[img]http://www.dvdsreleasedates.com/covers/pacific-rim-blu-ray-cover-18.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1); 1080p High Definition 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Max Martini, Ron Pearlman
I know I’m about a week late to the Pacific Rim party – which, in home theater timeframes, equates to an eternity – but I just couldn’t secure a copy of this title no matter which editor or press contact I asked up until yesterday…apparently, the disc was in that much of a demand by home theater media outlets. Like most, I wanted to see this theatrically as soon as I laid eyes on the trailers – mankind creating gigantic skyscraper-sized robots to battle equally-large beasts from an alien race? I’m totally in. But while the trailers suggested a hyper-kinetic visual mayhem-fest that seemed to prod inconspicuously on the territory already treaded by the likes of Cloverfield or Battleship, what the final product delivered was more suited for those totally comfortable with the Japanese monster film mythos and the entire world that revolves around – to fully get Pacific Rim, you must fully grasp that world of mythical Godzilla-like creatures, robotic heroes and the entire dictionary of references that comes along with…something I wasn’t prepared for nor did I know such a passionate, cutthroat subculture even existed regarding this phenomenon. For one, I was scratching my head – before I watched the plethora of extras delving deep into this mythos and the world of director Guillermo del Toro that was included even on the one-disc version I sampled – trying to figure out who came up with the words “Kaiju” and “Jaegers” and why the whole sci-fi blanket was laid on so thick here when I assumed this was a good old fashioned monster flick in the style of the aforementioned Cloverfield. I must say – and I know I am going to be in the sheer, unfortunate minority here…so please don’t stone me to death too harshly! – after sitting through the much-anticipated Pacific Rim last night, I don’t really get what all the hoopla has been about; sure, it’s an over-the-top production from a visual standpoint with some of the most expensive, lavishly-prepared and executed special effects and CGI work ever put to screen and the incredible fight sequences between man/machine and the Kaiju creatures from what del Toro calls the “interdimensional portal” on the floor of the Pacific Ocean were way cool…but something here just didn’t click for me. Parts of Pacific Rim just got downright silly, especially those involving the ridiculously hammy Ron Pearlman and his “Kaiju body parts dealer” character and there was way too much heavy-handed “suspension of disbelief” element applications in which we’re forced to accept in this near future, humans need to “sync up” with other humans in order to control the gigantic Jaegers they’re in, sharing brain waves and such…a bit too much in my opinion.
What Pacific Rim ends up coming across as is a stylized, dressed-to-the-nines hybrid of Battleship, Cloverfield, Real Steel and Tron, taking Asian monster mythos templates and adding human adversary elements in a way no Godzilla film could touch. Actually, out of the films I mentioned, Pacific Rim is more like Battleship in that it suggests the threat of hostile alien life is going to come from the seas, not the skies, while mixing in futuristic Tron-esque overtones right down to the glowing cycles of light seen all over the production of the film – there are a few creatures our heroes meet in the film that smack so much of whatever that thing was in Cloverfield with its wildly rampaging tail and city-devouring claws. While in interviews the overrated (in my opinion) del Toro says he was going for more of an “adventure” film rather than a typical brooding, dark summer alien blockbuster while introducing American audiences to the world of “Mecha” and “Kaiju” genres, I think Pacific Rim went a bit too far with the science fiction – we’ve seen this mistake made before such as with Oblivion and After Earth but here the “futuristic adaptations” are nearly off-the-wall in scope.
What do I mean? Well, to begin with, we get an opening narrated sequence that explains to us that in the not-so-distant future (this ends up being circa 2020) hordes of massive, almost prehistoric-like creatures named Kaijus have emerged from an interdimensional portal on the Pacific Ocean’s floor and have begun a war on Earth and mankind. As we watch monuments such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge get torn to pieces by these almost city-sized monsters, the narration (presumably by the film’s main character played by Charlie Hunnam) informs us that in order to combat this threat, the best scientific and military minds created almost-as-massive robotic conveyances called “Jaegers” (I couldn’t help but keep thinking of “Jaegermeisters”) that were pretty much successful in fighting the creatures and keeping them at bay for the most part. The catch? It’s been discovered that these Jaeger machines need to be “piloted” by two humans (trained military personnel types) because of their sheer size and functioning capabilities and not only that, the two humans need to be mentally synched to each other in order to make these machines work (I didn’t really buy this and thought it was the sillier element of the film; with all this technology, why couldn’t robotic drones be created to fight the monsters alone? Did they really need humans in these “cockpits” simulating punches and kicks in order to make the Jaegers operate? And couldn’t they come up with a better name for these things?). It also seems that as the Jaegers were built bigger, stronger and faster, the Kaiju have adapted and themselves grown stronger and much more powerful. Thus, a new defense needed to be created lest humankind merely gives in to the alien attack from the sea floor and that as they say would be that – the humans, however, put up massive defense walls in places like Sydney, Australia (remind you of the Jerusalem wall in World War Z?) in an attempt to keep the Kaiju out. The “Jaegers” as explained to us are gigantic, skyscraper-sized humanoid-driven robotic-esque machines (or “humanoid Mecha”), each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge.
The opening sequence of the film depicts our main character and hero, Raleigh Becket (Hunnam), narrating these events occurring to futuristic Earth and operating a Jaeger with his brother when a fight between them and a particularly nasty Kaiju ends up killing Raleigh’s brother when he’s sucked out of the Jaeger by the creature, leaving Raleigh to fend and fight for himself. He ends up limping the injured machine to a beach coast where it collapses in front of a boy and what appears to be his father or grandfather, the injured pilot spilling out of it and also out of consciousness. After losing his brother, Raleigh retires from the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and looks to become a construction worker, taking assignments that find him joining teams that are building the defense walls around the world. At this point, Pacific Rim begins to feel all too much like those quasi-futuristic thrillers that have entertained us for decades like Running Man or Demolition Man or even Total Recall (especially the remake version) what with the sets of construction sites heralding the “good of mankind” propaganda sprawled all over them. Into the picture comes Idris Elba’s “Stacker Pentecost” character, once a Jaeger pilot but now a commanding officer in the Defense Corps who ends up realizing he needs to once again find Becket and bring him back into the program after being told by his superior officers that the Jaeger program may be shutting down due to its ineffectiveness against constant Kaiju attacks. Putting together a sort of secret team of some of the best Jaeger pilots around the world, Pentecost manages to get Raleigh back into the military fold while exposing him to the Hong Kong-based Jaeger building facility responsible for cranking out some of the most powerful Jaeger robots ever seen. Once there, he meets friendly and not-so-friendly specialists that have driven their respective Jaegers successfully during many missions – and he also meets the lovely and mysterious Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), a beautiful Asian girl who was traumatized in her childhood by a Kaiju attack and who shares a secret bond with Stacker Pentecost. Now, Mori is acting as a training assistant to Pentecost as they attempt to put a formidable team together for one last all-out assault on the monsters from the sea. During a rigorous training exercise (which I didn’t quite get because these people are going to be strapped in simulator-like contraptions when driving these robots anyway), it’s clear Raleigh is the best fighter of all the pilots, beating each one he comes in contact with in mock matches. When he finally goes to-to-toe with Mori, he seems to have less luck beating this talented lady than with any of the guys that came before her in the training. Becket wants Mori to be his co-pilot in the restored Jaeger Pentecost is going to put them in (the original Jaeger his brother died in during the film’s opening sequence named Gipsy Danger) but Pentecost refuses, citing Mori’s childhood trauma and the fact that it may lessen their chances of survival.
Meanwhile, two goofy scientists working for the Corps have been experimenting with Kaiju body parts in an attempt to understand them better (a la Independence Day) and it’s suggested by one of them that the Kaiju are of “one hive” (a la the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation) sharing identical DNA and therefore should be infiltrated via a mind link up much like what the Jaeger pilots do before beginning their missions. Of course, this is dismissed as being ridiculous by Pentecost but eventually the military leader agrees to send this scientist to find “Hannibal Chau” (Ron Pearlman), some violent nutjob living amidst the slums of Hong Kong with access to a slew of stolen Kaiju body parts. His mission? To get a secondary brain from one of the creatures and which Chau no doubt has and attempt the linkup (at this point, the science fiction gets really, really thick and the whole thing begins to feel like a re-re-remake of Total Recall). Chau proves not to be so easy to deal with or talk to (and Pearlman’s Hellboy-esque performance doesn’t help either) but the real problem comes when this goofball scientist Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) figures out that the military’s plan of nuclear-bombing the rift that separates Earth from the Kaiju world beneath the ocean won’t work, and he must try and warn the pilots before beginning their mission.
At this point, Pacific Rim explains the different “categories” of Kaiju creatures and attacks – much like an earthquake scale or hurricane rating – and it’s suggested by the scientists working with the military that an attack of untold proportions is coming, with bigger and badder Kaijus unlike nothing they’ve ever encountered. With this threat looming, Pentecost sends in a group of Jaeger teams to confront and engage the creatures rising from the ocean just off the coast of Japan, each of which are defeated violently by the Kaiju monsters, some of which take on shark and dinosaur-like characteristics (something del Toro talks about in the extra documentaries on the disc). With really no other options, Pentecost goes against his better reasoning and sends in the last two pilots in their revamped, restored Gipsy Danger Jaeger, Raleigh and Mori. The two originally find themselves with mental linking problems, Mori getting locked into a painful memory from her childhood while Raleigh must endure everything she’s feeling and seeing due to the neural link, but eventually a one-on-one fight between nasty, giant, evolved Kaijus and the Gipsy Danger ensues, destroying all of Hong Kong along with it as the gigantic Jaeger smashes, stomps and throws the creatures all over the city, the creatures responding in kind and delivering quite the wallop to the somewhat aging robotic machine. Eventually, one of the Gipsy Danger’s arms is ripped off, crippling the device for a bit but through determination the two pilots manage to fire the primary onboard weapons of the Jaeger (pretty cool) at the attacking monsters, rendering the situation stable…for the moment.
The pilots eventually make their way down below the surface of the water where killer Kaijus are forming to stage a deadly final standoff with the humans but the plan – to utilize the Gipsy Danger’s nuclear-powered chassis as a self-made bomb to eliminate the Kaiju threat once and for all at the source, the interdimensional portal – is warned against by scientist Geiszler who arrives back at headquarters from his meeting with Chau just in time (and after a nasty Kaiju brain linkup session) to attempt to stop the Jaeger soldiers from doing what they’re about to. At this point, former pilot Pentecost gets back into the Jaeger game, substituting for a co-pilot in another Jaeger that’s supposed to assist with the Gipsy Danger’s mission of dropping the nuke – but this goes against severe health issues he has had ever since his last grapple with a Kaiju…issues that guarantee his death should he ever step inside another of these robotic devices.
You know the way it goes though, don’t you? Pentecost must die a hero, sacrificing himself and breaking the promise he made to a then-young Mori whom he saved from a Kaiju attack years earlier, leading to his taking in and raising of the child, while we’re lead to believe that at least one of the Gipsy Danger pilots are killed on this final mission. The nuclear-loaded solution is dropped to the bottom of the interdimensional abyss, crawling with nasty-looking Kaiju, but did our heroes drop it in time? Did the plan work, sealing off and ultimately destroying this portal so these creatures could no longer prey on mankind? And what of scientist Geiszler’s theory that in order for this plan to succeed, the Jaeger pilots would have to somehow disguise themselves as Kaiju and pretend they’re traveling in Kaiju “apparatus”? If you haven’t seen this yet, you’ll have to find the answers to these questions yourself.
I really, really wanted to like this. From the opening frame when Hunnam is narrating the situation between Earth and the Kaiju and we get a glimpse of some cool fight sequences between the monsters from the ocean and the human-piloted robots I thought this was going in the right direction – however, the narrative begins to get a bit silly as the running time moves on, with gobs and gobs of science fiction fantasy syrup thrown on in such a copious way it became too thick to be enjoyable. Where Battleship and Cloverfield were truly about man versus alien, Pacific Rim is way out there in a stratospheric, almost psychedelic world of Asian-sourced monster mythos tales and underlying subculture themes difficult to really grasp unless you are fully prepped in the origins of such material. Apparently, there’s a whole culture that worships this “robotic response to monsters coming from the sea” phenomenon (primarily in Asia) but the whole “pilots need to move their Jaeger machines as if they’re pedaling a bike” thing was totally lost on me for whatever reason. I wanted this to be a buy…but alas at the end of the day it was not for us (my wife actually fell asleep on it).
[img]http://www.digitaltrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Pacific-Rim-movie-review-5.jpg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Where the film itself hiccupped and stumbled a bit in cohesiveness, the technical presentation bestowed upon Pacific Rim’s Blu-ray release by Warner was almost beyond reproach – beginning with the nearly flawless, opened-up 1.78:1 widescreen presentation which filled my 16X9 display without letterboxing, the film exhibited inky, rich, rock-solid blacks; saturated colors where appropriate; heightened levels of detail in facial close ups and such and an overall clean, blemish-free look. Every lick of the roaring Pacific Ocean during the fight sequences were rendered with remarkable clarity, showcasing the individual layers of the CGI work when they were on display; likewise for the robot and creature designs themselves, which came across on this 1080p encode vividly and in almost stunning fashion. The fight sequences, as shot by del Toro and team, were done in such a way that the Kaiju and Jaeger appear to be brawling in a near-slow-motion fashion and the transfer relayed this perfectly.
At times, unfortunately, there’s just so much going on here that the visuals begin to get jumbled together and you have one of those “what am I looking at?” moments – but Pacific Rim is pure eye candy from beginning to end, and Blu-ray is the best way to sample it. The scale of the creature designs…the intricacy of the Jaeger exteriors…the raw detail in environmental shots depicting ground, soil, water and foliage…it was all here and on excellent display. To be honest, I don’t really know what to say in a negative sense about this transfer. The almost cartoonish look of the battle scenes and scope shots of the robotic Jaeger came across beautifully, as well.
[img] http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pacific-rim6.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
In what is an occurrence I’ve yet to experience with the Blu-ray format, Warner has made Pacific Rim on Blu-ray available with both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and 7.1 option – while this is perfect for folks like me who don’t run a 7.1 arrangement, it was a curious addition that I had never seen prior to this release. Selecting the 5.1 track from the startup menu, I was greeted by a monstrous, heavy presence that shook my room and set the stage for what was to come: This was an aggressive, stomping, in-your-face audio experience that has been sorely lacking from some titles that have come out as of late (yeah, World War Z, I’m talkin’ to you…). Each crash and thud of the Jaegers' feet was accompanied by wallops of thick LFE that sent waves crashing into my walls, actually requiring me to turn the master volume down as to not disturb my sleeping wife and dog (my wife fell asleep not even halfway into this) which was a refreshing change; likewise for the Kaiju attacks which were accompanied by just-as-formidable cues.
All over the soundstage audio fired at me during Pacific Rim’s run time, the screeching of the monsters as they’re beaten by the Jaegers filling the surround channels at every turn while the crashing and splashing of ocean waves carved a realistic sound print from channel to channel – incredible sound design usage here. From beginning to end, this was an encompassing, even jarring, sound mix that bordered on true reference material in my opinion – it also made me wonder about these “dumbed down” 7.1 mixes on my system and the phenomenon some of you have discussed with me regarding it. That is, when 7.1 tracks are played through a 5.1 setup and the audio tends to “lose something” in sheer impact – not just in the directionality cues of the rear (where the issue should remain because realistically, all that’s being “lost” is some directional information baked into the back surrounds) – it seems on almost every 7.1 Master Audio-encoded title I own (Avengers, Thor, World War Z) the audio tends to be lacking in sheer, heavy “presence”…just missing that elusive “hit-you-over-the-head” quality that titles like G.I. Joe: Retalliation exhibited in spades. By selecting the 5.1 option on Pacific Rim, the experience was spectacular – however, I didn’t actually compare the 5.1 mix to the 7.1 track so I’m uncertain if that would be the difference…
If you’ve seen this, let’s discuss! Do you agree with my findings? Disagree?
As always, fellow ‘Shacksters, thanks for reading!