Pacific Rim (fight 4 of 5)

Now, where were we?

p1

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.

p2

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.

p4

“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.

p6

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.

Picture1

“im un ur ocean, bitin off ur arms”

Pacific Rim (fight 2 of 5)

Another fight filled with tragedy.

And not just because Stryker never got any beads for this.

And not just because Striker never got any beads for this.

If Pacific Rim has any major weakness it’s that it sags in the middle. Not terminally– what does transpire is watchable enough if a bit cliche-ridden and predictable, plus there are a couple of human physical sequences we’ll get to later– but if you came for giant robots fighting giant monsters (and of course you did), there’s a huge stretch of time where that is inexplicably not happening.

Fortunately the movie makes up for it when the action finally does rev back up, giving the audience three big fight sequences that are practically back-to-back-to-back, and a climax not too long after. This is where the movie starts to make its money.

2) Typhoon, Cherno and Striker vs Otachi and Leatherback

The Fighters:

  • Crimson Typhoon, a robot made and by piloted by the Chinese (the jaeger program is an international effort). Unlike the other machines it has a third arm, made possible by its number of pilots. Rather than hands, each arm has a large spinning blade attached to the end of it, making this the jaeger’s primary offensive attack. Typhoon uses the blades in a technique called the “Thundercloud Formation,” the specifics of which are vague but is apparently designed to allow a continuous and seemingly unblockable offense. The robot’s head is also smaller than other models’ but more easily moved, increasing the pilots’ ability to see at the expense of heightened vulnerability, since the head is where the pilots are located. This will turn out to be a bad trade-off.
    • Piloted by: Cheung Wei Tang, Hu Wei Tang, and Jin Wei Tang, Chinese triplets and martial artists. Played by Charles Luu, Lance Luu, and Mark Luu, who are, you guessed it, real-life identical triplets. Good thing for them they’re Chinese and not North Korean. Supposedly Guillermo del Toro wanted quadruplets for the role but couldn’t find any so he had to settle for triplets… which is mystifying because the Wei Tangs are on-screen for so little time a fourth could have easily been simulated using movie tricks that have been around since at least The Parent Trap. Heck, they could have done it all with just one guy.
  • Cherno Alpha, the Russian jaeger and one of the oldest around. Big and simple in a very stereotypically Russian way: ugly, but it gets the job done. Unlike the other jaegers (especially Typhoon), its head is a thick, heavily protected tin can connected directly to the torso, with no “neck” or other vulnerable spots– you know, like the guy who used to beat you up in high school. Doesn’t seem to have any offensive powers besides its extra-large fists.
    • Piloted by: Aleksis and Sasha Kaidonovsky, a Russian husband & wife team. Like the Wei Tangs, they’re not much of a presence in the movie, but they still make a strong impression with their imposing size, stoic attitudes and outrageous bleach blonde hair. Played by Robert Maillet and Heather Doerksen, the latter of whom probably had to endure a lot of taunting in primary school.
  • Striker Eureka, an Australian jaeger with the highest kill count on record. A newer, sleek and speedy model. Like Gipsy, Striker largely gets things done physically (aided by some sharp-looking prongs at the top of its wrists), but it also houses six short-range missile launchers behind a retractable chest cavity. It’s unknown just how powerful the missiles are, but one barrage was enough to finish off a tough-looking kaiju earlier in the movie (in a battle so fleetingly glimpsed via news report earlier in the movie it’s not worth writing up), which makes you wonder why cities don’t just set up similar missile batteries near their coastlines.
    • Piloted by: Herc and Chuck Hansen, a father & son Aussie team. Herc, the dad, is a veteran jaeger & military pilot. The son, Chuck, is fairly young but a talented hotshot. He’s also another of the film’s irritations, because he’s a cartoonishly arrogant and needlessly vindictive prick. Apparently the screenwriters felt the film needed an element of drama it could only get from a designated jerk, so they made a bully straight out of a bad 80s high school movie to hiss nasty stuff at Raleigh every time they’re on-screen together. There’s a moment toward the end where Pentecost casually diagnoses Chuck as having “daddy issues,” which is bizarre because Herc is incredibly nice & respectful to everybody. Played by Max Martini (from The Unit!) and Robert Kazinsky, respectively
  • Otachi, a more lizard-like kaiju who prefers to crawl about on all fours. In addition to the deadly claws & jaws that all these beasties seem to come equipped with, Otachi (Japanese for “big sword,” apparently) also has an extra-long & thick prehensile tail, with another large gripper claw on the end of it. It can also spit large amounts of corrosive blue acid which it stores in a sac underneath the chin. And this won’t come into play until later, but Otachi also has a set of strong wings hidden in its forearms.
  • Leatherback, a fat kaiju with a¬†gorilla-like body who walks dragging the knuckles attached to his enormous forearms. Big & strong, of course, and he has some sort of alien device on his back that can release an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Whew, that was a long one.

The Setup: After their first attempt at forming a neural bridge went all kinds of wrong, Raleigh and his would-be partner, Mako, are grounded, so when two more kaiju are detected (the first time more than one has attacked at once), it’s up to Cherno & Typhoon to defend the city (Striker is held back in reserve, because it’s needed for an important mission later). Though actually as we shortly find out, the kaiju’s primary mission here is to hunt down a human scientist working for the jaeger program, because he’d gone rogue and neural-drifted with a piece of kaiju corpse, getting the hive mind’s attention. (The scientist, Dr. Geiszler, is made to feel bad for “provoking” the enemy, but since they were intent on showing up in cities and wrecking things anyway, I don’t see what the big difference is.)

So Striker hugs the coast while the two other active jaegers venture out to find the approaching kaiju. It doesn’t take them long.

Peekaboo.

Peekaboo.

The Fight: Otachi, not one to beat around the bush, pops out of the water directly in front of Crimson Typhoon. After a brief holler, it spins around and floors the jaeger with its massive tail. Sweep the leg!

NO MERCY!

NO MERCY!

Typhoon pauses and actually shakes its head a little bit before getting up, the way a human would after taking a hard knock. Presumably this is because the pilots are a bit dazed from the fall and the jaeger is only following their movements, but it’s still a funny touch because it looks like the robot is dizzy, which is hilarious.

Typhoon arises and attacks Otachi using Thundercloud, all three blades spinning madly. The brothers get in a good five or six swipes, ripping several tears across the kaiju’s ugly gut, before Otachi seizes two of the jaeger’s hands in its own claws, crunching the blades good. Rather than just going to town with the remaining third limb (this would kind of seem to be what it’s there for, no?), Typhoon responds by using the jets on its back to leap into the air above Otachi’s head, but remains vertical and still with its hands caught in the monster’s claws. It looks like the world’s biggest, slowest suplex, except it’s self-inflicted.

While Typhoon is briefly suspended above Otachi’s head, the pilots swivel the entire lower half of its body (that’s nifty) so that it lands with increased leverage, which it then uses to fling Otachi several hundred feet through the air.

The kaiju stumbles in the shallow water, where it finds Cherno Alpha ready for business. The beefy jaeger wastes no time charging in and delivering an elbow drop (more rasslin’ moves!) to Otachi’s long neck. Cherno segues right into a headlock and follows up with a few blows to the monster’s face. It can’t finish the job, though, because the creature’s tail swipes in to knock it down.

p4

The Hansens see this and want to help, but are told to stand down by command. Meanwhile, Typhoon closes back in on Otachi, so the beast is surrounded and seemingly in trouble. But that damn tail is still too unpredictable for the pilots: it whips in and smacks Typhoon, and the claw at the end of it grabs onto Typhoon’s head/cockpit. This spurs the Hansens to finally disobey orders and start rushing over to help, but it’s too late to save Typhoon’s noggin: after a little bit of wrenching, the entire thing gets yanked clean off, and flung carelessly into the sea. Just like with Yancy we don’t see what happens to the triplets inside after that, but they almost certainly didn’t survive. As for Crimson Typhoon, well, now he’ll never be the head of a major corporation.

That's not the way to get ahead in life

Too soon?

Really, as I said earlier, that was a serious design flaw. Surely they could have found a way to increase the jaeger’s visibility (cameras embedded in the sides, or something) without leaving its pilots so exposed. This is twice now in the movie a jaeger has been quickly compromised by a direct attack on its cockpit. That’s not the way to get ahead in life.

Anyway, Cherno Alpha’s pilots see this and are pissed. The jaeger clangs its fists together in anticipation, and rushes at Otachi. Unfortunately, Otachi does its Linda Blair impression and hits Cherno square in the face with deadly acid. The jaeger is damaged but not down, even though the acid quickly leaves the pilots directly exposed. Otachi bites into Cherno’s arm and the jaeger starts to fight back, but his fate is sealed when Leatherback decides to make his entrance.

p7

Leatherback clings onto Cherno’s back and starts tearing it up from behind, even as Otachi keeps at it from the front. Soon enough the latter decides that Leatherback can finish things off on its own, and goes off to engage Striker Eureka. Indeed, Leatherback does make short work of things, seizing Cherno and shoving it into the ocean. There’s a strangely personal & chilling malice in the way the monster simply holds the robot down, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Water floods not just the pilots but also the reactor, shortly triggering a muted explosion that saves the pilots the indignity of a slow drowning death.

Meanwhile, an enraged Striker has been ruthlessly pounding on Otachi. The jaeger finishes up by hefting the kaiju above its head and giving it a mighty toss– maybe not the smartest move on the pilots’ part, since the landing in deep water doesn’t really hurt it, and Striker would have been better off pressing the advantage. Maybe they only did that so they’d have a safe distance from which to fire Striker’s missiles… but that doesn’t work either, because a freshly-unoccupied Leatherback sees the danger and activates its EMP.

p8

To slightly paraphrase War Machine: Why didn’t they lead with that? Really, it could saved the kaiju a lot of hassle. Getting all their targets in range couldn’t have been an issue, because the pulse extends at least all the way to the shore.

As Striker stands inert, the two monsters have a brief exchange. Otachi charges off to find Dr. Geiszler while Leatherback stays behind to menace its motionless enemy. There are a couple cuts away to headquarters and the doctor’s misadventures in the city, but soon enough we come back to the two pilots in their useless robot. They leave their harness just as Leatherback gives Striker’s head a playful smack, which leads to Herc falling and hurting his arm.

There’s some macho arguing, but ultimately the two decide to “do something really stupid”: rather than sit there and wait for the inevitable doom, the Hansens climb outside to almost literally spit in Death’s eye. Armed with flare guns, they wait for a curious Leatherback to examine them up close, and fire a couple shots right at some of his six eyeballs. The monster is none too happy and raises his fists to take them out, when suddenly a spotlight hits him from behind….

Well. All kidding aside, this is some pretty harsh stuff to watch. Probably not as much as it would be if we’d actually gotten to know some of these now-dead characters (and their awesome jaegers) on anything but the most surface of levels. To be sure, some of the mystique surrounding the Russian & Chinese pilots is owed to them being more on the periphery, but it’s possible to flesh out a supporting character while still maintaining his or her mystique. As it is, these folks are barely cameos before this.

The way the fight unfolds also underscores the problem of the movie’s necessarily rushed storytelling. This is the first really extended monster combat we’ve seen so far, yet it’s filled with at least three “this has never happened before!” moments: two kaiju attacking simultaneously, a kaiju using projectile spit, and a kaiju with a sophisticated technological attack. We have minimal grounding here, jumping into this war just as it’s starting to get truly interesting and desperate.

All that being said, the fight is astounding. With five combatants constantly shifting back & forth and some unexpected attacks (not just the obvious ones like the EMP and acid spit either; Otachi’s crazy tail is another game-changer) this is a WAY more dynamic fight than the opening number. We get to see a few more tricks from the jaegers as well, and of course there’s that crazy sense of scale that Pacific Rim’s fights operate on. This battle puts a very effective cap on the tail end of the second-act doldrums, and excellently sets things up for the big turnaround.

Grade: A-

Coming Attractions: Looks like Team Elbow Rocket’s blasting off again….