In 2007, American screenwriter Travis Beacham was walking on the beach near Santa Monica Pier and imagined a giant monster and giant robot fighting each other to the death. He later conceived the idea of two pilots controlling this giant robot, and asked himself “What would happen if one of these people dies?”. Intrigued by the idea, he wrote a 25-page treatment. One year later, Legendary Pictures bought this treatment, then titled “Pacific Rim”. Director Guillermo Del Toro (the man behind the badass “Blade II”, the fantastic “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” and his Spanish-language masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth”), intrigued by Beachman’s treatment, made a deal with Legendary Pictures to co-produce and co-write the film. Five years later, “Pacific Rim”, which started as a simple idea during a walk on the beach, is now a summer blockbuster. Ah, the power of imagination. And film production companies. And money.
On December 14th 2012, the first official trailer for “Pacific Rim” went viral on YouTube, and viewers worldwide went APESHIT! Amazed by the state-of-the-art special effects, they blogged, tweeted and non-virtually asked themselves questions like “How did they do that?”. One man, however, asked himself “How can WE do that?”. I’m not sure who this man is, and honestly, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that on June 24th 2013, approximately two and a half weeks before “Pacific Rim” opened in American theaters, “Atlantic Rim”….. I shit you not…… ATLANTIC MUH-FUCKIN’ RIM …. came out on direct-to-DVD. This mockbuster (i.e. low-budget rip-off of a popular, big-budget film) – or as I call it – Z-Make – is the latest film from visual effects company The Asylum, responsible for such classics as 2006’s “Transmorphers” (I can imagine the gut-busting laughter during the marketing pitch for that movie), 2010’s “Titanic II” (which is NOT a sequel to James Cameron’s 1997 magnum opus “Titanic” , in case you were wondering), “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies” (not to be confused, of course, with “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”) and the SyFy Channel’s original movie “Sharknado” (which I WILL be reviewing very soon. Scout’s honour).
And now for the MAIN EVENT!
First, from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, with an estimated budget of $190 million, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Hellboy himself, Ron Perlman, it’s the giant robot vs. giant monster smackdown “PACIFIC RIM”!!
And its opponent, from The Asylum, with an estimated budget of $500,000.00, directed by Jared Cohn and starring Graham Greene, William Shannon Williams (real name), David Chokachi, Jackie Moore and Treach from the legendary rap group Naughty by Nature, it’s the wannabe giant robot vs. giant monster smackdown “ATLANTIC RIM”!!
“PACIFIC RIM” – The true original out of the two competitors kicks off tonight’s main event. Set in the 2020s, “Pacific Rim” begins with an inter-dimensional portal opening at the floor of the Pacific Ocean. This portal unleashes gigantic creatures called Kaiju (Japanese for “monster”), that wreak havoc and destruction in different parts of the world. The leaders of the world put their petty (I guess) rivalries aside, unite and create the Jaegars (German for “hunters”), gigantic humanoid mecha controlled by two pilots. These pilots are mentally linked by a neutral bridge, which allows them to share each other’s memories and past experiences, thus making them more efficient in navigating the Jaegar. The Jaegar project is a success, as Kaiju after Kaiju get their asses whooped – so to speak. However, due to budgeting issues, the Jaegar project is discontinued and humans have resorted to building massive walls to protect themselves from possible Kaiju attacks. Four Jaegars are deployed to Hong Kong where the construction of a coastal wall is nearly complete. Stacker Pentecost (AWESOME NAME!!) (Idris Elba), commander of the Jaegar forces, is determined to end the war, which he plans to accomplish by destroying the portal. But to do that, he needs the best Jaegar pilots at his side. He persuades retired ex-Jaegar pilot Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) to pilot the Gipsy Danger, the Jaegar he piloted years ago. Together with Mako Mori (played by the very pretty Rinko Kikuchi), Raleigh returns to the field….or sea or whatever….to wage war on the terrifying creatures which threaten humanity’s future.
Like the Guillermo Del Toro films that I mentioned above, “Pacific Rim” is a visually stunning movie to look at. Del Toro loves creating strange and unique worlds, from the amazing Troll Market in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” where creatures of all shapes and sizes populated the screen, to the dark, nightmarish Labyrinth of the Faun in “Pan’s Labyrinth”. The post-apocalyptic world of “Pacific Rim” is just as unique, with its neon-lit cityscapes, bleak exteriors and brightly-lit interiors. Primarily, the film is a homage to the Japanese-originated genres of kaiju (which started with the post-Hiroshima cultural icon Godzilla or Gojira) and mecha (an immensely popular genre involving robots). Del Toro has the utmost respect and admiration for these genres, and it shows in the film’s grandiose approach to its subject matter. Jaegars face off against Kaiju in SPECTACULARLY BAD-ASS fight sequences, the likes of which can be imagined in a manga/anime….or Saturday morning cartoon for that matter. Comparisons of these sequences can be made to adrenaline addict Michael Bay’s “Transformers” trilogy, but the differences between those films (with the exception of the first one) and “Pacific Rim” are that, simply put, the fights in “Pacific Rim” are better edited, better choreographed, easier to comprehend and far from sloppy. Also, the film skillfully uses size and scale to its advantage, making the viewer feel physically small in relation to the gigantic creatures and robots shown on-screen. The acting is exceptional, though there’s no standout performance or scene-stealer. The true scene-stealers are the Jaegars and Kaiju, and when they appear on-screen, they OWN the fucking movie! My gripes with this movie are few. Nearly all of these fights take place at night (and mind you, they look INCREDIBLE) but I would have loved to see a few more fights in the daytime to add some variety to the film. Also, the story, while well-written by Travis Beacham and Guillermo Del Toro, slows down in the first hour thanks to a section of expository dialogue and character development that I personally felt ran a bit too long. Finally, there were a few moments where the film took itself too seriously despite its anime/manga/Saturday morning cartoon premise, but then again, it’s an American summer blockbuster. If we don’t take gigantic robots kicking monster ass seriously, who will? In the end, “Pacific Rim” is exactly what it sets out to be, and exactly what you want it to be. It’s a live-action cartoon with human characters, gargantuan monsters and equally-gargantuan robots to annihilate them in epic fashion! And it’s also a triumph in visual storytelling and special effects that will have fanboys and fangirls all over the world worshiping Guillermo Del Toro (not like he’ll be comfortable with that though….since he’s Catholic and all). Hideo Kojima of “Metal Gear Solid” fame loved it, Kanye West called it one of the greatest movies ever made, and I call it a solid summer film that deserves to be experienced on the big screen….in 3D…..and in IMAX if you can cough up the extra money!
“ATLANTIC RIM” – You know those rappers who try to rap in a sing-song manner like Drake or use Auto-Tune to sing bullshitty choruses, just because they’re popular trends in rap music? And then they tweak these trends (usually by fucking them up entirely) just to appear “different”? Well, that’s what “Atlantic Rim” is: it blatantly copies the premise of “Pacific Rim” while trying desperately to be different. Creatures rise out of the Atlantic Ocean – their origins never explained – and the military hires these three self-righteous caricatures to kick their asses. They’re so full of themselves that they walk majestically cliched slow motion towards an Army jeep, just to get a free ride to the military base. It takes about half a minute, in case you were wondering.
With their gigantic robots (nicknamed…I think… Red Bot, Blue Bot and Green Bot by their users – which is funny since Treach from Naughty by Nature gets the Green Bot – ’cause he be smoking weed in his spare time and shit – apparently), the trio fights gigantic creature after ugly, unimaginative gigantic creature. It’s the equivalent of watching an episode of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” (which, as you should know, is inspired heavily by the kaiju genre). Even the robots themselves look like something out of the Power Rangers TV series.
The Asylum could’ve made a toy line based off this movie. If only they had the money. Ah well.
The story is dull and uninteresting for its 81-minute running time. An oil rig is sunk thanks to some creature whose origin is left unexplained, and our three Zords…oops, I mean, heroes….are sent to investigate. Afterwards, more creatures attack and our heroes are forced to step back into their robots (which run out of fuel quickly, leaving them incapacitated and immovable, by the way) shout orders at each other and save the day. “Atlantic Rim” is really fucking lame, but the cheesiness and corniness of the film itself makes it watchable. Feel the joy as ‘Red’ (played to a douchebag-level extent by David Chokachi’) dances with his potential love interest Tracy (Jackie Moore) at a party, while footage of death and destruction inter-cuts their scene together. Smell the tension as Jim (of ALL the names in the world, you’re going to call Treach’s character JIM?! Really?!!) saves a girl from a building engulfed in After Effects-rendered flames, and tells her that his superhero name is Superfly, because he’s “gonna fly her out” to safety in his Green Bot. HUH?!!! Gaze in amazement as the trio, powered by metallic headbands connecting themselves to their machines (*COUGH*rip-off of neutral bridge in “Pacific Rim”*COUGH), swing their arms wildly in order to get their robots to move their arms to fight the creatures. And connect emotionally with ‘Red’ who, after being placed in solitary confinement for insubordination (this montage runs for about a minute, but I assume he stayed in there for no less than 5 minutes before his superior enters the room), keeps his spirit and determination up by pacing up and down the room, doing push-ups, writing something on a piece of paper at a table, shadowboxing and screaming at the guard outside. It is the FUNNIEST scene in the entire movie! I replayed this scene about FIVE TIMES, and laughed my ass off every time! Yes, I said ‘replayed’. This movie is available for download on the torrent site of your choice, so hopefully, you won’t see the need to buy it from the bootleg DVD distributor of your choice for $10.
If you enjoy watching bad movies, especially with friends, you’ll find lots to laugh at in “Atlantic Rim”. The special effects are crappy, the story is poorly-written, the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue is nonsensical. Examples include: “Jesus H. Christ! I’d love to be watching the news tonight”, “Tell him it’s too late! It hatched!”, “We jammed that sucker! We JAMMED it!” , “What is this on my sonar? It looks like a mermaid” and my favourite line “WHOA! I GOT A WARHAMMER!!” But thanks to its over-seriousness and lack of tongue-in-cheek humour (which most SyFy Original Movies contain. by the way), “Atlantic Rim” is a movie that you won’t be watching again….or at all.
Oh, and by the way, Mr. William Shannon Williams, Samuel L. Jackson just called. He wants his eye patch back!
“PACIFIC RIM” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)
“ATLANTIC RIM” – 1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked!”)