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Thursday, April 17, 2014

PACIFIC RIM (2013)

Guillermo del Toro’s latest would-be blockbuster is just about the glitziest GODZILLA pic e’er imagined. But don’t kid yourself, it’s still a GODZILLA movie. Or rather, a GODZILLA vs IRON MAN . . . er, make that GODZILLA vs AN IRON MAN BUILT FOR TWO movie. Give Toro credit for getting this mammoth thing off the ground, a 200-mill CGI monstrosity that zips you quickly thru a complicated backstory and onto the current mission. In brief: Monsters from the deep have returned in Attack Mode and only a program to revive some antiquated Giant Weaponized IronMan Machines can save Earth! Alas, Toro has a lot less success in finding characters (or actors!) who can run his little movie as well as they run those manned robots. Leading man Charlie Hunnam, presumably cast on his slight resemblance to Heath Ledger, is a hunky incompetent blank, a non-actor with zero chemistry for his screen partners. (‘I’m not getting any vital signs,’ someone says after he’s been injured. Too true.) Better results come from a trio of cheery hams, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day and especially Burn Gorman, the memorable ‘Guppy’ in tv’s BLEAK HOUSE/’06. But check out the clean, elegant design in the artist’s rendered poster right above to see in comparison what a bloated mess this became in production.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Go back to Toro’s THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE/’01 to see what a boon smaller budgets can be for storytelling & visual imagination. Or, if you really need a GODZILLA fix, go for the Japanese cut of Ishirô Honda’s original GOJIRA/’54, as fine & central to Japan’s post-war psyche as KING KONG/’33 was for Depression-Era America.

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