Pacific Rim: The Black Is Solid Gold

I emerge from my blogging hiatus because I have something nerdly I need to gush about, and I just can’t keep it in.

A promotional image for Netflix's Pacific Rim: The Black.Pacific Rim is a franchise I want to like more than I do. The fantasy of giant robots punching alien kaiju appeals intensely to my inner six year old boy, but the films somehow never managed to be as fun as that premise should be. They’re decent time-wasters, but largely forgettable.

I’m also not a big anime guy, so when I saw Netflix had produced a Pacific Rim anime, my reaction wasn’t exactly feverish excitement. But there really isn’t a lot to watch right now (I’ve been watching Resident Evil let’s plays on YouTube for lack of anything more interesting), so I figured I’d give it a shot.

The first episode of Pacific Rim: The Black is a bit shakey, but it showed enough potential for me to try another episode. It was then that the show really took off, and my low expectations were completely shattered. This show turned out to be incredibly good.

The Black takes place in the ruins of Australia after the events of both films (though prior knowledge of the films isn’t really required). The continent has been abandoned and left to the kaiju, but pockets of survivors remain.

Among these survivors are teenagers Taylor and Hailey, children of jaeger pilots who left to find help but never returned. Early on, they discover an abandoned jaeger, and… y’know, shenanigans ensue.

The jaeger Atlas Destroyer in Pacific Rim: The Black.In a lot of ways, the arc of the show follows what you’d expect, but there’s enough surprises and twists to keep things interesting, and it’s in the execution of the show’s concepts more so than the concepts themselves where The Black really shines.

Going in, I saw that all the main characters were kids and assumed this was going to be a very sugar-coated, family friendly series.

It is not. The Black is a very intense, dark, and often brutal story that does not pull its punches.

But what really makes it special is that The Black doesn’t fall into the trap so much grimdark media does these days. It’s not all horrible, all the time. It’s not a show where every character is an unlikable monster. The challenges faced by the characters may be harrowing, but the characters themselves are good people who are worth cheering for.

The Black hits the exact tone I want in fiction. It’s dark, but it’s not cynical.

Not much else I can say without spoilers, but I will mention that I love how this show handles issues of abuse and PTSD. There’s some fantastic character work in this series.

My one major frustration with The Black is it’s yet another example of TV seasons becoming ever shorter. Seriously, seven twenty-minute episodes isn’t a TV season; it’s a movie with a bunch of credit sequences jammed into the middle.

Taylor, Hailey, and Boy in Pacific Rim: The Black.I will say, though, that as much as I’m hungry for more of this show, its quality doesn’t really suffer from the shortness of the season, unlike most shows these days. They somehow managed to cram an incredible amount of plot, action, and character development into very little time without it feeling rushed.

I’m just glad season two is on the way. I’m struggling to even remember the last time a new show impressed me this much.

I haven’t been doing numbered reviews as much lately, but this is definitely 9/10 territory. There are a few weird choices here or there, and the short season is disappointing, but there’s so much to love that faults like that are easily overlooked.

Review: Pacific Rim

Guillermo Del Toro. Giant robots. Ellen McLain. Ron Perlman.

These are four things that, when combined, virtually guarantee I’m going to see a movie. Unfortunately, I no longer live anywhere near a movie theater, and I don’t drive, so I wasn’t able to see Pacific Rim when it came out. I’ve only now gotten around to seeing it on DVD.

Giant flippin' robots!It basically lived up to my expectations, which is a both a positive and a negative.

Bringing out your inner kid:

Pacific Rim is the movie every six year old boy would make if they were given a couple million dollars of budget. And I mean that as a compliment.

Giant robots! Horrible dinosaur monsters! Lasers go pew pew! Skyscrapers getting smashed like toys! Giant robots beating up dinosaur monsters with lasers as skyscrapers get smashed!

I mean, any movie where a robot beats a Godzilla-lookalike with an oil tanker gets my seal of approval.

It’s not a smart movie, but it doesn’t have to be. Pacific Rim was obviously never intended to be Shakespeare, and that’s okay. It’s a fun movie, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori in Pacific RimThe characters are simple, but they’re all quite endearing. The plot’s pretty basic and predictable, but I doubt anyone expected anything else. There were a few subtle little touches that showed real thought went into the writing, so it’s very clear that Pacific Rim’s simplistic nature was a deliberate choice, not the result of a lack of talent.

And while it’s definitely not smart, it’s not dumb, either. Despite its incredibly improbable premise, it never quite falls into outright stupidity, and while it’s made to appeal to the kid in all of us, it never lapses into immaturity or childishness.

Pacific Rim is sort of like what the Transformers movies would be like if they’d had a better director and actual writers. No, I don’t consider Orci and Kurtzman writers. They’re more like God’s revenge on language.

A movie for theaters:

With all that said, though, watching Pacific Rim was a pretty underwhelming experience. This was a movie made to be watched on the big screen. Watching it on my step-mother’s old TV just doesn’t cut it by comparison.

I’m sure the epic battle sequences between monsters and robots would have been absolutely mind-blowing in a dark theater, on a massive screen, with the sound vibrating in my very bones. But as it was, they were just moderately entertaining.

A massive Kaiju monster in Pacific RimI did enjoy Pacific Rim, but I know I would have enjoyed it so much more in the theater, and in the end, it just made me miss Toronto all the more.

Overall rating: 7.9/10 It’s a good movie, but if you haven’t seen it by now, I can’t say I’d recommend renting the DVD.