Sci-fi, 132 Minutes, 2013
This movie is completely without depth or gravitas of any kind. Every character is a cliché-ridden cardboard cutout. Every scene is parody of exchanges you’ve seen a 1,000 times before. Visual effects are used in place of emotional connection and innovation.
This movie was amazingly, astonishingly, awesome!
Guillermo del Toro [IMDB] has made deep, emotionally gripping movies. He’s made important movies. He didn’t want to do that this time. This time he wanted to make a movie about giant, monster-fighting robots. This movie isn’t designed to win awards. It’s not designed to woo critics. This movie is drippy, sappy love letter to the giant monster movies of his (and my) childhoods.
The story is complete cliché, but cliché polished to an unbelievable sheen. We have the battered veteran who left the service after a heart-wrenching tragedy and the hungry rookie seeking to leave her past behind. Will they rise to the challenge? Of course they will! We have an egotistical hot-shot who doesn’t work well with others. Will he grow as a person? Of course he will! We have the grizzled veteran forced back into service at the eleventh hour. Will he handle the pressure? Of course he will! We have the oil-and-water scientists/comic relief. Will they learn to work together and come up with a solution? Of course they will!
Del Toro is smart enough to know that a simple, completely-predictable story with well understood, archetypical characters will work perfectly well with the right actors (everybody involved does very well) and the right distraction. In this case the distraction is giant, monster-fighting robots and they are good. Very good. This movie is what I saw, in my head, when I watched “Godzilla” or “King Kong” every Thanksgiving on WOR, channel 9’s, monster movie marathons. This is pure popcorn fantasy realization at its absolute best.
The movie is dedicated to genre creating legends Ishirô Honda [IMDB] and the, sadly recently deceased, Ray Harryhausen [IMDB]. Those men didn’t want your brain, they wanted your eyeballs. They wanted your eyeballs to pop right the hell out of your head at the unbelievable creatures that they brought to the screen. The highest praise I can give this film is that I’m positive that those two inarguable gods among men would have loved the shit out of it.