Somewhere between the minds that created Japanese Manga, mecha beasts and Hell demons comes Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Offering a glutinous feast of sight and sound for all the senses, Hollywood’s latest entry into the monster movie cannon is the personification of the Americanized Japanese blockbuster. While the spate of recent apocalyptic fare has offered up cynicism with its dose of explosive, Del Toro’s monster flick has far more optimism written in. Like the historical nature of the Japanese monster movie, there is a very clear definition between good and evil, and much of the characters’ hope comes from the promise of a rising sun.
Pacific Rim is massive, both in size and detail, and throws the viewer into the middle of the coda from the onset. Humanity has been thrust into a titanic battle with giant monsters that have emerged from the depths of our oceans. These leviathans (known as Kaijus) came through the seas and have forced humanity to build equally terrifying mechanical beasts (built as Jaegers) in retaliation. This exposition comes very quickly in the opening stanza of the film, and before you can dig in to your popcorn we’re shot 5 years into the present where the battle between man-made beast and beast is at its pinnacle. It’s a little bit of a shame we do not get the same gradual storytelling the way Independence Day unfolded, as while there is no time wasted before we’re into the meat of Pacific Rim, it would be have been a fascinating exploration into the reveal of these monsters if Del Toro would have spent more than 5 minutes explaining their sudden appearance on Earth.
The cast is led by the booming presence of Idris Elba, whose headstrong-into-battle marshalling of the supporting cast is a pretty decent homage to Bill Pullman’s noble Presidential turn in ID4 (right down to the motivational speech). Alongside, Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) portrays Raleigh Beckett, your everyman hero; talented and charismatic, leading the charge against the monsters. His occasional brooding is brought upon by the burden of his past, and serves as both motivation and a hindrance to his return into the Jaeger program. His new co-pilot is Rinko Kikuchi’s (Babel) Mako Mori, whose deft touch to deceiving Asian frailty is offset by her ability to nail down her need to kick-ass when required. Similarly, her backstory takes the audience to perhaps the film’s most touching moment- the young Mako hunted through the city streets by a Kaiju (played by youngster Mana Ashida, who already has 23 titles to her resume). There is a real terrifying sense of hopelessness and fear to her character, and it really takes the audience far into the film’s best human moment.
As humanity and their machines battle the beasts, we find that the Kaiju continue to evolve and that their end game is unexpected. It is up to two wily scientists (played with some timely humour by Charlie Day and with odd Britishness by Burn Gorman) to figure out a way to effectively end the Kaiju menace. From here, we’re treated to some of the most exhilarating and breathtaking big screen CGI battles we’ve ever seen, and there is almost an operatic tone to Del Toro’s vision. While Michael Bay and Zack Snyder are happy to punch you in the head for 2+ hours, Del Toro adds a little song and dance to the fold. From the oceans to the metropolis streets, the collision of steel and flesh unfolds in the most effective and detailed carnage yet. It’s beautiful destruction without the fatigue.
“Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction.”
Expectedly, there is some glorious cheese to the dialogue (and the Australian accents placed on the Australian Jaeger pilots are at times, excruciating), but Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham know that it isn’t Shakespearean context that will successfully connect all the action. It’s about being funny at the right times, being overly dramatic in others, and doing their best to be human the rest. Those who grew up with Japanese robot cinema, or even kooky television shows like Dai Sentai Goggle-V, will know that there is a youthful veneer to all the beasts and destruction. It says that while there is evil, there are good protectors that will defend and fight for the rest of humanity. And in contrast to all the computer generated modernity of the picture, much of Pacific Rim is old fashioned in its sensibilities.
With Del Toro’s eye for detail, some good casting and a seriously fun attitude, Pacific Rim does what films like the Hollywood version of Godzilla couldn’t do; make the ridiculous believable, exciting and at times, just immensely breathtaking. Go see Pacific Rim at the largest screened cinema you can find, where the audio is cranked up to 11, and where they’ll charge you an extra few dollars for 3D glasses. You will be entertained.
Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Written by: Travis Beachham, Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kickuchi, Charlie Day
Released by: Warner Bros.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a splendid coda to the Avengers
Save the world, save the girl?
Where do you go after Avengers: Endgame? The finale to an 11-year journey was always going to be a heavy exhale. But with much of the story finding conclusion, it was only natural that the next chapter would be something a little lighter, less fraught but still tense with importance. The question of responsibility and the burden of carrying it has been a fundamental principle of being a superhero in this universe, a burden that only continues in the final film of this phase. So where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go after Endgame? Well, on holiday of course. Spider-Man: Far From Home is not only a splendid film but a nice coda to the biggest cinematic undertaking we’ve seen in recent history.
You can find Spider-Man: Far From Home nestled in the cinematic landscape somewhere between Iron Man 3 and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, really solidifying himself as this generation’s best Spider-Man) is Clark Griswolding himself across Europe to chase the heart of MJ (Zendaya). As a bumbling 16-year-old who only wants to find the girl, his romance is cut a little short by the expected Marvel cinematic tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from our arachnid hero. Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Mysterio is a concerted effort; a cross between Tony Stark’s wise but too cool tutelage and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin (take that how you will). As the carnage across Europe unfolds, the film becomes a well-balanced juxtapositioning of the kind of humor we’ve found appealing within in the MCU and action and adventure that doesn’t become overly burdensome or heavy. Far From Home keeps things light and breezy, but you never forget the stakes or think that this is just a tacked on fling after the events of Endgame.
The cast are well rounded and the addition of Marvel players we’ve come to love (Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, Spider-Man sidekick Ned, and both Nick Fury and Maria Hill) makes it hit with almost the same gravitas as the previous films. But more importantly, they never make the film feel like an overstuffed mess that plagued outings like Age of Ultron. The pace is engaging, and as the story unfolds amongst the smoke and mirrors, you can’t help but feel a kind of comic book happiness that you felt through Homecoming. It’s charming, it’s earnest, it’s funny, and at times, doesn’t take itself too seriously (Spider-Man video game in-joke included!). Plus it has those little moments that while may have been written for fans, will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a touching moment, and good filmmaking. While the death of Tony Stark looms large within the narrative of the film, it doesn’t become baggage- but rather the catalyst for growth within Parker and helps propel the story to its conclusion.
However, one can’t help but feel that the continued presence of Tony Stark, and the reminder that he is gone, really does give this universe a sense of finality. If you stay for the end-credits (both scenes), you’ll know that Marvel has plans both big and small in the coming years. Far From Home is both the end and the beginning in a sense. It’s a nice coda to Endgame, and for some, probably a good place to step away from the past 11 years. Far From Home is also continued proof that heart and the desire to do good doesn’t always have to follow the same tired script. Save the world, lose the girl? Maybe not this time.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Colbie Smulders, Marisa Tomei
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Run time: 129 minutes
Film Review: Murder Mystery
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film.
Murder Mystery is the next film in the long line of terrible Adam Sandler films distributed by Netflix. At this point we’re not sure that Netflix actually watches these movies before they put them on their service but here we are. Murder Mystery, like many of the recent Sandler-helmed flicks, seem less like movies than they do lavish holidays that Adam Sandler and friends go on where filming of random skits tied together loosely by some semblance of narrative occurs. Much of the film is slapped together with the kind of duct-tape storytelling you’d find in all those mediocre SNL movies.
There is star quality though. Jennifer Aniston is back, after working alongside Sandler in 2011’s equally terrible Just Go With It, and they’ve roped in some pretty prominent names, including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit), Gemma Arterton, and a happily cashing in his check Terrence Stamp. What happens can be best described as stupid Cluedo, or more blatantly, a dumb Murder On the Orient Express where Sandler and Aniston’s characters, a bumbling New York cop and hair dresser, stumble upon a high-stakes inheritance-grab murder mystery where absurd things happen. It never makes much sense but the biggest problems with these movies are not so much the cartoony skits (Sandler’s cop is so bad at shooting his gun that when he does, it’s a cartoon-like hail of bullets missing their target), but just the insanely unbelievable characters that fill these movies. It’s OK to suspend belief, but at this point, you don’t believe for one second any of the characters would exist in real life or that any of them act like actual humans do. There is also no shortage of cartoon bozos: Fat New York cop sidekick? Check. Buffoony Inspector Clouseau French detective? Check. Overly Spanish Spanish guy? Check. Ali G Indian guy? Check. Even Gemma Arterton’s Jessica Rabbit-esque character would make Jessica Rabbit shake her head in disbelief. At least Rob Schneider isn’t in it.
Is it funny? No, but there are actually some moments worth a chuckle. And that’s already better than Sandler’s previous Netflix outings. Murder Mystery’s jokes are mostly at the expense of the exaggerated caricatures and Sandler’s goofy self, but for the most part, its pretty bereft of humor. To make matters worse, the film has that cheap Netflix sheen to it that makes it even more of a TV movie than it already is. In the end, the movie is such a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off that the end scene literally shows the Orient Express train. Unironically too.
Netflix’s has a serious movie problem- one that we’ve talked about before. Murder Mystery, is no different. You can’t fault Sandler for continuing down this path. Same goes for Aniston. Both have more than established their craft over the years that at times, you can’t help but feel envious of the position they’re in. So what if they just want to put their feet up, cash in a nice pay check, and enjoy the nice sights? Who wouldn’t?
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film, but it’s what happens when we’ve given this much clout to Netflix. Spielberg had a point when he said Netflix movies shouldn’t be competing for Oscars. It is not only because they eschew theatrical traditions, but it should also be because they’re crap. And not even in the Spielberg Artificial Intelligence sense of being an average movie- but in the Lifetime channel level of crap. So really, when you think about, Murder Mystery is all our fault.