Tuesday, 16 July 2013

I'm not angry, just disappointed...

The one thing worse than a bad film is a disappointing film. A film that wastes an exciting premise, throws away a great idea, that gives a good cast a bad script or smash-cuts and flashbacks through a plot riddled with gaping holes is a greater crime than just churning out a by-rote genre cliché. I mean, without a half watchable genre cliché movie, Bruce Willis would be a janitor by now, and everyone loves a Bruce Willis movie, you follow?
You can forgive a bad film, you can see them coming a mile away and know what to expect. Generally there will be a Kate Hudson or Sandra Bullock on board, perhaps even a Matthew Mcconaughey (although his recent form is a drastic improvement on the likes of Failure to Launch). Descriptions will include dubious enticements such as ‘heatwarming’, ‘feel-good hit of the season’ or even *shudder* ‘based on a true story’.
In 2012’s tidal wave of big ticket movie releases, Prometheus sadly left audiences slack jawed with disbelief at how little sense any of the last 120 minutes or so of their lives had made. In a franchise that has been more miss than hit, the 2 original films still created an expectation that Prometheus fell some way short of, hence the backlash of social media like this
This year, no doubt filling the Razzie nomination corridors with plenty of early buzz comes Pacific Rim. On the face of it, this looked epic. Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, harking back to the Japanese monster movies so much the aliens are even named after the genre and most of the film is set in Hong Kong, We see giant fighting robots against alien Kaiju (Japanese for giant monster) the size of skyscrapers, full 3D, a special effects bonanza. Who would not want to watch that concept as a summer action blockbuster? You’d have to be dead inside not to have a little stir of excitement at the previews.
And yet, sat in a near empty cinema on opening weekend I already had the sense that people knew something I didn’t. Let me precursor this first criticism by being clear that I abhor the mentality of people who go into films and comment ‘That would never happen’. This utter lack of imagination and misunderstanding of the fundamentals of film entertainment make me prone to violence. Films that stretch the fantastical can open windows into new worlds that we should peer through with glee and fascination. HOWEVER. Films that aim for sci-fi and end up a royal mess, endlessly contradicting even the central premise of the film are knuckle bitingly frustrating. Pacific Rim is constantly guilty of this, going off on tangents to set up bizarre plot strings to immediately cut them in half with the next sentence of dialogue. One minute the heroes are grounded, the next they are being cheered to a victory, one minute they can’t interface with alien technology, next they are flying through it, AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD when those robots keep jumping in the sea, why is it never more than knee deep on them while building size beasts can swim down into it?
Gripes of that nature aside, Pacific Rim feels so by the numbers it could have fallen straight out of the handbook. Del Toro seems to have made the film from a glued together pastiche of scenes of other movies, Deep Blue Sea, the recent Godzilla remake, Independence Day and Matrix amongst others have been chopped up, glued together and rolled out in what looks like a big budget episode of PowerRangers. The central concept is so formulaic it dropped straight out of a cookie cutter, with characters stamped out the same mould to match, ready for cardboard actors to be slotted in.
Brit Charlie Hunnam leads a cast of UK ‘talent’ who seem desperate to out-underperform each other. The acting is as wooden as the script is clunky. Even the normally charismatic and watchable Idris Elba struggles to offer any relief from the disinterested performances, as the cast of jobbing TV actors fail to summon up any more emotion than the robots they pilot. When the two ‘scientists’ appear things hit a new low, as deeper depths of cliché are dredged to produce a poindexter nerd and hand-ringing, stammering British professor, complete with OTT plumb accent, dontchewknowoldboy. Are we not past that now?
Del Toro is not alone in turning the inherent school boy appeal of giant fighting robots into utterly rubbish films. Michael Bay has managed the same feat in two of his three Transformers films, and Pacific Rim feels like as cynical an attempt to sell robot toys as that franchise was for Mattel.

This rant is born of an expectation that with Del Toro’s pedigree I expected better. Pan’s Labrynth was a
film as full of wonder and imagination as any creation of CS Lewis, interwoven with wrenching violence and the pathos of human drama to create an inspired and brilliant film. The Hellboy franchise captured the humour and action of the comic origins brilliantly, retaining that same flair for the imaginative touch with monster make up. The Troll Market scene in Golden Army makes Mos Eisly cantina regulars look like your normal next door neighbours. Surely a director who can put that together so brilliantly can knock up a better effort of a classic Japanese Kaiju movie? No? *sigh*.