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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Pacific Rim

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi star in a scene from the movie "Pacific Rim."
Anyone with a hankering for a 21st-century Godzilla movie, or anxiously awaiting the next "Transformers" installment, will cheer the advent of "Pacific Rim" (Warner Bros.).

Those not clamoring for either of the above yet amenable to an escapist sci-fi spectacle (also available in 3-D and Imax) should also welcome it.

The only major content pitfalls are intermittent bad language and the genre's usual blind spot concerning the destruction and suffering endured prior to someone or something saving the day. Unnerving rather than morally inappropriate, the action is too intense for children.

In the very near future, a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean becomes a portal for alien monsters redolent of Godzilla, the mutant marauder of 1950s Japanese cinema. The first wave of Kaiju, Japanese for "giant beast," attacks San Francisco, Manila and Mexico's Baja Peninsula.

The world's armies eventually repel them using tanks and aircraft, but it's obvious a new kind of weapon is needed. So nations band together to construct huge robots called Jaegers, after the German word for fighters. Humans operate the machines, yet to fully control them the minds of two pilots must be melded through a neural bridge.

In an early scene, Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) take their Jaeger into battle off the coast of Alaska. When they disobey orders and rescue a fishing vessel, their mission goes tragically awry and Raleigh quits the pilot corps. Five years later, world leaders decide to decommission the Jaegers and build a wall to protect mankind.

The soldier in charge of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), enlists Raleigh's help in a last-ditch plan to stop the increasingly destructive incursions using the four remaining robots. From a Hong Kong base, Chinese, Russian and Australian teams, along with Raleigh and an untested female pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), try to seal the breach with a nuclear warhead.

The fate of everyone on earth rests in the hands of a small group of intrepid soldiers and engineers. Comic relief is provided by Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), a whiny scientist who attempts a mind meld between a human and a Kaiju. Meaningful human interactions are woven into the story -- for example, testosterone-fueled friction amongst rival pilots and romance between Raleigh and Mako-but they're incidental.

"Pacific Rim" is primarily interested in our fascination with monsters, machines and mayhem. And there's no one better to imagine fantasy, fear and fisticuffs on a massive scale than Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, the genius behind the "Hellboy" movies and critically acclaimed titles such as "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Devil's Backbone."

For his most commercial project to date, del Toro collaborated with Industrial Light & Magic ("Star Wars") to fashion special effects that often trigger awe. The overall design is dominated by steel and iron -- even the Kaiju appear more synthetic than organic -- which contributes to the film's dark look. Constant rainfall and setting the majority of sequences at night on the surface of, or beneath, the sea accentuates the murkiness. Still, it's difficult to gainsay the stunning visuals.

Del Toro and co-screenwriter Travis Beacham take a minimalist approach to exposition, doling out information with a breezy confidence that discourages questions. Whether everything passes scientific muster, the shortage of details makes for a smoother ride. That said, any glossing over of the incalculable devastation and loss of life that occurs en route to civilization being saved is troubling.

Using the selfless heroism of the principal combatants to highlight the strength of the human spirit constitutes action-movie boilerplate. A slightly less common theme is the solidarity exhibited by the peoples and governments of the world when a common enemy surfaces.

Undoubtedly, mankind coming together and using technology to thwart an alien invasion is a positive thing. In reality, however, it's much more probable that men will use killing machines like Jaegers against one another. We may flock to summer movies to forget about real-life problems for a short time, but there's no escaping the fact that this scenario is more frightening than computer-generated Kaiju rising from a virtual sea.

The film contains much intense but bloodless sci-fi violence between robots and alien creatures, brief sexual banter and occasional crude and profane language. Possibly acceptable for older teens. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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