Thor Ragnarok (****) a well-placed step towards the inevitable

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Thor: Ragnarok – 2017

Director Taika Waititi
Screenplay Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Starring  Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

I feel bad for Chris Hemsworth. By the time most of us knew he was funny, we already had seen Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, several years and another Guardians sequel later, we get a humorous movie that’s energy feels borrowed as much as anything.

Thor: Ragnarok is a very good film. It’s got more spectacle than the other two films in the sub series. It’s got more character and it’s much more enjoyable. Sad truth is both Thor films are the least likely to be viewed by most fans because outside of Hiddleston, there isn’t much more to enjoy for those films. Whatever charisma Thor is granted is more than undone by Natalie Portman’s wooden acting. This time, there is nothing holding back the God of Thunder. Except for maybe that thing they have attached to his neck.

After discovering the true location of his father, Thor finds that he is near the end of his life. What’s worse, he drops some info about Thor’s unknown older sister, Hela. Hela (Blanchett) is bad, of course, and powerful as hell. She once had her father’s favor, until her ambition outweighed that of Odin (Hopkins). Then he gave her the Zod treatment.

Hela breaks out and quickly dispatches Thor and Loki into an oblivion called Sakaar which is the home to one of the Elders of the Universe,, The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Anyone who doesn’t know who he is pitted against here, hasn’t looked at any promotional materials for this film.

The best part of this film is the humor, but if it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, they’ve certainly tried here. So frequent are the jokes, there feel to be no stakes. Perhaps if they’d laid the groundwork at all in either of the previous two entries, it wouldn’t feel so out-of-place. All of the sudden, we have the guy who never gets it, leading with the jokes.

The stakes of this film are pretty high, though. We’re on the cusp of Infinity War, and actions in and around this film look to be contributing directly to its inception. There are several significant losses in this chapter. While no one seems to have time to even ponder the significance of their departures, there are plenty of opportunities for yuks.

These laughs are pretty damn good, though. I can’t thank Marvel enough for letting Jeff Goldblum in the door. His contributions alone are worth more than any of the myriad effects. There is nothing better than seeing him barely scrape the surface of an incredibly powerful character and just make it seem like he’s out for a never-ending good time.

Hemsworth is very good, and his ever developing chemistry with Hiddleston is fun to experience. Knowing that he could have been this same funny guy 2 Thor films ago makes it just q little weird now, but oh well.

Blanchett takes the same doomed baddie and puts her incredible beauty behind it. She seems right at home in this universe and they leave enough ambiguity to make one realize she could be called on later by someone who is in love with The Goddess of Death.

Loki (Hiddleston) is delightful and they give him a variety of things to fail at, until he fights on the right side. Elba is finally given something to do, and he looks gorgeous while doing it.

Mark Ruffalo is here and he spends much of his time outside of Hulk looking perplexed. It fits the theme of someone who was stuck inside the green giant for over two years. Tessa Thompson, as Valkyrie is fine as the lynch pin required to move all of the cosmic tumblers into place. She handles her role with a surprising amount of casual grace.

Waititi is a pleasant enough choice for this film. He adds a gloriously distracting color palette along with a memorable character Korg, who has several of the film’s best lines with a beautiful delivery. His addition of Rachel House as The Grandmaster’s bodyguard doesn’t work for me, if for no other reason than it’s the same annoying character House played in The Hunt for the Wilder People. I am pretty sure I am in the minority of people who found that film a tad overrated. I really can’t tell you anything technical he might have added to the film, because by now that stuff is pretty much handled by the Marvel house. They brought him in for the humor and that’s what they got.

In all, this is a fun film that is as good as one could expect coming from one of the heretofore most boring parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If it feels a bit underdone, it’s because it still follows the formula of megalomaniac who almost has it all until she doesn’t. Marvel has done a great job making their formula interesting, even if the characters (outside of Steve Rogers) evolve at a snail’s pace. If the Marvel movie formula is still stuck in the mode of dragging these characters in and never quite letting them go, well, one can understand why. It’s comic books, man.

The thing that holds Thor back, like with many of their characters, is that nothing really drags him down and out once The Immigrant Song begins to play.

(**** out of *****)

 

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Disney slightly improves The Jungle Book (***1/2)

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Jungle Book – 1967 and 2016

Director Wolfgang Reitherman (1967) and Jon Favreau (2016)
Writers Larry Clemons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Floyd Norman, Bill Peet (1967) and Justin Marks (2016)
Starring Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O’Malley, Bruce Reitherman (1967) and Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idiris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi (2016)

It’s been done so many times by now it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about the next one that is always around the corner. We already have Andy Serkis’ committed to the next version, which was pushed back because of this one. The biggest feeling I have about that is why did Andy Serkis commit to such a path that has been so well traveled, even if he had no clue when he started his version?

Everyone knows the story.  Instead of me rehashing it, just look at the poster from the 1967 original animated feature: jungle-book-movie-poster

I actually always imagined the original film to be much more fun than it really is. There is the promise of danger and fun both, but what we get is Disney’s approximation of hip in the 1960’s. Some hip monkeys playing night club music is cool. A snake doing psychedelia less so. The Buzzard Beatles not at all. There is altogether too little of Shere Khan, a window dressing of wolves and the best part of the film, Louis Prima’s King Louie, is given a spotlight cameo. We are left with a puzzling back and forth between Begheera, Baloo and Mowgli all playing as if they are tired of each other just in time for them to leave the young boy alone long enough to find trouble. There’s too much average and not nearly enough good to compliment the superb animation – some of Disney’s best.

There is a lot of talent in the current version of The Jungle Book. First and foremost, Bill Pope as cinematographer. The man behind The Matrix Trilogy, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and most important, Army of Darkness does much credit to the process of digital photography. We have a sense of place. There is also more a sense of gravity than one would expect from such an effects laden venture. That there is as much or more animation as the original here thankfully does not make it seem as bad as something like, say, Gods of Egypt.

The vocal talent for the Favreau’s film is up to the the task. Bill Murray is the obvious high point capturing the very essence of Baloo. We know Baloo is lazy, but he’s so much more than that. Just like Murray is so much more than a counselor on Meatballs. The same feeling that one has watching Tripper prod along Rudy the Rabbit, we get seeing Sethi stroll through the jungle bouncing off of the old blue bear. I loved Harris’ version of the old dope, but Murray…just Murray.

Kingsley carries the same sort of authority as Cabot playing Bagheera. He is still the lithe panther trying in vain to instill some sort of wisdom in his friend. For me it’s a straight across trade. I have always appreciated the character’s faultless dedication to someone who really could have been not his problem at worst and at best a quick meal. The improvement here is that we get a clear vision of his motives.  He works with the wolves and with Mowgli in trying to keep them all together as a more effective hunting unit, but more importantly, safe from those who would pick off loners.  No need to ponder the irony of a solitary panther teaching this concept. We all consider Begheera the older brother we’ve always wanted.

Next we have the wolves. We get way more of these in the new version, and I like them. Nyong’0 has a voice like honey and listening to her as an impromptu matriarch gives Mowgli a real sense of a background that remains even as he wanders. The cruelty of Alba’s Shere Khan is given more weight as he squats on their domain, effectively holding them hostage to his will. Finally, some stakes we can understand.

King Louie (Walken) is given some additional weight, literally, as they change him from an Orangutan to an ancient Gigantopithecus living in ruins and leading the Bandar-log to a wild and upwardly aspiring place in the animal kingdom. This is the single best segment of the film, with a excellent variation on the original, while making it all somewhat more plausible and entertaining at once. Don’t ask me how, because it’s still silly as hell. It works mainly because we love Walken, the primate looks like, sings and hoofs it with the same panache. If one has to choose between the old Louie (Prima) and the new, I would say, with some hesitation, the scene needs more cowbell.

The film treads ground with the Kaa segment. Johansson gives a seductive flair to the voice of the big snake, and the results are equally silly. At least with Sterling Hayden’s whispy voice matches the snake’s doomed futility. The way Johansson sounds, one should expect Mowgli to at least turn to stone, if not wind up pregnant. Give it to the original.

Big props go to the update with their portrayal of the honorable elephants. The mystique is given the appropriate props for such an ancient species. This works in many ways, adding to the story and giving the ending a satisfying tinge.

Being an improvement on The Jungle Book has never been that hard, story-wise. It’s not all that great. The challenge has always been in topping the beauty of the animation. Jon Favreau has the right tendencies when dealing with technology. There is a sense of gravity to each of the characters, the rain looks like rain and Mowgli actually looks like he’s making eye contact instead of something like this:

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 To be sure, I am probably never going to own this film. I may watch it again, but I know there will be more sequels, more remakes and more attempts to improve on the profits of this property. I appreciate it for what it is, and I did like the way the characters look like their voice counterparts, much the same way they did in the original. The wheel comes back around and its spin adds not that much to the life of the story.

Ratings

1967 (***) 2016 (***1/2)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (****1/2) too much good to be bad

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Avengers: Age of Ultron – 2015

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Tony Stark / Iron Man (facing fire of the enemy) Guys, wait. We gotta talk this through. (after incapacitating all of them with leg shots) It was a good talk.

Random bad guy writhing on the floor No it wasn’t!

It’s nice to know that after 3 years, Whedon hasn’t lost his sense of humor. After the stern Twitter lecture he gave about sexism the other day about a Jurassic World clip, that was no guarantee. With so much riding on the sequel to one of the biggest movies of all time, it’s easy to bet that he might take the thing too seriously this time. Thank God he didn’t script this film like he judges other people’s work.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a remarkable and assured piece of work. Once more, Whedon has taken many threads and woven them into a cohesive work that moves characters forward without sacrificing story and moves the story forward without sacrificing characters. Well, all of them except for War Machine. He always gets the short end of the hero stick, though.

This time around, Tony Stark has stumbled across some Artificial Intelligence tech that he can’t wait to work on with Bruce Banner. It’s nice to see them work. Together, with J.A.R.V.I.S (Stark’s almost living computer program), they decipher the code they come across and move toward Stark’s dream of being able to create a force of living Iron Men that can allow the Avengers to retire.

Ultron, their creation, decides to help them on their quest to retire, but not with a $50 watch and a spot on the beach. After incapacitating J.A.R.V.I.S., Ultron disrupts The Avenger’s after-party and starts on his own mission, with the help of two mutants (Can we call them that? No? Oh, well…), Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

Wanda has the ability to mess with people’s minds and create red plumes of chaos. Pietro is really fast and creates a friction that tears stuff apart. That these are not exactly the “gifts” they have in the comics is of little consequence. It’s close enough for Avengers work.

The messing with the minds part provides a lot of the challenges in the story. Everyone sees their doubts exploited except for one of them. That one’s a nice, sensible surprise, just like much of the film.There are very few moments that don’t surprise or satisfy those who have invested much in this universe.

Tony Stark has been in a free fall since the end of the Avengers Assemble, and that continues here. His work has always been fueled by his perceived weakness. This imprint works itself into the prototype. He keeps trying through the end. It’s been this continually evolving spark that has been expertly applied since the first Iron Man film by Downey, Jr. We see a continuation of what we thought was an endpoint in Iron Man 3 that is not entirely explained. Since it is in the same direction, it works.

Ruffalo’s Hulk has been the most interesting take on a tough character to find compelling. His forward progression shows in the form of a relationship with Black Widow (Johansson). The tenderness shown between the two is an expression of the vitality of both and definitely neat to watch. What happened to the guy who’s angry all the time? He’s trying real hard to work through his feelings again. It feels like a backward step.

Thor has more effective lines in this film than he did in his second solo film. Hemsworth is clearly comfortable working with Whedon’s dialogue and situations. His quest for answers is intriguing and I like the role he has in creating a solution to the problem. Ragnarok could be the Thor film for which we’ve waited.

Black Widow, as usual, plays a Jackknife of all trades. She acts as a salve to every part of the Marvel Universe that needs one. Johansson is complex without being wordy or emotional and is probably the most fully developed character Whedon has produced. Given what he has invested in her, one can understand why he might be sensitive to how Chris Pratt’s character talks to Bryce Dallas Howard’s character. Doesn’t make him right for that, but it makes him right for Black Widow.

The other major woman character, Wanda, aka The Scarlet Witch is a bit more limited, which is understandable given her role in the story. Johnson’s job is to be pissed at the good guys, work for the bad guys, find out that they are bad and then work with the good guys. Then she gets all confused and emotional. One shouldn’t have to wonder if she’ll snap out of it.

Pietro, aka Quicksilver is even more emotionally isolated. Taylor-Johnson gives a good read on the arrogance of one waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with him, but the accent is considerably weaker than his uncanny strength,

Captain America was my favorite character from the first film. Evans had the best film of Phase II and he’s rolled right into the third film with the authority of one who owns the team. He has several of the best action scenes, simply for Whedon’s remarkable ability to make his strength’s and weaknesses believable. His morality is as entertaining as it is true to the spirit of the straight-laced character. The fight scene with Ultron in Korea is one of the highlights of the film.

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is given tremendous depth and he nearly steals the show. As one of the more fragile Avengers, we discover he has even more to lose than his own life. It adds a nice resonance and makes the stakes something more identifiable. Whedon’s true gift is his ability to find a way to make the ones who might be easier to ignore impossible to forget.

Sam Jackson’s Fury acts as another sort of moral arbiter with the few scenes he shares with the rest of the cast. Nonetheless, Whedon gives him some great lines and allows him to fit inside his conspicuous existence, It’s hard to say where Fury goes in this Universe, but his character remains interesting.

As villainous voices go, they couldn’t have found one more delicious than Spader for Ultron. His lines are Spaderish to the point where he lays waste to cliche as easily as he does protagonists.His magnetism is lost a bit with the lack of expression afforded to a robot, but since when did Spader over emote?

Let me take the time to explain my plan...
Let me take the time to explain my plan…

Just when it seems like we’ve covered all the characters, we see an incredible new one. Bettany, who for several films has been the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. is allowed to evolve into an amalgam of Tony’s creations, along with some key assistance from other resources. Vision, always an enigmatic personage, is no less a mystery here. He is a creation – drawing strong allusions to Frankenstein – that will have huge implications beyond this film. Bettany has a complete grasp of the character and its role in the plot. His entrance begins the most intense part of the story and it doesn’t let up.

To say Whedon nailed it is an understatement. He inhabits this world as much a participant as creator. It is obvious that he cared as much for the enterprise as anyone this side of Kevin Feige. That he is not going to be here at the next duo of films would be more of a concern if the guys that are taking the helm from him hadn’t created the best Marvel film in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Anthony and Joe Russo are also directing the next Captain America film called Civil War. Judging by the cast, they might as well call that Avengers 3.

If he wants to leave, best to do it now, when the mistakes are far outweighed by the things he’s gotten right. As for those mistakes, it is a little long. There is a little too much walking away from destruction with a stern warning. And, really, how do they keep the body count so low? I’m talking heroes, too. At least they don’t have Coulson die again.

Perhaps the best thing for me, though is seeing War Machine in action without making him embarrass himself.

(****1/2 out of *****)

CPE, Em & El: Thor: The Dark World: More Loki, anyone?

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Thor: The Dark World – 2013

Director Alan Taylor
Starring Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo
Screenplay Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

It’s no surprise that Loki is one of the first characters that you see after the prologue of Thor: The Dark World.  It’s a short scene, with a scolding from father Odin (Hopkins) and a wayward look from his mother Frigga (Russo).  It feels like a tag along scene, after the events of The Avengers.  We already knew he was going to be locked up, so why do we need to see it played out this way?

The answer is obvious.  Hiddleston, the big surprise from the first film, is so good as the villain, the film struggles to move forward without his gracefully devilish grin.  For this reason, we have many scenes with him locked up, even seeing a bunch of other goons broken out of jail.  He even helps the bad guy (Kurse, played unrecognizably by Akinnuoye-Agbaje) escape, while he remains behind.

We are treated to the obligatory “If you betray me, I will kill you,” scene before his brother, Thor (Hemsworth) lets him out of his imprisonment.  After this, we get to see this same sequence repeated ad nauseam with seemingly every supporting character down the line.  This scene is a waste of time for any actor, but at least Hiddleston seems to enjoy the attention, no matter how it is received.  Thank goodness for that.

Thor’s second time out may not be Shakespearian masterpiece that the first film almost was, but it is not bad, in any sense.  It suffers from the strength of its superhero, who we discover from Odin is not actually part of a race of Gods, but rather just a strong race of individuals who can endure for 1000’s of years.  If he is not unbeatable, that hammer sure is.  The thing about Loki is that he doesn’t use his brawn.  Up to this point, the filmmakers of the Thor films have not had to worry real hard about creating a nemesis.  This method worked well in his first two appearances.  Now, as we see Thor’s foes, Kurse and Eccleston’s Malekith, we anxiously wait for him to find a reason to do something other than swing that huge hammer.

Sadly, any thought that is required of the good guys comes in the form of the same braintrust that they had in the original.  This means plenty of face time for Portman and, more unfortunately, seeing Skarsgård in various states of disrobe.  Supposedly it helps him think more clearly when he acts like a loon.  Portman is a little less annoying this time through, even if she still is not a believable genius.  Dennings is still more than capable comic relief as an intern, this time with one of her own (Jonathan Howard).

The screenwriters and Taylor tone down the Hamlet this time, of course that story has been told.  Taylor’s talent for utilizing characters employed so effectively in Deadwood works on Asgard.  Russo leaves a mark in her brief turn, and it is a nice surprise.  Hopkins seems more baffled with each movie, and that suits the aging Odin just fine.  Thor’s band of misfit warriors are briefly used once more, but at least they seem to have a place in Asgard as something other than merry men (and one stoic woman).  It’s nice to see an expansion of Alba’s Heimdall, as his one action scene is an intense moment.  

The weakest part of the story is the megalomaniacal nature of the foe (is there any other in Thor’s universe?).  The plan to take over the “9 realms” has more to do with timing than anything, and the convenience of it all gives nothing at all as grist to the plot.  It all leads to a battle that is loony toon to the point where one wishes the hammer could end it all.  Instead, we get to see the puny humans run around looking frail, weak, and even worse, like Skarsgård.

There is a new mcguffin in the form of a red liquid called Aether.  That, with the Tesseract +3 other elements will get you something in a future film, no doubt.  Do we get more Loki?  If we do, we’ll definitely be entertained to an extent that he is on the screen.  Hemsworth has shown a capability to wear Thor’s wig and not look too much like a fool.  He needs more than what we’ve seen as a supporting cast on Midgard to make it work.

(***1/2 out of *****)

El’s Review

I thought THOR DARK  WORLD  was fine I liked the  funny parts.  The  next  one will probably be better.  Part 3.

(*** out of *****)

Em’s Review

I liked Thor Dark World.  It was really funny.  It had the right amount of action.  I did not like the things what were creepy, though.  The dark elves.

(****1/2 out of *****)

Pacific Rim: Where do you want to die?

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Pacific Rim – 2013

Director Guillermo Del Toro
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman
Screenplay Del Toro and Travis Beacham

Once Guillermo Del Toro decided to forego The Hobbit series of movies, the concept kind of lost steam for me.  After I saw the first film, it was apparent why.  Jackson was creative in a way that represented his view of someone else’s vision for so long, it was no longer apparent that he had a vision of his own.  The scene that best exemplified this was the bumbling escapade through the cave of the Great Goblin.  There was no attempt at perspective.  Running through the cave through some invented rickety pathways and then falling for what seemed like miles, only to bounce up even after the fat goblin landed on them.  Everything was designed as a cheap attempt at humor and it completely took away any sense of drama that the Riddles in the Dark chapter had gained.  Any feeling of wonder that we had clung to in the first series of films is now compromised.

How did those planes get on there with that corpse?  Who cares?
How did those planes get on there with that corpse? Who cares?

Del Toro takes on multiple fantasy and sci-fi sacred cows with Pacific Rim.   Everything they are doing has been done too many times before.  Godzilla, inter-dimensional invasions, cloning, human-mechna bonding, mind-melding and even Rock ‘Em Sockem Robots.  This movie should be an absolute mess.  Thanks to the ambitious vision of Del Toro, what we have is a glorious masterpiece.  For something as loud and potentially obnoxious as this could be, it’s a remarkably subtle work, right down to the lone golden shoe.  Del Toro notices everything, because he loves about everything that is going on here, and everything that it derives from.

Explaining the plot is simple.  A bunch of monsters named Kaiju started to attack cities on the Pacific Rim one at a time.   Conventional means took down the first few.  The attacks increased in frequency as civilization developed mechna weapons operated by humans called Jaegers to fight them.  The catch for the humans is that the mechna fighters need two bonded humans to run them.  Those who have operated the machines solo have developed bloody noses, which is short hand for irreparable brain damage.  Hunman as Releigh Becket, is one of the few to survive this phenomenon for reasons that will remain for the viewer to discover.

It's a geek fantasy.  Might as well be a video game.
It’s a geek fantasy. Might as well be a video game.

The mechna bots start to whittle down as the Kaiju continue to learn how to defeat them.  In a last-ditch effort, two operations take place.  First there is an attempt to build walls along the coasts of the Pacific.  The other is a an effort to combine the last of the Jaegers in Hong Kong for one last shot at closing the portal that serves as the monsters entry point to Earth.

Hunman has the bulk of Vin Diesel, the voice of Keanu Reeves and more enthusiasm than both of them.  It serves him well in the role of hero, when combined with the able supporting cast.  His chemistry with Kikuchi (Becket’s partner Mori)  is a geek’s fantasy.  She plays the role of winsome and dangerous quite elegantly.  Alba is finally able to use something close to his real accent as Pentecost, the leader of the Jaeger program.  Day and Gorman play your typical mad doctors, trying to out-theory each other ad-naseum.  Day’s quirk filled delivery  and isolated story line with Perlman helps keep the combination from seeming like something directly out of an Emmerich / Devlin pile.  On the other hand, it may be Gorman that brings the thing down.  They should lose him for the sequel.  Perlman is exactly what you’d expect.  No matter what he’s in, he’s completely at ease on the screen.

Epic battles.  Things get wrecked.
Epic battles. Things get wrecked.

The battles are epic.  Everything that has happened since Terminator 2 has lacked the immediacy of that classic battle of machine versus machine.  No one else has really come closer to those landmark battles than Del Toro.  His battles actually feel like they are weighted by attention to time, space and gravity.  It helps to feel like sequences have actually been story boarded.  The scene featuring Newton’s Cradle is a wonderful example of a scene that many other directors could do horribly.  In the hands of Del Toro, it’s as intricate as touching a sleeping baby on the chin and not waking him or her.  On the complete other end of the spectrum, there is the completely needless pounding of fists by the mechnas.  Watching this, one might be tempted to wonder how much the act would damage one large mechanical hand or the other.  Instead, the viewer gets pumped in the most gloriously dumb way.  Yeah.  I’m in for that.  All in.  Just like Del Toro.

Let’s be honest.  Pacific Rim is big, dumb fun.  It could have been dumber, but it could not have been much more effectively big.  It’s a story that is as shallow as a video game.  I will watch this movie several times in my life, and find new ways to enjoy it.  It’s just the way Del Toro is able to collaborate with people, making the other people’s vision his own.  It never feels calculated.  It always feels laden with exuberant joy.  He makes all the battles we imagined as children come alive, in a way that feels as true as anything we’ve ever felt.

(**** out of *****)