I had my youngest nephew this weekend, taking him for some birthday stuff (a trip to the state’s Museum of Natural Science, some shopping, and at MC’s suggestion, a movie). The movie was his choice, and he opted for Pacific Rim. (That, R.I.P.D. or Turbo). I admit, PR was my first choice of the three.
While I admit I had actually very little in the way of advanced information about the movie, I had read Chuck Wendig’s post here. Go and look for yourself, I’ll wait.
Back? Okay. Here’s the thing, if you haven’t seen it. He’s pretty spot on. There was one other commentary I heard – a local radio station reviewer who commented about a lot of the action scenes taking place “in darker, rainy conditions.” I have some opinions about that, but I’ll get there in a moment.
First, I liked the movie. I liked it enough that I wouldn’t be opposed to watching it again, maybe even in the theater, if MC is interested and we arrange for a sitter. It’s a solid action popcorn movie. As a story, it moves well. The few times I checked my watch was more from the writer brain breaking down the story (“This event just happened, how far in are we?” sort of thing).
Which may be the root cause of the issues I had with the movie. Having consumed as much media as I have – growing up with things like Transformers, Robotech, Voltron, and the first days of the Power Rangers… where the Godzilla films could occasionally be found on cable channels, especially around Halloween… and even things as recent as Avatar – I couldn’t turn off my head as much as I would have liked during the fight sequences. I kept thinking of the older material, which deflated the awe and excitement for me.
With regard to the “dark and rainy” conditions… Those worked for me on two levels. First, when considering the CGI effects, remembering back to my limited, 15-year old graphics programming experience, rendering lighting conditions can be a bitch to get right. With the amount of sequencing and rendering required for a full on fight sequence, going for dark conditions seems the safer choice: better for the budget, and rendering times.
The second, and what is most important when any story is concerned, is tension. There is naturally increased tension when it’s dark, when it’s rainy, when visibility is shit. There are a few “throw-away” sequences – relevent story side events (the sequence in Sydney comes to mind) that are on-screen for such a brief time, and really only serve as exposition, that there is no inherent, big-picture tension value. (The Sydney sequence, by the way, is rendered in “daylight,” in the form of a newscast… again, low screen time though).
As a SF fan, let me echo Wendig again: it’s a fun movie, and it’s good to actually get something in theaters that’s not just another installment in a franchise, or rebooting a franchise, etc.
As a writer, however, here’s my takeaway from experience that I had. It doesn’t matter how familiar the gimmicks may be, it’s all about the implementation of the story and how the audience responds to the characters. That’s been one of the hardest things for me to learn, at least, one of the slowest to sink in. I’m glad it’s a message that’s finally getting through.