Saturday, July 13, 2013

Come On Geeks, Unite! Already. Like Voltron And Shit (Further Thoughts On Pacific Rim)

Coming away from Pacific Rim, I have to think that it will prove to be one of the most mainstream niche movies, or one of the most niche mainstream movies ever made. It sits at this strange apex of geek culture and popcorn populism, big budget and full of action and yet infused with so many little touches that evoke more heady material, elements that if they were to be explored in any substantive way or without the slam bang CGI carnage would be anything but relatable to a wide audience. One might think that this attempt to be all things to all people and to appeal to as many different demographics and subsets as possible while maintaining some degree of authenticity with a very specific and esoteric sub genre would be doomed to failure and ultimately entertain no one. And yet, it largely succeeds, at least at the entertainment part. So, in light of all of that and my seemingly contrary lukewarm review, I have to ask myself, why am I so crabby?

Leaving the specific deficiencies I noted in my review of the film aside for the moment, I should point out that if it wasn't evident even through my criticisms, I still think Pacific Rim is in general one of the best movies of the year so far, if not the best, even if its admittedly in the context of a less than stellar year. For a story attempting to do so much with material that on its face is so far out there, its amazing that the producers of this movie were able to craft something so enjoyable not just for hardcore nerds, but for pretty much everybody, and while it sacrifices a more potentially intricate plot structure in order to fit in all the style over substance, the result is an accomplishment representing what comic book movies and really science fiction and fantasy films in general have been trying to do for years - sway genre neophytes without losing or disrespecting true fans.

And if that goal is a laudable one to you, than great, but really, I couldn't care less if people who aren't sold on a concept in its purest form are suddenly won over once it is diluted and made palatable to them. My position is ironically somewhat Ebert-esque in its broad generalization of an entire medium (except where he never played videogames, I at least have seen a movie before), but I genuinely believe that no movie adaptation will ever be better than its source material, be it a book, tv show, videogame, or even a genre typically not seen in the medium of modern film. It may be a better movie than the original was a book or a tv show or whatever, it almost certainly will be easier to consume, and it may even make its point better than the original made its point, but those points will never be the same, because one will always be at the very least simplified or even mutated. Whenever one starts at the point of trying to capture the essence of something else, the result will always be a diminution of the original thing.

People always ask me why I'm so critical of comic book movies given what a huge comic book fan I am; how I can be so insistent on fealty to the source material. I have been accused many times of simply being too picky to satisfy, as if my ideal comic book movie would just be the pages blown up on screen and flipped every couple of minutes, anything less faithful be damned. That's an exaggeration, obviously, but not by much. I'm not one of those people who ever thinks an adaptation of something ruins the original thing. You will never hear me say that so and so raped my childhood by not doing justice to a property I love, because I still have the thing I love, and can just ignore the poor vacsimile of it. I would love to see a comic book movie that unleashes the full potential of the comic book it's based on (coincidentally, del Toro's Hellboy came closer than anyone), but I don't need it, and I certainly don't want it if its just going to be dumbed down to appeal to people who couldn't be bothered to pick up a comic book if it killed them.

But comic book movies are only an easy and ubiquitous example. Giant Monster movies and Anime, the two things I love that are predominately combined to form the DNA of Pacific Rim, are what is at issue. In the film's defense, I have no doubt that most of the people involved at least on the creative side of this movie have a genuine love for these inspirations, or they wouldn't have been inspired by them to make this new thing in the first place. It is in the impulse to take them and turn them into something for the dullards that insults me. It is in the idea that the thing I invested my time and intellect in because it deserves the investment is only legitimate if popcorn chugging morons clap at the end that infuriates me. I don't need a movie about Giant Monsters and Anime tropes that even someone who hates Giant Monster movies and Anime can love. I want one that only fans can love. I want one that the rest of the world will hate, but that will inspire a precious few to realize what they were missing all this time.

I understand the realities of Hollywood and what it takes to make a movie and justify a budget. I understand that the kind of movie I want to see will never have a big enough assumed audience to ever be made, but then I don't work in Hollywood and the practicalities of movie production are not my problem and have no bearing on my tastes or desires. I'm not going to be one of those vacant eyed hopeless comic fans who tolerate the self-evidently terrible Man Of Steel because at the end of the day, they just really want a Justice League movie at any cost, and if Man Of Steel is seen as a failure, that will never happen. I don't want it to happen unless they will do it right, and the same goes for Pacific Rim. I don't need a movie that's sort of like Neon Genesis Evangelion. You know why? Because I can just fucking watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you want to make a movie out of it that does justice to it, fine, but don't shovel something else down my throat and tell me to just settle for it.

I'm sorry that the majority of people don't understand the greatness of Godzilla movies or Japanese Animation. It makes me really sad to think about the willful ignorance of so many who think that animation begins and ends with Pixar and Saturday Morning Cartoons, and that Anime begins and ends with that thing called Akira some people liked in the 80's. To think of everything that they are missing out on. The beauty and the awesome and the sheer wealth of material that even at its worst is better than anything America has ever or will ever produce independent of its influence. I feel bad for you people, but I can't help you. Drop your preconceived notions of what's good and give something new and different a chance. Do a little research and spend a day on Hulu or Netflix with something that piques your interest. Don't just tell me my thing is invalid because you don't know what it is, and because there's never been a movie based on it.

And that's the biggest problem to me. Its not that these pale imitations of great art exist or are being made or even that many people like them. Its the idea that I should feel honored to be catered to by that great legitimizing force that is Hollywood. Why am I not grateful that they are even making movies about Spiderman or The Avengers or movies employing Anime tropes? You know why? Because they aren't making them for me. They are making them for the stupid person they think I am, and for the stupid person that so many actual people regrettably are, and the rest of us who've given up all hope and choose to settle for less. Hollywood isn't doing us a favor. They see a market and they are exploiting it for all its worth. That it may result in an entertaining movie now and again between the grievous insults like Green Lantern and The Dark Knight Rises is incidental. The thing I love is a commodity, but I don't have to like it or approve, and I'm the better fan for not doing so.


Pacific Rim is an entertaining movie, and you should definitely give it a chance, especially if it doesn't seem like your thing. As much as it only apes the greatest examples of the canons that inspired it, it does enough that maybe it might inspire a few people to seek out the real stuff, which is, for the record, also the saving grace of even the worst comic book movie. If Sam Raimi's travesty Spider Man 3 leads any kid today to actually go back and try to find out how the story of Gwen Stacy should be told, than its a net positive. But that doesn't make Spider Man 3 not a travesty, and it doesn't make Pacific Rim anything close to on par with any of the properties it is referencing directly or indirectly. And call me an elitist if you want, but the fact that I've actually taken the time to become well-versed in all these things that now so many people are clamoring to see brought down to a simpler, easily consumable level means that, well, I'm better than those people. Also just, you know, in general.

An upside down thumbs up is still a thumbs down, Jerk.
So, I guess my point is, go read something. And go watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. And Gurren Lagann. That's a good one too. And Godzilla Vs. Mecha Godzilla.

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