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'Pacific Rim' makes Tower of Babel look pretty

Posted By Drew Zahn On 07/14/2013 @ 1:58 pm In Faith,Front Page,Reviews | No Comments

I’m a fan of director Guillermo del Toro’s striking visual style, particularly in his film “Hellboy” and his masterpiece “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which also carries some Christian allegorical elements.

So despite my reservations about a “giant robots vs. alien sea monsters” movie (seriously, how good could that possibly be?), when I learned del Toro was directing “Pacific Rim,” I felt a twinge of anticipation.

And indeed, del Toro’s stunning vision is all over this film, with vivid costumes, gritty sets, towering robots and mammoth aliens – creating a film that is gorgeous to behold. The visual treat is only accented when the massive gladiators engage in the battle scenes, which someone behind me in the theater commented were “epic.”

Many Hollywood directors could have tried to make this film, and their efforts would have resulted in a campy waste of special effects and millions of dollars. Del Toro, however, takes an old, Godzilla-like idea and breathes some beauty into it.

But again, I return to the question: How good can a “giant robots vs. alien sea monsters” movie really be?

Answer: C’mon, isn’t it self-evident?

Unfortunately, “Pacific Rim” doesn’t really move much beyond del Toro’s vision for stunning pictures. With the exception of a scene here or there, the human characters in “Pacific Rim” give audiences very little reason to care. The story is shallow, the science is laughably bad and the dialogue clearly exists only to propel the film to the next battle scene. There just isn’t enough meat on this movie to make a satisfying meal.

Some audiences, I admit, will be thrilled to just watch the action and be dazzled by the visual display. Some audiences just want to watch the good guy win, and they’re perfectly happy. And if that’s your idea of a summer blockbuster, a good night out, some mindless entertainment, “Pacific Rim” doesn’t disappoint. Del Toro is having some fun with this, and audiences who may not have seen his work (which is many audiences), will appreciate it for the first time in “Pacific Rim.”

For a guy who sees movies every weekend, however, I thirst for just a little more. I hope for a film that is truly gripping and suspenseful, has a clever plot twist, tells a moving story, delivers a powerful message or creates characters that touch the heart or funny bone.

“Pacific Rim” does none of this. It doesn’t even try. It’s some really cool-looking robots doing battle with heavily stylized monsters in the middle of Asian, neon cities with water splashing everywhere. And … that’s it.

As for its worldview, “Pacific Rim” is fairly innocuous, save for one critical point in the film, when the scriptwriters deliver a clearly humanistic speech that reveals exactly how discerning audiences can identify and discuss the morals and philosophies behind the stories we enjoy in theaters. Parents, pastors and teachers, in particular, can use textbook examples like this to discuss worldview in entertainment.

In formulaic fashion, “Pacific Rim” delivers a start-of-the-third-act “inspiring” rally speech, ala “Independence Day.”

In the “Pacific Rim” speech, the commanding officer, Marshall Stacker Pentecost, declares, “At the end of our hope, we chose to believe not only in ourselves, but in each other. … Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

It’s meant to be all inspiring, and stuff.

But in reality, the speech is a reflection of a worldview with zero acknowledgement of the divine and a misguided notion that our greatest hope lies in our fellow man. The speech forgets our greatest hope lies in God. Then it uses religious language – “apocalypse” – to suggest this human endeavor can overcome a spiritual battle.

But what this tower of humanistic babble misses is one of the primary differences between a godless worldview and Christianity: namely, that while “Pacific Rim” turns to people “at the end of our hope,” for the Christian who trusts in God, there is no “end of our hope.”

Content advisory:

  • “Pacific Rim,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 30 profanities and obscenities, most of the minor variety.
  • The film has no significant sexuality, as there are no overtly romantic storylines. The lead actor does give audiences (and the lead actress) a shirtless eyeful in one scene, and the female lead sometimes dresses in form-fitting costumes, but that’s about it.
  • The film contains extensive scenes of sci-fi violence, as the robots and sea monsters battle, often crashing through and destroying cities, though no human carnage is actually depicted. Some human characters are killed (off-screen) or bloodied from battle, though one character is seen eaten whole by the monsters. In perhaps the film’s most compelling and disturbing scene, a small girl is seen threatened and terrified by a monster, but it ends without gore. The monsters, however, are frequently seen ripped apart, blown up, autopsied and dissected.
  • Outside of the use of the word “apocalypse” (mentioned above) the film’s only other significant religious or occult reference is a brief depiction of Asian “worshippers” who fear the alien monsters are sent from heaven as a punishment from “the gods.”

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