Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013)

WHO: Guillermo Del Toro co-wrote and directed this.

WHAT: I've seen a few more stereotypical "summer movies" this year than I usually do. Perhaps it's because, with the (temporary) closure of the Embarcadero and the (sadly permanent) closure of the Bridge and the Lumiere, there are fewer arthouse options calling me to the cinema this summer than in prior years. So far my favorite of the gargantuan-budgeted studio releases, my favorite has been the widely reviled The Lone Ranger, which I hope to make time to write about before it disappears from local screens- but that day is not today. So instead, Pacific Rim. I can't say I liked it very much, other than a few touches revolving around the fairly well-handled Mako Mori character.

If you want to read a generally favorable take on Pacific Rim that is nonetheless rational about some of its shortcomings, there's probably no-one better than Vern to provide it for you. But my friend Dennis Cozzalio (from whom I have brazenly borrowed he above still, hoping he doesn't mind) sums up my impression quite nicely:
Del Toro's monster mash makes a hell of a racket, but it goes nowhere, and not particularly fast at that. The sinking feeling I got from watching the trailers, which was dissipated somewhat by some of the decent reviews, came back very quickly as I waited for the endless battle sequences to amount to something-- anything-- but the conclusion of Pacific Rim ends up as routine as everything that came before it, and just as exhausting as well.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens multiple times daily at the Balboa through Thursday, and at many other theatres throughout the area through Thursday and beyond, although its screen count will drop Friday to make way for the next would-be blockbusters.

WHY: Why feature a movie I didn't particularly care for on a day when there are interesting films (albeit unseen by me) playing at (for example) the Stanford or the Roxie?

Because it seems like a perfect opportunity to remind readers of an upcoming screening of the film that more than any other Pacific Rim owes its existence to. Of course I speak of Ishiro Honda's 1954 Godzilla, which has its own remake on the way, but more importantly screens at the the most palatial movie venue on Frisco Bay in just over two weeks.

The Paramount Theatre in Oakland was designed by Timothy Pflueger's firm and erected in 1931, making his company's Castro Theatre design from ten years prior seem like a mere warm-up. It's quite a bit larger and more elaborate, not to mention better preserved than the Castro (where the ceiling paint is noticeably peeling, as a friend pointed out to me as we sat in the balcony this past weekend). But it's not an ideal venue for movies in which making out lots of dialogue is, er, paramount to appreciation of the film (I still have bad memories of a showing of His Girl Friday there), as, last I checked, the audio track can be muddy with certain prints. Thus it's used more frequently as a concert venue (its sound problems don't seem to extend to live performances for some reason), and is ideal for silent film screenings with live accompaniment, as anyone who attended Napoléon there last year will attest.

I've never known the Paramount to screen a foreign-dialogue film with English subtitles before, however. Godzilla will screen, I understand, in its original Japanese-language version, with subtitles translated and prepared by Michie Yamakawa and Bruce Goldstein in 2004. This might work. This might be awesome. With the energy of a big enough audience there, it WILL be awesome.

Akira Ifukube's score and Godzilla's signature vocalizations should come through fine, and if the dialogue doesn't it won't be much of a problem for English-language readers. As usual at the Paramount there will be a cartoon, newsreel, and live organ performance beforehand. Best of all, the show will only cost five dollars a ticket. At those prices, your budget may be able to also afford the cocktails available to be enjoyed in style in the glorious Grand Lobby or one of the ornately Art Deco lounges,

So if your friends ask you to go along with them to see Pacific Rim, consider taking them up on it. Maybe you'll like it better than Dennis or I did. But whether you do or not, make sure to tell them to come along with you to Godzilla at the Paramount August 9th so you all can see what a time-tested kaiju eiga (monster movie) can look like on a REALLY. BIG. SCREEN. Wouldn't it be great if 1700 people filled every seat in the house for a showing of a 1954 Japanese movie?

HOW: 35mm print at the Balboa, and digitally in 2D, 3D, and (at least through Thursday) 3D IMAX (at the Metreon) and "LieMax" (at other venues using the IMAX brand) elsewhere. It was shot in digital 2D, so 3D versions are post-converted.


  1. Wasn't perfect, but a good blockbuster that was at least fun and entertaining to watch. Nice review Brian.