Dark City

In which an unlikely hero finds a way to turn the tables.

Metaphorically and otherwise.

Metaphorically and otherwise.

Dark City

What a little gem of a movie. A cult hit that’s aged reasonably well, Dark City beat The Matrix to the punch by more than a year, though the lead times on each production are too close for the Wachowskis to have truly ripped it off. Both films are darkly stylized & philosophical sci-fi thrillers which feature a protagonist who’s uniquely gifted to tear down the walls of his artificial world, and learns to develop his new powers while on the run from sinister, inhuman pursuers. Understandably, only the one with amazing kung fu battles & gunplay went on to become a trendsetting blockbuster, but don’t count Dark City out. It has its own pleasures, and culminates in an amazing sequence that stretches the definition of a “fight,” but we’ll see if we can’t tackle it anyway.

A note: if you haven’t seen this yet and my recommendation inspires you to do so, I strongly recommend you seek out the newer Director’s Cut edition. Not only does it have more footage, but most crucially, it cuts out the theatrical version’s opening voiceover (mandated by the studio against director Alex Proyas’ wishes) where one character explicitly spells out about 90% of the film’s backstory, rather than letting the mystery be slowly uncovered. Of course I’m about to spoil pretty much the entire ending for you right now, so.

The Fighters:

  • John Murdoch, the film’s hero; it’s not his original name, if he even has one, but he’s sticking with it. One of the many inhabitants of the Strangers’ artificial world, John is a sudden step forward in evolution: he has the ability to “tune” or telekinetically alter the world around him. Having received only the slightest bit of his planned memory implant, John has spent most of the film as a virtual tabula rasa, but that’s all about to change. Played by Rufus Sewell, in a rare non-villainous role.
  • The Strangers, but mostly their de facto leader, Mr. Book (they all have ominously mundane names like that: Mr. Hand, Mr. Wall, etc), played by Ian Richardson. They can tune as well, of course. Note that their human-like appearance is not their true form: they’re all actually a bunch of creepy worm creatures, inhabiting the bodies of corpses– hence their pale & ghostly visage.
"Tell your sister... you were right about me."

“Tell your sister… you were right about me….”

Kiefer Sutherland, in the middle portion of his career (in-between the Hearthrob and Badass sections) where he was mostly tapped to play Creepy, plays a significant non-action part.

The Setup: The Strangers are home invaders in freaky masks a dying race of alien parasites, who have secluded a large number of humans in a large city where it’s always night and the details (memories, architecture, etc) are manually changed every few hours. Ultimately it’s revealed that this artificial habitat is really an enormous ship out in the depths of space, where the Strangers endlessly experiment with humans to see what makes them thrive.

John Murdoch, however, proves suddenly resistant to the Strangers’ power, and involuntarily fights back just as he’s about to be implanted with the memories of a serial killer. He spends much of the movie on the run, piecing together a past that turns out to be false and discovering the true nature of his world. Eventually, he surrenders himself to the villains when they hold hostage his “wife” Emma– their history together is fake, but he has come to feel genuine affection for her.

The aliens believe that Murdoch is the key they have been searching for, and decide to implant him with memories of their own collective history– effectively making him one of them. They wheel out Dr. Schreber (Sutherland), the doctor who invented the process of creating artificial memories in a test tube (a wonderfully wacked idea) and has since turned against his coercive masters to clandestinely help Murdoch throughout the movie. As the Strangers turn away to shut down their reality-warping machine for good, a seemingly docile Schreber explains his instructions to John… but he’s got other plans.

Since this was pre-Jack Bauer, being tied down while Kiefer Sutherland stands over you with a sharp object wasn't nearly as terrifying as it is now

Since this was pre-Jack Bauer, being tied down while Kiefer Sutherland stands over you with a sharp object wasn’t nearly as terrifying as it is now

Schreber switches out the Strangers’ syringe with one of his own making, which John had pocketed earlier after being too wary to trust the doctor. Murdoch is injected with the mystery needle instead, and immediately a series of rapid-fire images with static around the edges (the movie’s established language for flashbacks and memories) starts up. At first it’s the fake “John Murdoch” life the protagonist was originally supposed to have– pleasant upbringing at the seaside until parents die in a fire, and so forth– but a version of Schreber (but more confident, free of the real doctor’s speech impediment and slight disfigurement) keeps recurring: as one of John’s teachers, a firefighter who saves him, a flower vendor on his first date, etc.

"Remember class, the terrorists are only Muslim in even-numbered seasons."

“Remember class, the terrorists are only Muslim in even-numbered seasons.”

As the adult John twitches at receiving an entire lifetime of memories at once, finally the varying Schrebers solidify into one who explains himself with the magnificently bonkers line “You’re probably wondering why I keep appearing in your memories, John. It is because I have inserted myself into them.”

The memory-Schreber explains to John even more fully the nature of the Strangers, the power they share with John, and the machine that is fueled by it. He tells Murdoch, and the audience, that this specialized memory implant is a shortcut to give John a lifetime of instruction on and practice with tuning (previously, he’d only tuned instinctively, and in minor ways)– hey, kind of like downloading kung fu skills directly into your brain. He tells John that he can take control of his destiny, as long as he’s willing to act.

Back in the real world, the Strangers can tell something is wrong, and discover Schreber’s switcharoo… but it’s too late. John comes to, wills the table he’s strapped to upright, and melts his bonds away to step free.

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“Now *I* have tuning powers. Ho, ho, ho.”*

Lucy, you got some splainin’ to dooooooo

The Fight: As soon as John is free, the film’s score dives right into the full rendition of a composition it’s been teasing throughout the movie– one that’s been so ubiquitous in trailers and bad YouTube re-edits since then, you’ve surely heard it before even if you’ve never seen Dark City. Despite all the years of repetition, though, it’s lost none of its wild energy, sounding both inspiring and chaotic.

Murdoch wastes no time in putting his newly mastered powers to work. He unleashs a psionic blast that scatters several of the Strangers ahead of him, which makes the remaining villains scared and aggressive. Proyas visualizes tuning on-screen in an effective if not particularly original way: as shimmering ripples of otherwise invisible force, flinging people about wildly and often tearing up the scenery.

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John frees Schreber and turns his attention back to the Strangers just in time to get blasted himself by Mr. Book, seemingly the only alien willing to stand his ground. Seemingly unhurt, Murdoch gets back up and returns fire. Visibly angered, Book changes up tactics a bit by ripping open the floor in front of John (which he seems to deflect before it gets to him) and dragging jagged beams up from underneath (which narrowly miss their target).

Rather than continuing to trade blows, the two eventually switch to a full-out mental arm wrestling contest, their psychic energies clashing in the middle.

I'd watch a lot more Presidential debates if they looked like this.

A lot more people would watch Presidential debates if they looked like this.

As their brain battle rages, the resulting feedback starts damaging the area around them, ripping huge chunks out of the building and even somewhat reversing the gravity (!). The few Strangers who haven’t fled (why didn’t anybody help Book?) are lifted into the air.

Soon enough, Book and Murdoch float out of the ceiling and confront each other in the sky.

"MISTER Anderson!"

“MISTER Anderson!”

Mr. Book changes things up again by hurling a nasty-looking dagger at his foe, but despite the added telekinetic push, John is able to stop it just shy of his head, then flip it around and return to sender.

Picture5

If it had hit, it would have hurt only slightly more than my hangover on Thanksgiving 2006.

Mr. Book takes it in the chest and goes tumbling backward, end over end. Murdoch tunes a nearby water tower to rise up high into his enemy’s flight path. Book collides with the new obstacle and, because the parasites are vulnerable to water, the creature piloting Book’s corpse dies shortly after. Go humans!

In many ways, there’s not much to the actual battle: a few psychic punches, a lot of yelling, a light show and what’s frankly a distant second in the cinematic annals of Tossing A Dagger Back & Forth (telekinetic powers are neat and all, but ultimately it’s all in the reflexes). Plus, the other Strangers’ lack of participation is glaring, there’s no logical reason for Schreber to be there, and if we’re being honest, the floating at the very end looks at least a little bit silly.

But looking past the petty stuff, there’s something really glorious about this sequence. As Schreber’s plan quickly becomes apparent there’s a palpable, electric excitement; you finally get to see John Murdoch realize his potential– if not his destiny— and turn the tables on his tormentors. That there’s still an element of danger as he takes his matured powers into battle makes his final victory all the sweeter; I daresay this scene is even more gratifying and well-handled than its equivalent at the very end of The Matrix.

Once again we’ve proven that while the execution of the actual fight is important, the buildup and emotional context can often be just as critical, if not more so. Dark City’s climax thrills like few others.

[Also, the movie is, along with many other things, essentially a superhero origin story. After swearing to give those a break I basically just did another one. Crap.]

Grade: A-

*Blogger Comment: I feel like I’ve paraphrased the “machine gun” quote from Die Hard about five times, but a quick site search makes it seem like it’s just the second. Either way, I’m not stopping any time soon, hope you’re used to it by now. Die Hard rules.

Coming Attractions: We get a lot more Studi-ous.

He’s quite the hearty warrior.

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Iron Man 2 (fight 4 of 4)

In which Iron Man teams up with his greatest ally.

Er, no.

4) Iron Man and War Machine vs Whiplash and Hammer drones

The Fighters:

  • Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, our hero. Doing a lot better than before, since he’s not dying. Played by Robert Downey Jr.
    • Armed with: The Mark VI Iron Man armor. It’s powered by a new element Tony invented (building off his father’s unfinished work), and in addition to powering his suit better it also overcomes the issue of the old arc reactor slowly giving Tony palladium poisoning even as it kept shrapnel out of his heart. (Iron Man 3 would later skunk this entire plot development with the casual revelation in the epilogue that Tony could have just had surgery to remove the shrapnel in the first place. Which… huh?) Along with the triangular chest plate that Joss Whedon hated, the Mark VI boasts a few modifications, though it’s not clear which are new.
  • War Machine, aka James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Stark’s reconciled pal and Air Force big shot. Played by Don “The Dragon” Cheadle.
    • Armed with: The same Mark II suit as before, but kitted out with tons of extra armaments courtesy of the DOD and Justin Hammer. Plus a new paint job, trading in the too-shiny silver for ominous grey.
  • Hammer drones, a couple dozen of them. Built by Vanko for Justin Hammer. There’s some slight variation amongst them depending on what function (land, sea, air) they’re built for, but they’re largely the same: arc reactor-powered, remote-controlled robots based loosely off the Iron Man designs. Outfitted mostly with automatic and missile weapons, and able to fly. They also go down very easy, whether it’s to a repulsor blast, a strong punch from the Mark VI, or a barrage of regular bullets; it’s strange because these are supposed to basically be Iron Man replacements, so they ought to be more durable. Perhaps Vanko deliberately built them to be inferior, or maybe they’re just prototypes.
  • Whiplash, aka Ivan Vanko. Stark’s new nemesis, who escaped prison and built up some new toys thanks to Hammer. Played by Mickey Rourke.
    • Armed with: A much more sophisticated version of his last getup. The improved Whiplash armor covers Vanko’s entire body much like the Iron Man suit. It’s also huge, though not quite the size of the Iron Monger. It contains a couple neat tricks like retractable plates in the feet which are good for locking down an opponent, but its main offensive capability is the two extra long energy whips housed in its forearms. There are cycling mechanisms visible in the back which make the whips extendable and constantly charged with electricity. It’s an intimidating design, but oddly lacking the iconic look of the previous incarnation, with all its fearless & bare-chested simplicity.

But, you know, this works too.

The Setup: Vanko has baited Tony into a trap at the Stark Expo in New York. After Iron Man arrives there and greets War Machine (who’d been demonstrating his new look on stage along with the drones), Vanko takes remote control of all the drones, as well as War Machine, and sends them all against Iron Man.

This launches an amazing chase sequence where Tony draws his pursuers away from the Expo and out into the streets & skies of Queens, evading fire and even managing to take out several of them. Eventually Iron Man is able to isolate himself and War Machine inside a large garden dome. Tony contains its attacks without hurting the helpless pilot inside until, in the aftermath of glorious Fight #3, Black Widow gets into Hammer’s computer systems and restores control of War Machine back to Rhodey.

The two’s reconciliation quickly devolves into macho one-upsmanship as they squabble over whose suit is the best; it’s highly amusing to watch such a silly argument play out with both characters wearing super high-tech armor. They spend so much time bitching that they don’t quite get into tactical position before the drones land and, one by one, surround the pair.

“We have them RIGHT where we want them!”

“We’re surrounded.”
“Good, that means we have them RIGHT where we want them!”

Without saying a word, the two close their face plates and go to work.

The Fight: At first, there’s actually no music– Favreau lets the endless cacophony of battle provide all the noise he needs. And what a cacophony it is: staccato bursts of automatic fire from the drones and War Machine, occasionally punctuated by repulsor blasts from Iron Man.

So much is happening at once you barely know where to look at any given time. The camera pans around smoothly to show the carnage as the two heroes unload at and dodge fire from the iron platoon surrounding them. Rhodey fires from both wrist gauntets and his shoulder cannon simultaneously, while Stark mixes in repulsor rays with punches for those that get too close.

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After the initial shot just showcasing all-purpose chaos, Favreau goes on to highlight a couple moments of particular badassery. War Machine grabs a drone that had gotten close and delivers a point-blank spray of machine gun fire that cuts it in half down the middle. Iron Man reprises a hit move from the first movie when he leans back casually to dodge an incoming missile (in a subtle detail, we hear a beeping sound from his HUD to indicate the computer has detected a lock), then returns fire in the form of small missiles from a hidden compartment on his wrist, which take down three drones at once; it’s so neat Tony even happily calls it out, and his friend compliments it.

It’s about 45 seconds of perfectly exhilarating CGI chaos– intense, glorious, undiluted. And it doesn’t outstay its welcome, either: when Stark realizes that there’s just too many bad guys to deal with, he orders his friend to duck and then activates two extremely powerful laser beams, which cut down all remaining drones as he pivots in a circle.

Picture2

Tony responds to Rhodey’s quite reasonable suggestion that he should lead with such an attack next time by pointing out that the beams are a one-time thing; they burn for a few seconds and then they’re done. Which is too bad, because what they initially think is just the last drone coming in is actually Vanko himself, big as life and twice as ugly.

After some talk, Rhodes launches what he assumes will be his secret weapon, the “Ex-Wife,” but it fails terribly, bouncing harmlessly off Whiplash’s armor and falling to the ground with a pathetic little fart noise. It doesn’t really make sense (would Vanko really know it wouldn’t work? Shouldn’t Rhodey have gotten farther away if HE thought it was going to work? etc) but it’s a fun excuse for just one more joke at Hammer’s expense.

Tony fires his own opening salvo– in another callback to the first film, it’s all those little smart dart-rockets he used against the terrorist hostage-takers in his Mark III debut) at Vanko’s exposed face, but his helmet comes back instantly and deflects them. Now it’s Ivan’s turn.

Picture3

From then on, it’s really mostly Ivan’s fight. The new Whiplash armor provides a seemingly perfect mix of durability, speed, and offensive capability. War Machine’s more conventional weapons can’t put too much of a dent in Vanko before he’s able to evade or fight back, and Iron Man’s quick maneuvers are canceled out by the long reach of those unpredictable whips. In what turns out to be a fairly brief struggle, both heroes are repeatedly knocked around, seized by the whips and slammed to the ground. Poor Rhodey even gets his shoulder cannon cut right off.

Stark gives Vanko the best run for his money when he comes in hard with a flying punch as Vanko is distracted by beating up on Rhodes, but a few blows later Ivan comes back even harder with a headbutt. Soon, Whiplash lassos a hero in each whip, holding them on opposite sides of him. It seems pretty bad at first, but at Tony’s suggestion, the two re-visit the idea of “crossing the streams”– having their two repulsor blasts meet in mid-air and creating an enormous energy feedback, this time with Whiplash in the middle.

Whaddya know, it works.

Whaddya know, it works.

The irony is, at that point the heroes didn’t necessarily have to resort to such a crazy tactic, because the very nature of Ivan’s double-hold meant that he left himself wide open to any attack. They were free to shoot at him in more direct ways as well.

After the smoke clears, a dying Vanko reprises his words from the race track, telling Stark “you lose.” Pulling a Metroid, Vanko starts the timer on bombs built into his suit as well as those of all the fallen drones, hoping for a Pyrrhic victory. Unfortunately for the villain, it would have been, in the words of comedian Doug Benson, more accurate for him to say “you lose… unless you happen to be wearing a suit of armor that flies really fast,” because the bombs have a long enough fuse for Stark & Rhodes to not just fly out of the blast zone but also for one of them to swing by and get Pepper to safety. Whoops.

For all Iron Man 2’s faults, where it really improves on the original is in its climax. The first film ended on a sort of limp note as it had the hero hobbled from the beginning and only barely limping to the finish line. The sequel, on the other hand, is a three-part roller coaster ride that starts with an extended chase scene, segues quickly into the chaotic destruction of the drones, and ends with not one but two fully-powered heroes up against a seemingly implacable boss.

The final fight is, unfortunately, a little too one-sided, but this is balanced out somewhat by just how one-sided (in the other direction) the showdown with the drones was. Also, while “believability” is a relative term when it comes to things like this, Whiplash’s dominance comes not from objective superiority but from a mix of quick-thinking tactics, technology, and surprise– exactly the kind of thing that would let you prevail in such an encounter. Just as in a real-life fight, you don’t win by gradually wearing down the other guy’s “hit points” or some such, it’s all a matter of acting decisively and applying just the right amount of pressure at the right place & time.

Well done.

Grade: A-

Coming Attractions: Stop.

Hammer Time.

Iron Man 2 (fight 2 of 4)

Time for the real Real Steel.

Picture1

Iron Bros

2) Iron Man vs War Machine

The Fighters:

  • Iron Man, aka Tony Stark. You know the drill. Played by Robert Downey Jr.
    • Armed with: the Iron Man Mark IV armor– he’s made some unknown improvements to the Mark III he finished the last film in.
  • War Machine, aka Lt. Col James “Rhodey” Rhodes, the U.S. military’s liaison to Stark Industries and Tony’s BFF. Rhodey has an inner playfulness that helps him bond with Stark, but most of the time he’s very much the no-nonsense type and has to play frustrated straight man to his friend’s antics. Note that while Tony uses the term “war machine” in this scene, it’s an offhand remark and he’s never formally called that in the movie, though by Iron Man 3 it’s acknowledged he did officially go by his comic book alias for a while before switching to (sigh) Iron Patriot. Played by Don Cheadle, who is not Terence Howard.
    • Armed with: One of Tony’s Mark II prototype suits, unpainted and plain, but still quite formidable. It’s unstated in the film but between the fact that the suit has an external power source and also how well Rhodes handles himself in it, Stark has clearly built this suit FOR his friend to use and has already let him practice in it.

The Setup: At the peak of his dying-induced nihilism, Stark is holding a birthday bash at his house, and is entertaining a legion of phony “friends” by hosting in his Iron Man armor and engaging in reckless entertainment. (If anything, this element is probably the biggest contributor to Iron Man 2 leaving a sour taste in many fans’ mouths: narratively necessary and ultimately redeemed such antics might be, it’s just not that fun to see Tony Stark act like a self-destructive dick for such a chunk of the movie.)

Rhodes heads out to not only stop this behavior, but as a last-ditch effort to get Tony to comply with the US government’s demand to turn over his Iron Man technology. Unfortunately Rhodey’s pleas fall on deaf ears, so he has to go downstairs and hop into something that’ll help him be heard.

Picture2

“I’m the party pooper.”

Ordering everyone out (you only have to ask once with a giant suit of advanced armor), Rhodes tells Stark he doesn’t deserve to have such amazing technology. Remarkably, the DJ has stuck around, and Tony orders him to play some music for them to fight to. The DJ picks “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, so it’s good to know Tony got his money’s worth when he hired the guy.

The Fight: They grapple a bit and Tony rockets the pair through a wall. They land in Tony’s personal gym which, fittingly enough, has its own boxing ring. Iron Man tries to dismissively walk away, but Rhodey starts throwing weight plates at him. Stark retaliates by grabbing a barbell, shaking the bottom weights off, and whacking Rhodey with it like a baseball bat, sending him right through the arena.

Rhodes seizes another pole (hard to see, probably one of the boxing ring’s corners) and knocks his friend through the ceiling, which takes the fight into a foyer where most of the guests had fled (are they waiting for their valets or something?). Here the two exchange in some extended fisticuffs.

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“Jarvis, execute file RockemSockem.exe”

It’s amusing to watch them go back & forth, punching and throwing. Each blow lands with a distinctive clang that is both exciting and funny. Eventually Rhodey goes down pretty hard, leaving Tony to face a crowd of frightened onlookers. After a pause he leans in and angrily roars at them until they run away. It’s right about here that the music dies down, signaling that, like many parties hosted by an narcissistic drunk we’ve all been to, we’ve shifted from fun & games to self-hating anger. Hopped up on booze and adrenaline, Tony is disgusted with himself and everyone around him.

War Machine gets back up and brains his friend with the DJ’s turntable (that’s why the music stopped!), sending him into the fireplace. Rhodes just want to de-escalate the situation, but Tony points his repulsor-charged hand at Rhodey and goads him into doing the same. After a quick exchange of frantic dialogue, they blast at nearly the same time and the beams hit each other in the middle, creating a huge explosion which separates them and dazes Tony.

What did we say about crossing the streams?

What did we say about crossing the streams?

Rhodes flies off with the armor, leaving Stark to stew in self-pity and a wrecked house.

Like most of Favreau’s action sequences, this is short but packed with so much rapid-fire goodness, if not greatness (the movie’s still saving all of its best cards for later). It plays out exactly like such a thing should play out. Yes, that seems like an obvious thing to say/expect, but that really is so much more difficult to pull off than it sounds, when it comes to a mix of CGI and live-action depicting two Iron Men (one of whom is drunk) having a contained brawl inside a mansion, so hats off to the special effects guys, sound team, storyboarders, etc. Downey and Cheadle do great work as well, albeit mostly as voices and occasional disembodied faces, their dialogue a perfect mix of genuine frustration and macho taunts.

In addition to injecting a much-needed burst of action into the film, this fight serves its purpose well in kicking off the final plummet to Tony’s personal nadir. The fact that it’s quite a bit of snappy fun at first makes it go down easier, but when it turns harsh at the end, the movie doesn’t shy away from the genuine ugliness of what the hero’s going through. Favreau pulls off the neat trick of making you want to see Tony take a good beating here, but still feel bad for him when it’s all over.

Grade: B

Coming Attractions: Justin Hammer’s guards have 99 problems, and they are ALL this lady.

She’ll send you to ghost world

Iron Man 2 (fight 1 of 4)

Hey, remember that big superhero movie we covered, like, a year ago?

Let's have more of that.

Let’s have more of that.

Jon Favreau’s sequel to his 2008 smash hit gets a bit of a bad rap. Sure, it makes some questionable decisions– many apparently the result of a rushed schedule and studio meddling to “build the universe”– but it doesn’t deserve its fanboy scorn as the black sheep of Marvel’s Phase One films. It’s quite entertaining and even improves on some of its predeccsor’s shortcomings.

One of those improvements is action. While the novelty is indeed gone, there are places that Iron Man 2 delivers where Iron Man didn’t. Let’s see if we can’t whip up a few examples.

Get it, ‘cuz whips… okay, I’m sorry.

1) Iron Man vs Whiplash

The Fighters:

  • Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, our returning hero. In the time since the first film he has “privatized peace” by effectively serving as a deterrent to tyrants, terrorists and other geopolitical bad actors. (This sounds unlikely.) Meanwhile, he’s been secretly dying of radiation poisoning from the miniature arc reactor that saved his life, and has been acting increasingly reckless as a result. Played by the one and only Robert Downey Jr.
    • Armed with: Here, the Iron Man Mark V armor, a new variant of the suit which can be folded up into a briefcase– likely a reference to the comics equivalent which Tony often carried around, disassembled, in a briefcase. It’s also distinguished by silver coloring rather than gold, and a thinner, more stripped-down appearance. Presumably the armor sacrifices some features for its portability– we never see Tony fly in it, for instance– but that’s not explored.
  • Ivan Vanko, the film’s main villain and a twisted, Russian version of Tony. Vanko is an incredibly muscled, taciturn and brilliant scientist whose recently deceased father was a former colleague of Tony’s dad, and feels he was cheated out of his share of the Stark fortune. Working off stolen blueprints, Vanko builds his own arc reactor, and tracks Tony down for revenge. The character is a combination of the comic villains Whiplash and Crimson Dynamo, though he isn’t called by either name in the movie. Played by Mickey Rourke, enjoying his career revival.
    • Armed with: Unlike Tony, Vanko didn’t have the resources to make a fully-functioning titanium suit, so his arc reactor merely supports a thin exoskeleton and powers two highly charged whips he holds in each hand. The whips have incredible destructive capability, able to slice through just about anything and even deflect Iron Man’s repulsor beams.
Jeff Gordon's worst enemy.

He’s Jeff Gordon’s worst enemy.

The Setup: Part of Tony’s thrill-seeking behavior has led him to participate in an F1 race in Monaco. (One would think driving a fast car would be a little underwhelming after you’ve worn a suit of advanced armor that not only goes faster but also FLIES and blows up bad guys, but okay.) It’s here that Vanko has decided to make his very public, and likely suicidal, attack on Stark.

The villain has infiltrated the proceedings dressed as a mechanic, but as Tony’s car comes around the corner where he’s chosen the confrontation to be, Vanko opts for the direct route, and marches right onto the track. In a neat little detail, as he activates the arc reactor, the machinery it powers heats up enough to burn through his jumpsuit.

Strangely, it doesn't seem to bother his skin.

Strangely, it doesn’t seem to bother his skin.

Vanko whips one approaching car in half, and does the same thing to Tony’s shortly after, causing a magnificent wreck that leaves him mostly unscathed. Still, he’s at a distinct disadvantage.

The Fight: Once he frees himself from the car, Stark has to rely on pretty much just his wits to survive against a superior opponent. He disappears from Vanko’s sight when he can, he lures Vanko into sparking an explosion in some loose gasoline, he flings some car wreckage at him, and he employs some surprising agility when those whips get too close.

Fortunately for him, Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan shows up and rams an SUV into Crazy Ivan, pinning him against a wall. Before Tony can get in to escape, Vanko comes to and attacks the vehicle, preventing the trio (Pepper’s along too, of course) from getting away. Fortunately for Happy and Pepper, Tony is able to find enough time to get the briefcase and don the Mark V armor, which unfolds automatically over his body and evens the odds.

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“Now I have an arc reactor-powered suit. Ho, ho, ho.”

The fight seems like it’s going to take a turn for the better here, but oddly, it doesn’t. Iron Man does kick the car to safety, but every blast he fires at Vanko, the villain parries with well-timed swings of his whips. Immediately after that, Ivan is able to wrap Tony up in his whips and fling him around a bit. The pulsing electricity from the weapon damages Stark’s armor somewhat, making him falter and his viewscreen flicker.

Down but not out, Iron Man decides to use the whips’ now-stationary (because they’re holding him down) position to his advantage, and seizes one by the hand.

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Pulling himself forward one step at a time, Stark gets to Ivan pretty quickly, and subdues him with a few punches. When he falls, the hero leans in and plucks the bootleg arc reactor right off his chest, neutralizing him for good.

Iron Man and the other good guys are all more or less okay, but Ivan gets the last laugh as police drag him off, telling Tony “you lose!” repeatedly. Because while the villain had indeed wanted to follow through with killing Stark here, he already accomplished his baseline goal: proving very publicly that Iron Man is not invincible, and the technology to make him can be replicated.

Not a bad opening bit of action, though it’s unfortunate the movie takes so long to get to it. Despite being over quickly it includes some variety: Tony in the car, Tony struggling outside of it without his armor, the comedically tense bits as Happy distracts Vanko, and then finally Tony’s frantic struggle even after he gets the suit on. Once Iron Man finally gets to lay a hand on his foe, it’s pretty much over, but then of course it would be: Vanko’s apparatus provides him no real defense. In a way this is what the confrontation between Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus should have been like, logically.

Also, note that in contrast to the first film’s first big action sequence, Tony Stark experiences not an empowering moment as he frees himself from captivity, but an upsetting & humbling one as he gets knocked from his arrogant perch. Origin movies build the hero up, sequels gotta bring him down.

Grade: B-

Recommended Links: Mood music.

Coming Attractions: Think you’ve had some regrettable fights when you need to rein in your drunken buddy?

At least your drunk buddy wasn’t a superhero.

Pacific Rim (fight 5 of 5)

Feel free to make your filthy sexual jokes about “disappointing climaxes” here.

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Gipsy and Striker will be hiding from them at the bottom of the ocean.

5) Operation Pitfall

The Fighters:

  • Gipsy Danger, heroic leader of the Autobots our main jaeger, a little banged up from the last fight, but after a quick repair job is good to go.
    • Piloted by: Raleigh Beckett and Mako Mori, who are played by Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi.
  • Striker Eureka, the sleek new jaeger model with the highest kill count so far. Apparently the EMP didn’t do it any lasting damage.
    • Piloted by: Chuck Hansen and Stacker Pentecost, played by Robert Kazinsky and Idris Elba. Chuck’s father, Herc, broke his arm during Fight #2 and is unable to continue, so veteran pilot Stacker has volunteered to take his place and left Herc back in command at Shatterdome. In a completely gratuitous subplot, Pentecost has cancer due to his prolonged exposure to radiation in the poorly-shielded early-model jaegers. The cancer is said to be largely subsided as long as Pentecost doesn’t enter a jaeger again, so presumably the point of this plot element is to show how noble he is for stepping up for duty… but since there are no other worthy pilots on hand, if Stacker hadn’t helped out the apocalypse would remain un-cancelled so he’d die in a kaiju attack eventually, and besides that he (spoiler) dies by other means during the fight anyway. Guillermo Del Toro already pulled the exact same “give a cancer diagnosis to the older mentor figure who’s going to be killed off later” in the first Hellboy, so maybe he’s got a thing for that strangely specific trope. Oh and apparently Hansen and Pentecost are drift-compatible, but the movie is so nebulous about how that works it hardly matters at this point.
  • Raiju, an extremely fast kaiju with a crocodile-like head. Very little is seen of this little beastie, but its body seems almost optimized for swimming. Named after a Japanese mythological beast that has thunder & lightning powers.
  • Scunner, a large kaiju with four arms and a bull-like head. Beyond that, doesn’t seem to do anything special– besides being a huge monster, obviously. It’s named after a Scottish slang word for having a strong dislike for something. It’s never really clear who’s naming these things, incidentally: as soon as they’re spotted on radar, the way the guys at HQ call them out it’s like the names are pre-existing, even though the jaeger program people are the only ones tracking these things. This is such a weird movie.
  • Slattern, the most enormous kaiju yet– he’s immediately identified as a “Category 5” kaiju, even though there’s never been anything bigger than a 4. Again, weird. In addition to its ridiculous size, Slattern has three long tails and a devilish appearance, though given that the two have similar facial protrusions it can be hard to tell it apart from Scunner. The monster’s name (which I don’t believe is ever mentioned on screen, only gained from ancillary material) is taken from an archaic insult for women.

The Setup: Having fended off the assault in Hong Kong, Team Jaeger is now executing their planned operation to directly attack the inter-dimensional breach the kaiju are coming from by dropping a nuclear bomb in it. In a modification of the original plan (thanks to the demise of Typhoon and Cherno), this time it’s Gipsy pulling security while Striker goes ahead with the payload.

As the pair approach the breach, they get word of two large signatures emerging from it, and are on lookout. As they’re deep in the ocean, their visibility is terrible and they have to “switch to instruments” though it’s never clear what that means, and in any case it doesn’t seem to affect their performance. Raiju and Scunner begin to circle the pair, moving too fast to be seen.

As the robots get to the hole where the breach is, both kaiju stop their advance, which clues Pentecost into the presence of a trap. Just then, Dr. Geiszler and his frenemy Dr. Gottlieb burst into command, fresh off their drift with a dead kaiju fetus. The pair tell everyone that the plan won’t work, because whatever weird science that runs the breach will be able to tell monster from machine, and won’t let them through unless they bring a kaiju corpse along for the ride.

As if that wasn’t complicated enough, this is also when Slattern decides to make its appearance.

So: we know that each kaiju is harder to defeat than the last. The previous two monsters managed to easily take out three veteran jaegers, and only fell to Gipsy after it took them on one at a time while using some spectacular moves. This time it’s the good guys who are outnumbered, including one super-duper-jumbo-sized opponent. And it all takes place entirely underwater, where the monsters’ increased maneuverability will give them even greater advantage. How will our heroes overcome these odds?

Luck, mostly. Luck and some cheating.

The Fight: Striker fully extends its wrist blades (where were those in the second fight?) and gets ready. Gipsy tries to catch up and help, but gets attacked from behind by Scunner, who had been hiding nearby.

"I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness."

“I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness.”

We see Striker get knocked down pretty hard by all three of Slattern’s tails. Meanwhile, Gipsy has to tangle with Scunner. It’s able to pin down the kaiju with one hand, but before Gipsy can deliver a killing strike with the sword attached to its free arm, the jaeger gets rammed from behind by Raiju at high speed. The swift little beast knocks the whole limb off, chomping it in half as it swims away.

While Gipsy recovers, Scunner takes the opportunity to bite the robot’s… leg? It has to be the leg, considering what happens later, but the editing is so poor you would swear it went for the intact arm (I rewound multiple times and it really seems like the arm). The leg is also an idiotic tactical decision, because it is indeed the leg right underneath Gipsy’s remaining arm. The jaeger whips out the other sword and shoves it right through the back of Scunner’s head, pinning it to the ground. Attempting to finish it off for good, Gipsy slowly drags the kaiju over to one of several volcanic pits, where the fiery discharge gives it a good burnin’.

Anyone else having flashbacks to Tim Curry in Legend?

Anyone else having flashbacks to Tim Curry in Legend?

Unfortunately, Scunner is able to wrench free before it gets the full Freddy Krueger, and swims off to lick its wounds. Right about this time, Raiju has finally gotten far enough away to start up another charge, and heads straight for Gipsy to finish the job.

With miraculous timing, the one-armed robot is able to duck and lift its sword just in time to catch Raiju right in its ugly snout. The beast has so much momentum that the body just keeps on going, so Gipsy doesn’t have to do anything but stand still in order to slice the kaiju completely in half, length-wise. It’s a really cool kill, but in addition to being an abrupt exit for a brand-new foe, it’s also a bit too easy.

"Well, that was a freebie."

“Well, that was a freebie.”

We go back to Striker, who’s been damaged enough by that one blow it can no longer release the payload. Striker’s more pressing problem, though, is a tackle from the enormous Slattern. After some struggling, Striker’s claws are able to tear up the Cat 5 pretty good, forcing it to draw back and unleash a visualized sonic shout that draws Scunner’s attention.

The (comparatively) smaller kaiju rushes to the aid of its superior, and as the two slowly circle Striker to get into optimal position, the pilots come up with a new plan: they’ll set off the bomb right now to take the heat off Gipsy, who can then detonate its own nuclear reactor to blow up the breach afterward.

After some emotional radio moments straight out of Armageddon, Strikers sets us up off the bomb just before it would have been crunched between the two charging kaiju. Gipsy, at an apparently safe distance away (ha!), keeps from getting flung to Kingdom Come by planting its chain sword in the ground. Meanwhile, the blast displaces all the nearby water, creating a nifty Moses effect. Too bad it’s not to last, and Gipsy’s battered again as the water comes rushing back in.

"nononononononono....."

Surf’s up……. and right back down.

Gipsy grabs a big chunk of Raiju to get through the gateway, and limps toward the breach’s location. (In one of the many humanizing touches the CGI work provides, Gipsy’s limping here, which of course is a natural result of the damage sustained, makes the unfeeling machine look like a human being in pain.) But despite sustaining a point-blank nuclear detonation, Slattern is somehow still alive and seemingly not much worse for wear.

Our heroes improvise accordingly, dropping the Raiju half-corpse and using Gipsy’s jets to tackle Slattern just above the hole leading to the breach. They struggle against each other as they sink, with Gipsy skewering the kaiju through the chin with its sword, and finally finishing the job by burning off a ton of excess fuel through the nuclear turbine in its chest.

"HEAAAAART'S OOOOOOON FIIIIIIIIRE....."

“HEAAAAART’S ONNNNNN FIIIIIIIIRE…..”

After that, it’s pretty much a matter of simply playing out the thread. Gipsy passes through the portal, arms the reactor, both emergency pods eject back up through the portal– how’d they get back through without a kaiju corpse? For that matter, how did they get radio reception back to HQ through another dimension??– bomb goes off and closes bridge. Raleigh ends up surviving process, he and Mako embrace (but don’t kiss), blah blah blah.

Eh, who cares.

Eh, who cares.

Well, this is not bad, per se, but it certainly pales in comparison to the level of carnage we’ve seen before. And it feels like a rush, a cheat. After all those overwhelming odds, the solution ends up being pretty underwhelming: a few lucky hits and a big explosion. Raiju goes down almost as quick as he showed up, getting so little screen time he makes Typhoon and Cherno look like stars in comparison. Scunner isn’t bad, but doesn’t leave much of an impression either. And the actual “boss” is most disappointing of all– after that excellent entrance, Slattern pretty much gives one big blow, then doesn’t do a whole lot else and only showcases one special ability the whole time. And that special ability is basically a glorified distress signal, which means the only noteworthy thing the biggest, baddest monster in the movie does is call for help.

In this, Pacific Rim indulges more in its “war movie” side than it does in its sentai/kaiju side. Which is the filmmakers’ right, but it’s disappointing nonetheless from the perspective of fight scenes. And it’s not without merit: the entrance of Slattern, the bisecting of Raiju, the skewering/cooking of Scunner, and the emotionally-charged sacrifices are all good stuff. But on the whole, it’s the weakest fight of the movie, which is always a bummer to say about the climax.

Grade: B-

Coming Attractions: Wait… more Pacific Rim?

Wait... where'd all the giant robots go?

Where’d all the giant robots go?

Pacific Rim (fight 4 of 5)

Now, where were we?

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Oh, right.

4) Gipsy vs Otachi

The Fighters:

  • Gipsy Danger, our hero robot fresh off its last kill.
    • Piloted by: Raleigh Beckett and Mako Mori, just as it was ten minutes before. Played by Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi.
  • Otachi, the big beast who took out Crimson Typhoon not long ago. We will find out later that Otachi is pregnant which, in addition to inviting some Jay Leno-esque “no wonder it’s so cranky herp derp derp” jokes, doesn’t really mesh with the movie positing that the kaiju are all clones off a bunch of weird genetic assembly lines. The moviemakers have also asserted off-screen that Otachi is female, which again may not make sense but it helps with the confusion I’ve been having with what pronouns to use for these damn things.

The Setup: After parting with Leatherback (rest in pieces), Otachi made a beeline straight for Dr. Geiszler, presumably tracking him by some sort of psychic means. She digs right into the public bunker he’d been hiding out in and gets up close with some sort of weird glowing tendrils.

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Anal probe pain level: MAXIMUM

But before Otachi can grab Geiszler and make him wish he’d never left sunny Philadelphia, the kaiju turns at the sound of Gipsy Danger’s trademark blare. Come to think of it, I never was clear on if Gipsy’s Inception-like BWAAAAAMPS are heard by characters in the movie or if they’re just part of the soundtrack.

As the camera gradually reveals, the dangerous one is dragging a hefty oil tanker lengthwise in its left hand. The music here is a lazier, jazzier version of its main heroic theme, matching the cocky tone of the jaeger’s entrance. It’s fitting, because the heroes are hot off a much-deserved win. While Gipsy was confident in the last fight, here the robot– and the movie– is outright swaggering.

The Fight: As Gipsy closes in, the robot casually swings the ship up so that it’s being held in both hands like a club, and brings the improvised weapon crashing down on Otachi’s stupid lizard face. The villain receives several more blows before she uses her tail to pluck it out of Gipsy’s hands and fling it to a distant street. Where, in a nice touch, it bounces a few times and lands embedded horizontally between two buildings.

At least it will be easy to find later.

At least it will be easy to find later.

The tail also knocks Gipsy down with a strong blow to the chest, and Otachi uses that opportunity to scamper off around a corner. Gipsy gives chase but has a hard time finding the kaiju, which seems hard to believe. It’s like Where’s Waldo, if Waldo was a 3,000-ton space monster.

In another nice touch, as Gipsy clomps around Hong Kong, it passes a small car bridge, and the pilots actually go out of their way to step over it. Even while holding armageddon at bay, still showing at least some consideration to the surrounding environment. It’s not hard, Zack Snyder.

Unfortunately Otachi shortly more than makes up for Gipsy’s apparent respect for property values when she crashes right through a high-rise building and tackles the jaeger.

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“I think I found her!”

There’s some more tussling here, the best part of which is when we see a ducked punch from Gipsy clear right through an empty office area, with the fist coming to a stop juuuuuuust in time to nudge a Newton’s Cradle into motion. It’s Del Toro’s playful streak showing– completely gratuitous but very funny.

Otachi grabs the jaeger and slams it back & forth between a few buildings, finally shoving Gipsy all the way through one of them. The kaiju tries to follow that up with an acid spit finisher, but Gipsy dodges just in time. Before the gross monster can spit again, Gipsy shoves a fist right in her mouth (wouldn’t there still be lots of acid left in there?) and grabs hold of something. Otachi brings her tail over and coils it all the way around Gipsy’s arm, effectively trapping the robot while trying to snap its head off.

"Caught between a mouth and a hard tail," I believe is the expression.

“Caught between a mouth and a hard tail,” I believe is the expression.

Quick-thinking Raleigh counters this by venting the coolant on the machine’s left flank. The super-cold discharge ends up freezing Otachi’s tail so hard the jaeger can snap it right off. Now she’ll never be the tail of a major corporation. With its hand newly free, Gipsy is able to hold Otachi still and rip out the mouth sac that launches her acid spit. Yowch.

The enraged kaiju jumps onto Gipsy and digs the claws on her hind legs deep into Gipsy’s spine. With a solid grip, Otachi springs her surprise: the hidden leather wings on her forearms. As an even heavier version of the old-school monstruous kaiju tune plays up, Otachi pulls Gipsy high up into the sky, smacking the robot along a few buildings for good measure. It’s kind of poorly edited, with literally no transition between the pair just barely passing the rooftops and then suddenly being almost in orbit.

Out of plasma ammo and about to run out of atmosphere, Mako reveals (how is it possible for them to be surprising each other at this point? They’re literally sharing a brain) Gipsy’s own secret weapon:

Letting out a delightfully hammy declaration of revenge in Japanese, Mako makes Gipsy swing hard enough to cut clean through the bat-lizard.

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Again, if you spoke kaiju you’d know Otachi was saying, “that really was a Hattori Hanzo sword.”

This is awesome, and if anything it only suffers from being not quite as awesome as what immediately preceded it. There’s a lot less direct physical fighting between the two combatants this time, but that’s replaced by a healthy amount of other incident: the brief chase in the crowded city, the acid spit, the tail freezing, and that unusual aerial ending. So while it’s less of a “fight,” than the Leatherback duel, that’s fine, because we didn’t need too much more of the same so soon.

And of course there’s that opening where Gipsy Danger strolls in Like A Boss and wields a tanker like a baseball bat. That forgives a lot.

Grade: A

Coming Attractions: A disappointing finale.

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“im un ur ocean, bitin off ur arms”

Pacific Rim (fight 3 of 5)

“Pacific Rim is the ultimate otaku film that all of us had always been waiting for. Who are you, if you are Japanese and won’t watch this?”Hideo Kojima, master video game creator

If the movie impressed you before, here’s where it really shines.

And/or rips stuff off of it.

Shiny, indeed.

3) Gipsy vs Leatherback

The Fighters:

  • Gipsy Danger, our friend from the opening battle, repaired and given a couple modifications. The most notable of them is a chain sword hidden in each forearm.
    • Piloted by: Raleigh Beckett and Mako Mori, played by Charlie Hunnam and the strangely charismatic Rinko Kikuchi, respectively. After barely surviving the Knifehead incident, Raleigh spent about five years in anonymous construction work, recovering from the traumatic loss of his brother. As part of the now-cancelled* jaeger program’s last-ditch effort to proactively end the war, Stacker Pentecost tracks down Raleigh and pulls him back to active duty. His new co-pilot Mako turns out to be Pentecost’s own surrogate daughter, who he’d been caring for ever since her family’s death in an early kaiju attack years before. As you can guess, she has scores to settle.
  • Leatherback, the ape-like latecomer in the previous fight. Having sustained minimal injuries in that five-colossus brawl, he’s pretty much good to go.

[*The film’s “Pan Pacific Defense Corps” has discontinued the jaeger initiative due to high costs and increasingly unsatisfactory results in the face of ever-stronger kaiju attackers. They’re funding Pentecost for only eight more months as they put their focus instead on an enormous coastal wall that doesn’t even look like it will repel a sustained kaiju attack… and it doesn’t, as we see earlier in the film, but the global bureaucracy charges ahead with the same plan anyway. The staggering political incompetence necessary for this premise is a lot more plausible in light of the real-life U.S. government’s disastrous attempts to overhaul its health care system in late 2013.]

The Setup: As Beckett helpfully (and falsely, according to real-world science) explains, since Gipsy’s power source is a nuclear reactor, it’s “analog” rather than digital, and unaffected by the recent EMP blast. Regardless, it’s been maybe five minutes since that pulse went off– barely enough time for the pilots to get into their flight outfits, never mind the climb into the jaeger, get into their delicate “drift” state, do all the pre-flight checks, hook the machine up to a dozen helicopters, etc. But why let logic get in the way of such a great entrance?

Gipsy gets dropped off pretty close to the kaiju and assumes a ready stance. Raleigh quietly asks Mako if she’s ready for the real thing. She SO is.

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For those who hadn’t given up on Pacific Rim entirely by this point, this is the part where it really wins them over. After not just that long dry spell but the devastating losses in the previous battle, the story is in desperate need of a little turnaround. You can really feel the excitement here, and even before the first punch is thrown the audience understands that although it won’t be easy, our heroes won’t let us down this time: Gipsy Danger’s about to kick some ass.

The Fight: The jaeger judo-dodges around Leatherback’s initial charge and is able to seize the monster from behind. Even though it’s unnecessary because Gipsy is immune to it, the robot still rips the bio-electrical EMP device right off from Leatherback’s, uh, back. From the top of the powered-down Striker Eureka, the pilots cheer on Gipsy, with even the erstwhile dickhead Chuck Hansen enthusiastically urging his rivals to take down the beast.

Leatherback is understandably pissed off at having chunks torn off him, so the kaiju breaks free and turns the tables. Using its advanced size smartly, the monster catches Gipsy in a bear hug.

The kaiju then spins around to get momentum and throws Gipsy a good mile or two through the air to the Hong Kong coast, resulting in that long ponderous fall & slide that was spoiled in every single trailer. The jaeger finally comes up in a ready crouch at a dock area, and Leatherback sets foot on land, unleashing a great big giant monster scream apparently as the world’s biggest “come at me bro.”

Both monster and machine charge each other at full speed, with Gipsy’s pilots clearly relishing the thrill (it’s stated earlier in the movie that piloting a jaeger is basically the world’s greatest adrenaline rush). The music builds to a crescendo as they close the distance and Gipsy gets the better of it their simultaneous leap, launching higher up and coming down with a hammer punch on top of Leatherback’s scaly noggin.

"Hello! McFly!"

“Hello! McFly!”

The jaeger hits its foe a few more times (including one with the awesomely impractical Elbow Rocket), but when Leatherback goes down he seizes a piece of control tower and clocks Gipsy with it a few times. Following the kaiju’s example (and maybe also Hulk’s), Gipsy grabs several shipping containers in hand and uses them to smack the enemy around, culminating in a simultaneous smashing to both sides of Leatherback’s face. It’s questionable at best, because surely those shipping containers aren’t made of harder metal than Gipsy’s own “skin,” but again: rule of cool. Del Toro films the blow smartly, slowing down time nearly to a standstill as we see a stunned Leatherback amidst a cloud of suspended debris.

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Then everything revs back up and the fight continues. After some more tussling, the kaiju uses his size advantage again and just rushes into Gipsy, steadily pushing the jaeger back. Stuck in close quarters, the pilots decide it’s the best time to whip out the trusty old plasma cannon.

"Don't plaz me, bro!"

“Don’t plaz me, bro!”

Using the right arm cannon, Mako “empties the clip” per Raleigh’s instruction, tearing increasingly bigger holes in Leatherback’s hide until the monster’s arm falls clean off and it eventually topples, just before it would have pushed Gipsy into the water.

Gipsy starts to walk away, but Raleigh clearly remembers how he assumed Knifehead’s death too soon. Wanting to “check for a pulse” Gipsy revs up the other plasma cannon and blasts the monster several more times, ripping enormous cavities in its chest. Presumably a simpler and more ammunition-efficient way would be to just jump on the monster’s head or something, but this is way more fun.

In real war, double-tapping is technically illegal. Good thing the kaiju don't know about the Geneva Convention.

In real war, double-tapping is technically illegal, so good thing the kaiju don’t know about the Geneva Convention.

Satisfied that Leatherback is not merely dead but really most sincerely dead, Gipsy looks to elsewhere in city at its next target: the deadly Otachi.

This is basically non-stop awesome. It fully delivers on the promise of inventive, epic excitement that you went to the movie for. More importantly, as discussed above it comes at just the right time in the narrative, giving the heroes a win they sorely need. And there’s that promise of more to come.

Grade: A

Coming Attractions: The ship hits the fan.

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