Pacific Rim, the Avengers, and the Value of Being Entertaining

First off, I put out my second book Bloodlust: Will to Power, yesterday. Yay!

I was not expecting much from Pacific Rim. Giant Robots fighting monsters sounds much better as a game concept than a movie. However, Guillermo Del Toro has a pretty good track record with me, and my friends (Including two kids 7 and 13) really wanted to see it . I went in expecting a silly movie with Giant Robots saving us from Giant monsters. I got exactly that, but I was curiously entertained, even energized by watching the movie.

Without delving too deep into spoiler territory, the movie has Godzilla sized monsters spilling out of a dimensional rift in the pacific ocean to rampage across the earth. The attacks gradually get more frequent, with deadlier monsters. The movie does give a reason for these attacks, but it serves the action rather than attempting to weave a deep cohesive narrative. Did I mention the movie was about Giant Robots saving the world from Giant Monsters? People shopping for movies that make sense will likely stop there. The Giant Robots in question are huge bipedal machines that engage in brutal close combat with the Kaiju (the monsters) with the occasional ranged attack thrown in on both sides.

The idea that the robots require two pilots linked together to function properly has nothing to do with science, common sense, or tradition and everything to do with creating a little bit of drama to wash down your meal of crazy, epic robot on monster wrestling matches. The pretty much describes every device used in Pacific Rim, it is there to point you towards the action and provide a little bit of zing to the movie. Del Toro is not drawing on a deep, hidden backstory or creating a meaningful allegory, he is simply putting forth a fun movie that works exactly as advertised.

I often get annoyed at movies and books where the tactics make no sense, nut somehow Pacific rim manages to creep past me in that regard. It may be that being very honest about the value proposition of your movie (Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters) helps audiences come to terms with suspending their various views on story, tactics, and realism an just sit back and enjoy the show. That is a really tough thing to do though.

The film reminded my of last year’s Avengers movie, directed by Joss Whedon. While the Avengers had to be slightly more cohesive since it was realizing years of comic fan expectations, it still somehow managed to be purely entertaining and unpretentious. The lack of pretension may be the most important ingredient in both movies.

The main goal of both movies is to have fun, to satisfy the desire of an audience member to sit back and enjoy some relatively thought free fun and action. Sometimes, we just want to escape from a hot day and watch a movie that leaves everyone feeling satisfied, even if it does not enlighten us. There’s nothing wrong with that. I feel the same way about books, RPGs, and every other form of entertainment I partake of. I don’t mind watching a dumb, fun movie as long as it does not try to disguise the fact that is a dumb, fun movie. (I’m not saying purely entertaining movies can’t hold edifying elements either, it is a matter of focus, really)

The idea occurred to me that sometimes that is all that people want from their media, to be entertained, and that this can be pure and good and should not be looked down upon.

I could stretch out this discussion, but it is hot as heck and I published a book this week (yay), so I’ll say this: if the idea of watching Giant Robots wrestle with Giant Monsters sounds even remotely interesting to you, watch Pacific Rim.

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