not give a fuck
And I know I have to make it
Cause I’m done putting up with the same shit
Break free of my catch 22
I’m done trying to have you

Trajectory

Late shift, night drive, calm skies; lights on the road keep following me home, so I don’t need a chaperone, I’ve got a GPS on my phone, but its battery’s almost dead, wasted traveling on closed roads, in cold circles with a warm friend, pedestrians, and locals. I go to weddings, less to impress, and more to dress up like a Reservoir Dog, a Mr. Brown trying his best to be a Mr. White, but I’ll always be more Quentin, and never be Keitel, sitting at the kiddie table getting weird looks from a four year old, who doesn’t wish to share his markers or his coloring book, as I watch my best friend get married, and later make a toast; head table’s full of Rum and Coke.

Calm skies, and I wonder where you are, probably looking out at skyscrapers from your balcony window. I don’t like living in cities that aren’t near home; it’s a fear of getting lost in the fear of the unknown. Seat belt strap makes me feel like Leonardo, but I’m no longer a leader, my katanas rest on the dashboard. I wish Canada had more flavors of Snapple. I hope wherever you are, that you’re looked after. Calm skies, and I no longer wish to wonder. You’re an Earth angel, I’m the Devil’s advocate, trying to lay the ground work, only to find out that the game is rigged; we were always a Super Mario glitch, didn’t help that you never blew on it, so I pause on your screen, and then I quit.

A bandaged nose will always remind me of Chinatown; that’s not racist, that’s just Nicholson, that’s not creepy, that’s just Polanski getting inside my subconsciousness. You never heard me, and I never listened, we both needed therapy, but we liked all the dramedy. I’m in love with the first lady with all her no’s and all her maybe’s, she says she doesn’t want to lose me, and I tell her she doesn’t have to worry. I’m not the same me as last year, I have the same dreams I once feared, but I’m different now because she’s near, and reality is better than it appears. It’s better than twenty year old’s showing off their passports, while I’m showing off my asshole personality; it’s complex, because I’m probably the oldest looking dude they ever met.

Run wet fingers through my hair, but no one’ll see it, that’s a relationship that stays between me and my mirror, where I look at me, but I know that he’s not there. My trajectory was tragedy until you inspired me to not care. You know what’s really hard? Reunions. I’ll probably never get the cast to come together from my favorite show. Now I’m left to watch old wedding videos, where the only special effects are the time and date on screen, alongside colorful text next to familiar faces no longer found in digital frames, but confined to negatives tucked away in albums from the past. People always want their outcomes to be better than their output on what will always be their outlook of the things they now outgrow. I used to read the lines on your hand, now the only lines I read are formed on tables by my bedside, atop unfinised scripts and unfulfilled wishes.

Anniversary

When I was young, and people went on vacations, I traveled up north, and went up to see my cousins, because they told me friends weren’t important, so I guess I never bothered to make close ones. So it was funny when we eventually kind of fell apart, that drifting away from family seemed so painless, and all the drama caused seemed pointless, but at least now I have best friends. My neurologist said that I’m finally happy, and on the road to recovery. She asked me what the big change was, I told her I was finally getting sleep. I haven’t had a migraine in a long time (excluding heat or hunger), and this is probably the happiest I’ve ever been since last September. I guess it really is all about perspective.

Who the hell are you, and what have you done to Jack? 2008 called, it wants its hope and change back, with no receipt, you are not worth the refund; you’re a shadow of what you once were, you’re just a painful reminder of the division that you caused with everyone. A year ago, you wrote of reboots and ransom notes, about never eating cake because they said you couldn’t have it too. You spoke of dreams never coming true, both the ones you were having, but also the ones you were forbidden to. It was an overreaction, your doc never happened, it never came to fruition because of a sidetracked mind focused like a looper assassin; like a lost generation; like the things that should’ve remained deleted, and never had any quantum, so be quiet, your people make it sound like “chud up,” which is kind of like the double negative motto of Barney Stinson. You’re a failed Coen Brothers’ film, ladykilled by intolerable cruelty, and your idea of c’est la vie is driving a CR-V. Scrapyard the Altima, save the date, come back to us, this site runs on your spite, you love to hate anniversaries.

I admit I used to be lovesick, but now I’m just a Sikh boy. I watched silently as war broke, as dreamers were slayed by loving glances, not meant towards them, a drama queen’s advances; it was simple, yet complex, but a failure nonetheless. I was always lacking sympathy for the timeless, and only finding fear of a timeline disrupted because of a failed mindset. Looking for a revelation, I took solace at the red door, prayed for intervention, and now I’m asking for a clean slate from everything that I’ve written. I’ve finally reached the pearly gates, survived the autopsy, now I’m rising like a phoenix, with this collaborative combating sickness. I was drowning in subtle water, now I’m searching for meta balance, hoping that these inside jokes turn me into an insider, who lives his dreams from the page to the screen, and doesn’t know what’s real or a filmed memory.

Z-Day

World War ZWorld War Z (2013)

Directed by: Marc Forster

Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan,
Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof

Cinematography by: Ben Seresin

Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale

Rating: B

Full disclosure, part one: I’ve read and greatly admire Max Brooks’ novel, but as with any so-called adaptation, I fully expect the two mediums to stand alone. Would it have been great to see the book done justice? Of course, but I don’t believe it’s possible in two hours, that too in a summer tentpole film such as this one. That book deserves a massive undertaking akin to the intricacy and care of something like Band of Brothers. So while the film is essentially the book in name only, that should not and does not detract from the experience.

Full disclosure, part two: I was never fully on board with the idea of a zombie apocolypse. In films, it fell into the genre of horror, and I actively avoided such cinema; while in television, I’d say it wasn’t really being attempted until recently with the acclaim of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Even with my uncertainty towards the genre however, I’ve seen and enjoyed my fair share of them, from Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), to 28 Days Later (2002), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Planet Terror (2007), and Zombieland (2009). I’m inclined to think that what draws me to these particular films is their approach to the material. Yes, they’re all stories about the undead, but what separates them is that they rise above the mere gratification of gore and violence that’s to be expected of them. Some are character/social studies, while others are novel comedies, but all of them require an understanding of vision, an appreciation for all that came before, and the innate realization, however terrifying, that this could actually happen.

From its opening credits sequence, brilliantly rendered over Muse’s “Isolated System,” and containing sequences of world events/news stories laying the groundwork for what’s to come, the film gives off a vibe of eerie realism shrouded in simplicity. That continues for much of the film, as we follow Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), an ex-United Nations employee who finds himself going from a traffic jam in Philadelphia with his family to following a terrible pandemic around the world hoping to get back to them safely at all costs. World War Z takes that internal conflict to a global level, going from Philadelphia to Newark, to South Korea, Jerusalem, and finally Wales, all the while succeeding in not only thrilling, but engaging an audience with its ability to create a fascinating spectacle, yet never losing complete sight of its personal stakes.

A lot of that has to do with the brilliance of casting a literal swarm of unknowns. As entire cities plunge into darkness, we’re left with the only person we can identify with: Brad Pitt. I’m sure that elicits a laugh from some of you, but as I sit here, I can’t think of another actor out of Pitt’s contemporaries who can still play the everyman so effectively and effortlessly. I mentioned in an earlier review that Tom Cruise did it in Oblivion, but unlike Cruise, Pitt doesn’t have entire franchises to carry on his shoulders (though this is looking to be a contender). This is the Brad Pitt of Babel (2006), a family man who isn’t exactly up to the task he’s been given, with the only difference being that this time around, his reluctance is backed up by his former skills at the U.N., which themselves aren’t made clear, but this is where Gerry’s mantra of “Movement is life” is applied heavily in the film.

The sheer scope and scale of this film is where director Marc Forster shines. This is a man who is, unfairly in my opinion, maligned because of Quantum of Solace (2008), when in reality, the man’s got a track record of creating some really good films, from Monster’s Ball (2001), Finding Neverland (2004), Stranger Than Fiction (2006), and The Kite Runner (2007). He understands what it takes to both create and invest in a world, while still propelling the story forward. The film is frantic, frightening, and at times, deeply unnerving. While somewhat limited with its PG-13 rating, what it lacks in immense gore, Forster makes up in with an excellent dispay of tension. He stages the action in a way that is engaging, but highly panic-inducing, all because it feels real. The horror lies not in the visceral, but in the mere vision of it going viral.

Witnessing a Philadephia street erupt into chaos after an explosion is downright nervewracking because it’s unexpected. Our introduction to these creatures (smartly never referred to as zombies until much later in the film) is somewhat humanizing even when inhuman acts are being committed all around us, because any one of these people could be us. Watching them literally kamikaze themselves in front of military fire in South Korea, or come crashing down like a tidal wave in Jerusalem (the film’s standout action set piece), is both astounding and afraidly unsettling; so much so, that when the action in the third act returns the narrative to a more personal touch, the audience mistakenly might think it’s a welcome change of pace, when in fact it still never lets up on one’e pulse. This a film very much in the vain of Contagion (2011) and 28 Days Later in thought, but I’ll admit, it’s execution at times seemed to struggle with the summer blockbuster tag it’s been fitted with. There are some big ideas on display here, but they’re not always given the time to really develop, and that extends to certain characters (I’m looking at you, Matthew Fox). Despite that, it remains a smart and thrilling picture, delivering everything one would expect of such fare.

Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has.