27 July 2013

Only God Forgives Much Ado About the Pacific Rim

Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon makes good stuff. He even makes good stuff right in the middle of making other good stuff when he really has no business doing so, as is the case with this movie, which was filmed at his (really nice) house while he took short breaks during the production of The Avengers. The cast is almost entirely composed of faces familiar to Whedon fans, from shows like Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and Firefly. It's got a lot of spirit, humor, and heart, and not all of that is just because it's a time-tested work of Shakespeare. The language is of course a bit difficult to handle for someone not entirely used to it (e.g. myself), but I got the gist of it. It's a really fun film. Just a bunch of great actors having fun together.


Pacific Rim

Perhaps a little spottier than Whedon's, Guillermo del Toro's filmography is still a solid list of wonderfully enjoyable, often darkly-tinged fare. He's a big ol' fanboy, and makes what he loves. In this case he loves giant robots and alien monsters, and a healthy dose of Star Wars references. Fine by me. I've been excited for Pacific Rim since the first info started being dispersed. It was a little disheartening to hear that it wasn't doing all too well once it was released, but that didn't decrease my expectations much; Guillermo doesn't make bad movies, and this is definitely a good one. Not great, but definitely good. The thing that people keep concentrating on is the scale of it. It is indeed huge, and the battle scenes are awesome, mostly keeping the action in a wide-ish frame unlike most modern action movies. The widespread complaint of characterization-lameness is also valid though. They aren't bad, just not particularly interesting. I did like the R2-D2 and C-3PO analogue scientists though. Altogether a very enjoyable thing.


Only God Forgives

Unfortunately I can't say the same for Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling's followup to the excellent Drive. My anticipation for this was as strong or stronger than it was for Pacific Rim, but this one failed me. It's a grueling exercise in style and brutality, which might sound good in some ways, but ends up being just a chore to watch. It's a combination of the very limited dialogue, almost universally hateful characters, unnecessarily excessive violence and gore, and complete lack of a satisfying ending. Sure, Drive didn't really have a Disney ending either, but it was interesting and emotional at least. It's definitely well-filmed, and the music is great, but it's hard to ignore how un-enjoyable it is. Even Valhalla Rising is less confounding. I recommend skipping it.