Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mockbusted #18: Atlantic Rim

I walked away from Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim somewhat conflicted, but only because my love for the Giant Monster genre placed me in a position where it was much harder to be objective about what is at the end of the day a thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster. In light of my resulting nerd rage, I wasn't sure how I would feel watching the Asylum version, except that everything I saw in the trailers told me to prepare for the worst. At the same time, being a cheap imitation at the outset, Atlantic Rim was not subject to the same problems I had with Pacific Rim, because being derivative and exploitative is sort of the point. Unfortunately, whatever hope I might have had was dashed after about the half hour mark, when I literally fell asleep just trying to watch the damn thing.

I've always said that being boring is the worst sin a movie can commit. Even a terrible movie that holds my interest is still worth more than one that doesn't, and Atlantic Rim is easily the latter. It follows the same basic structure of Pacific Rim with Giant Robots fighting Giant Monsters, except in a world essentially otherwise like our own, without any of the kind of detailed world building that made the del Toro film so much fun to sit through. Most of the movie plays out more like an episode of Power Rangers, with color coordinated bots and pilots and a whole lot of cheese for your trouble. Actually, to be more precise, the movie doesn't even have the charm of Power Rangers, which at least has guys in suits reminiscent of classic Godzilla movies; this is more like the chintzy CGI Zords from the first Power Rangers movie.

Its strange to say it, but Atlantic Rim actually did a lot of the things I criticized Pacific Rim for not doing, it just does them so badly that any advantage is lost. With the exception of one undersea battle (the first one, as if to say the climactic one from Pacific Rim is only the beginning for this movie), every conflict takes place in broad daylight so that the action is clearly visible. When you have the budget to make everything look amazing, this is a good thing, and something Pacific Rim sorely lacked, but when you don't have that budget, effects that obscure this like weather and poor lighting are your friend. Also, the design work is a little more fanciful, colorful, and less realistic, which again in a good movie would have been an asset, but here just showcases the cheapness of the production. The models are no more differentiated, just the same robot in three color swapped forms, and they literally fight the same monster twice because they didn't have the money to make a second one.

And yet, the lame CGI action scenes are easily the best part of the movie, which is to say the only part that is even remotely entertaining. If the whole movie had been just that, it might have even been one of the studio's better efforts. The problem is everything that happens outside of the suits, most notably the focus on the pilots' private lives. The movie starts out fairly fast, enough to make you think you're in for a fun silly ride, but after the first fight, we're treated to an unbearably long series of filler segments including a completely pointless fire rescue scene, a scene in a brig that feels almost as long as the sentence of the prisoner inside it, and a fancy dinner party that might have had some bearing on the plot, except that was about the time I fell asleep, and I couldn't bring myself to not skip to the next scene when I started it over the next day. Graham Greene's general and an eye patch wearing rival officer try their best to save the non-robot scenes by not giving a shit, but it is to no avail.

I can't help but think that this shouldn't have been a mockbuster of Pacific Rim at all, but in true Asylum contrarian fashion, should have been the mockbuster for Jack The Giant Slayer, instead of the abysmal Jack The Giant Killer. Just call the robots Jacks and lend the monsters some vague mystical fantasy element to them, and this would have been the kind of weird formula twist we've come to expect from this company. As it stands, its too similar to Pacific Rim, which sounds strange considering what its supposed to be, but then the best of these movies haven't cared about the content being the same as long as the title does the work for them. They had to know they couldn't improve on the technical skill of Guillermo del Toro, and that this was the perfect opportunity to go into a completely different crazy direction. That they failed to do this in favor of a cheap imitation of an expensive imitation is sad, even for these guys.
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