Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes, #242.
Raleigh: “When alien life entered our world it was from deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.”
This is actually a really interesting concept and break from the usual alien invasion movies. It keeps the movie incredibly sci-fi but gives the monsters a much more earthy quality to them. And opening the movie with the idea establishes the world we live in right away. In fact, the entire prologue does an excellent job of clearly and quickly establishing the world of Pacific Rim (I consider the prologue everything before Raleigh and Yancy go and fight the monster, even though the film’s title takes 16 minutes to show up).
2) The monsters in this film are referred to as Kaiju and that fact shows the incredible respect the filmmakers are showing to the genre they’re playing in. For those of you who don’t know, giant monster movies made in Japan like Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, etc. are referred to as Kaiju films so just by embracing that genre name for this film shows they’re playing in a similar world. I just like that that’s the path they went down.
3) Ramin Djawdi’s score for Pacific Rim is absolutely kickass. The German composer is probably most known for his work on the first Iron Man and “Game of Thrones”, so audiences for those projects are familiar with the fact that Djawdi can get you pumped through music. Pacific Rim is no battle, with the main theme being an electric guitar heavy and absolutely energizing anthem of badassery that gets the audience ready for battle. I suggest everyone listens to it.
4) Charlie Hunam as Raleigh
Raleigh is rough around the edges but in a way the audience can appreciate. He’s not a jackass, he’s not a jerk, he’s just a bit macho. But he’s still a nice guy (not Nice Guy™), showing kindness to much of the cast of characters throughout the film (Mako, Pentecost). There’s an old school roguish charm to him, but Hunam is also able to play the grief that marks Raleigh for a lot of the film.
Raleigh: “I was still connected to my brother when he died.”
That is an incredibly rich and unique conflict, to know what it feels like to die and live while also knowing that’s what your family felt in their last moments. Hunam is able to work with this well in a number of scenes and while at time his American accent can be a bit distracting his performance overall is damn good.
5) This film does a very good job of establishing minor and supporting characters so that even if they only have a few minutes of screen time you remember them. This includes Yancy, Choi, and all the other Jaeger pilots. Through combined visual design and unique character writing, they stand out.
6) The first Kaiju/Jaeger fight - while not the best in the film - still strongly establishes the film’s intense action. It is important for the audience to know the rules in these fights early on. To know that the Kaiju and Jaeger are close to equally matched; neither is swifter, neither is bigger, it’s a really intense skirmish between opponent of equal size and strength. Establishing that well early on is important and exactly what this film did.
7) Idris Elba as Marshall Pentecost
I think Elba gives the best performance in the entire film. Pentecost is such an enigmatic character, he’s not an open book, but instead of feeling underdeveloped (which is a risk with such characters) he’s interesting. You can tell there’s more to Pentecost than we’re being told because Elba works so well wight he part. He just radiates leadership and authority in a multifaceted performance. You get his hard edges, his no nonsense behavior, his occasional jackassery, a caring father figure, a loyal soldier, and a driven man all in one package that is Idris Elba. I fucking love Elba in this film.
8) Rinko Kikuchi as Mako.
Mako’s awesome. I love Mako. She’s…it’s hard to put into words. She’s an incredible strong character with deep rooted conflict and motivations which Kikuchi is able to carry with her always. This conflict is good because it strongly influences Mako’s choices in the film, which in and of themselves can breed more conflict. You can just tell that while Mako is good in her current position as Pentecost’s assistant(?) that she can do SO much more. You understand that through the way she interacts with Raleigh, the ease she handles the tasks given to her, you know she’s not reached her full potential yet even though she wants to. And you just freaking root for her to go further, to get what she wants, something which I think is equal parts Kikuchi’s performance and the writing for the character. It’s also worth noting her platonic relationship with Elba is very strong and helps develop both characters.
9) Burn Gorman and Charlie Day as both crazy strong in their roles also, breathing such life and fun into their parts and the film as large. The strong bickering Newt and Herman is incredibly fun to watch and while Day does get more time to shine as Newt that doesn’t mean Herman is any less interesting. They’re both such a fun team to watch.
10) Something director Guillermo Del Toro is able to do incredibly well across all his films - largely through production design and practical sets/effects - is that he creates a world which is fully alive. Just from looking at it you get an understanding of how it works, how it’s different from our world. It is striking, full of life, and totally unique.
11) Mako’s candidate trial.
Did I mention I love Mako? Because I do. And this scene just makes me love her more. The connection and kinship she is able to immediately establish with Raleigh is crazy good. It just FEELS right watching the pair of them on screen. Their relationship is in many ways the heart of this film and this scene gets you invested in them. You just know that they’re the right for each other.
12) Newt’s decision to drift with a Kaiju is a strong example of stakes. How far he’ll go to do what he think is the best thing to do because the alternative of doing nothing isn’t good enough. I dig it.
13) One thing I like is that Mako isn’t really sexualized or objectified in any way. I don’t even think we get a shot of her half naked or anything. The film shows off how sexy Raleigh’s body is more than it does Mako’s and I really freaking love that.
14) There are a few comparisons to make between this film and Independence Day. The fact that it’s humanity fighting against alien invaders (even though these aliens are from below the sea) is one thing, but then we learn this.
Newt: “These being, these colonists, they take over worlds…”
It’s very similar to how Bill Pullman notes the aliens in Independence Day are like locusts, moving from world to world and taking over natural resources. There are more coming up, and it’s not even a comparison of quality or saying one is a ripoff of the other, it’s more just I like the similarities because I like both films.
15) Mako’s backstory.
Through showing us Mako’s backstory, not just telling us, the film makes it all the stronger. It perfectly explains her motivations and stakes throughout the film in a way which is simple, elegant, and ready to remember. Also the way the film cuts between Mako’s memory, Raleigh in Mako’s memory, and the real world of Gypsy Danger is very strong. All in all, it’s just a strong example of backstory.
16) Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chou.
Okay, Ron Perlman is always a wonderful character actor. I have never seen a Ron Perlman performance which I have not liked. He just breathes this consistent charisma, energy, and fun into every performance he has ever given so Chou is no different. While he may be more devious and deceitful than say Hellboy, Perlman has no less fun with the part and just makes Hannibal Chou one of the surprise stand out characters in the film.
17) The first Jaeger fight with the Kaiju in Tokyo is just plain fun, a nice prologue to the upcoming Gypsy Danger fight but one that steps up the Kaiju VS Jaeger fun introduced in the film’s opening.
18) Gypsy Danger VS Kaiju.
The extended fight sequence is 100% fucking awesome! A perfect collaboration of, “oh that’s so cool!” and some, “oh that’s so stupid!” moments but in a way that is totally fun. It’s giant robot vs giant monster entertainment at its purest in a way which is just totally entertaining. Some highlights from the fight include:
Raleigh: “I think this guy’s dead, but let’s check for a pulse. (They shoot him with a plasma gun.) No pulse.”
THEY USE A FREAKING CARGO BOAT TO BEAT ON THE KAIJU LIKE IT’S A BASEBALL BAT!
THE KAIJU HAS WINGS! OH MY GOD THAT’S SO COOL!
And of course…
THEY’VE GOT A FREAKING SWORD!!!!!
More than anything else the best scene in the film (which this is) shows off all the imagination which can go into one of these fights and all of Gypsy Danger’s skills as a fighter.
19) Is this really necessary?
Newt [examining the dead Kaiju]: “It’s pregnant.”
This whole moment feels a little extra. Like, couldn’t the Kaiju brain just be intact after the fight? Although it does lead to Hannibal’s “death” and a great post credits scene.
20) Okay, I’m tearing up a little bit at the goodbye Pentecost has with Mako before he gets in a Jaeger. Because they both know this will kill him and I just…okay, I’m good.
21) The best speech since Independence Day.
22) Something I haven’t really talked about yet is drifting. Drifting with another person in the context of the film is such an intimate and strong connection. It is pure relationship, pure honesty, and I freaking love it.
23) The climactic fight with the category five fight is really a dual fight between the two Kaiju in a well paced, choreographed, and smoothly edited moment. You are never taken out of the moment during the fight due to shoddy craftsmanship, it is all just really smooth.
24) I think the final dive into the breach is really well done because there is a genuine question of if Raleigh will survive or not. The first time I saw this I thought for sure he would die and they wait until the last minute possible to get him out there, just upping the tension throughout. It’s really strong.
24.1) The final thing in this movie that reminds me of Independence Day is Raleigh sending his ship right into the enemy to explode feels a lot like this:
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
25) I actually love that this movie doesn’t end with Raleigh and Mako kissing. You can head canon it as anyway you want. I see it as platonic, but you can also see it as they know each other better than anyone else so they don’t need to kiss to know how they feel about each other. I just find it very strong.
26) Remember how I mentioned a post credits scene in note #19?
Pacific Rim is just really incredibly fun. You can tell that Guillermo Del Toro is enjoying the world he helps to build, with sheer amazing giant robot vs giant monster action. The character drama and motivations are surprisingly poignant, the actors are incredibly strong, the writing is top notch, and it’s just…it’s so freaking good. It’s so freaking FUN! Go watch it. Now. Do it! Please! It’s that good.
Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes. #412.
1) From the very start this film is excellent storytelling. The opening scene where young Judy and her classmates clearly establishes the conflict of predator vs. prey and the biases that come from that, the film’s humor and heart, and Judy as a character.
2) My mother is an actuary. My brother is studying to be an actuary. Actuaries don’t do this.
Little Jaguar: “Today I can hunt for tax exemptions. I’m going to be an actuary!”
3) Judy’s parents (Don Lake & Bonnie Hunt) are so funny in such a sad way.
Stu: “Judy, you ever wonder how your mom and me got to be so darn happy?”
Stu: “Well, we gave up on our dreams and we settled. Right, Bon?”
Bonnie: “Oh yes, that’s right Stu. We settled hard.”
4) Gideon Grey.
Gideon is a perfect example of how nothing - NOTHING - in this film is superfluous, but I’m actually going to speak on that further into the film.
5) The police academy scene gives wonderful exposition. It sets up the environment and rules of Zootopia’s various ecosystems in a way that feeds into Judy’s conflict and character.
6) Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps.
Goodwin (a massive Disney fan herself) breathes perfect life into Hopps. The best voice over work is when you’re not distracted by the voice actor. When their voice and their heart match with the character so perfectly that you don’t hear - say - Kristen Bell as Anna or Mike Myers as Shrek, you only hear the character’s. Goodwin is able to balance Judy’s massive optimism and heart along with the scenes where Judy has lost those things perfectly. I don’t think anyone else could have voiced Hopps as well as Goodwin.
7) If you want to avoid a slew of bad animal puns, don’t look too hard at Judy’s iPod.
8) “Try Everything” by Shakira.
Written by Sia, Tor Erik Hermansen, and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, the theme song which deserved an Oscar nomination captures Judy’s optimism and struggles perfectly. The song’s lyrics speak of optimism in the face of constant failure, a theme which is very relevant to Judy in the first half of the film. It also provides the perfect backdrop to the visual introduction of Zootopia as Judy enters the city on train.
Judy [after Clawhauser calls her “cute”]: “Ooh, ah, you probably didn’t know, but a bunny can call another bunny ‘cute’, but when other animals do it, that’s a little…”
Bogo [turning to an Elephant officer]: “Francine. Happy birthday!”
11) I love the way the filmmakers handled Judy’s office discrimination. She is treated just as a token bunny, someone who’s only there for PR. Except she was top of her class at Zootopia police academy: a difficult feat for anybody, let alone a bunny. But this just feeds into the biases Bogo already has about Judy: she’s not really that good, they just said she was because she’s a bunny. That plays into real life way more than it probably should.
12) Wow, I did not catch how entirely speciesist this line was until now:
Remember how I said great voice over work is noted by not realizing you’re listening to a voice over artist? The same can be said of Bateman’s performance of Wilde, 100%. To start, Bateman captures Wilde’s surface level of sly con artists WONDERFULLY well. He’s devilish and charming in the same vein as Danny Ocean or Han Solo, and Bateman expresses this perfectly. But as the film progresses Bateman is also able to show off Nick’s layers. His troubled past, his occasional lack of self-worth and anger at the world. And the honest level never changes. It’s not like Bateman was hired ONLY for the slyness of Nick’s role and had to power through the rest, he’s able to do it all. It’s a great voice over for a great character.
14) The relationship between Nick & Judy is the cornerstone of this film. What I personally like about it is its honesty. There’s no BIG moment when these two meet, it’s a chance encounter which grows to conflict and then budding friendship so organically you don’t even know it’s happening.
15) There is nothing even remotely superfluous in this film. Nick makes a comment about how he’s been running his popsicle con his whole life and that will come back to bite him in the butt later.
16) This pig is played by Josh Dallas, Ginnifer Goodwin’s onscreen partner in “Once Upon a Time” and real life husband.
17) The chase through Zootopia is an incredible amount of fun, especially when Judy and Duke get to Little Rodentia. The filmmakers are able to play with their concept in a visual entertaining and imaginative way, which in turn keeps us as the audience wrapped up in the world they’ve established.
Note: I’m going to take about Alan Tudyk as Duke later in the film, at a very specific moment.
18) Again, there is nothing superfluous in this film (a note I’m going to be making a lot):
Judy [after saving Mr. Big’s daughter]: “Love your hair.”
Mr. Big’s Daughter: “Aww, thank you!”
It is this little encounter (and, you know, the fact that Judy saved her life) that saves Judy & Nick from getting “iced” by Mr. Big later in the film.
19) Again, nothing superfluous in the film. As the “non-onions” that Duke stole end up being very important later on.
20) Disney is at its bets when it pokes fun at itself.
Bogo: “Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little musical and your insipid dreams MAGICALLY COME TRUE! So let it go.”
21) Can we all just take a moment to appreciate Nick’s face after Judy says she’ll arrest him for, “felony tax evasion,” after he brags to her about how he’s been running this con since he was a kid and how much money he makes?
22) Again, with the idea that nothing in this film is superfluous: Judy’s recording pen becomes very important as the movie goes on.
23) Only Tommy Chong could play this character.
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
Like there’s a chance he’s not even reading from a script, they just had Tommy Chong come in and told him what the movie was about and he just started talking.
24) This is the funniest part of the whole film, in my opinion.
The entire DMV scene plays well not only with the concept established by the film of an animal society in a way which is funny on its own, but the continuing conflict of Judy’s eagerness, Flash’s slowness, and Nick’s desire to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing leads to amazing comedy.
25) Did you know Kristen Bell is in this film?
Bell landed the role not only because of her working with Disney on Frozen, but also because she is a noteworthy sloth enthusiast (as seen on “Ellen”).
26) It is nice to see Nick freak out when he realizes he and Judy are in Mr. Big’s limo, as it shows us a part of him we haven’t gotten to look at much in the film so far.
LaMarche is a noted voice over actor known primarily for his roles as Brain on “Pinky & The Brain”, various characters including Calculon on “Futurama”, and Mr. Freeze in the Batman Arkham series of video games. Here, we get to hear the veteran voice over artist do his best high pitched Brando impression.
28) This film has its fair share of nice surprises, details and twists which keeps you on your toes. The earliest of these is the revelation that the missing mammal Judy & Nick are looking for - Mr. Otterton - was in fact the one who attacked the limo driver (and not that he was the one attacked, as originally perceived).
29) This scene gives me life.
Bogo [after Judy’s witness disappears]: Two days to find the otter, or you quit. That was the deal. [Holding out hand] Badge.
Judy: But sir, we…
[Judy starts to turn in her badge]
Nick: Uh… no.
Chief Bogo: What did you say, fox?
Nick Wilde: Sorry, what I said was… NO! She will not be giving you that badge.[Bogo flinches] Look, you gave her a… a… a clown vest and a three wheel joke mobile and two days to solve a case you guys haven’t cracked in two weeks? Yeah, no wonder she needed to get help from a fox. None of you guys were gonna help her, were you? [Bogo starts to speak but Nick cuts him off] Here’s the thing, chief. You gave her the 48 hours, so technically we still have… 10 left, to find our Mr. Otterton. And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do. So, if you’ll excuse us, we have a very big lead to follow and a case to crack. Good day.
30) And then there’s this…
I saw this film twice in theaters and both times I was tearing up during Nick’s backstory. Anyone who has ever been bullied as a kid for being different will relate at least a little bit to what Nick went through. And it is this scene when Nick is at his most honesty with Judy, when they become pretty good friends and form a trust with each other.
31) NOTHING IN THIS FILM IS SUPERFLUOUS!!!! NOT EVEN A BLINK OR YOU’LL MISS IT STICKY NOTE ON BELLWETHER’S DESK!!!!
32) I did not think a Disney movie would make me jump like this (stop at 2:11).
33) This is incredibly rare for me, as someone who sees more than 60 films in theaters a year, but after Nick & Judy found the missing mammals and had the mayor arrested I had absolutely NO idea where the film was going after that. At all. I love it!
34) Nick’s face when Judy links the savage animals to being a predator…
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
35) I had a film student criticize this film not based on the merits of its story or character’s or anything, but because they didn’t understand the metaphor. He noted that it’s not a clean comparison between white people and minorities and that’s exactly the point. This film is not about the people in power vs the people who aren’t, because who’s in power? The mayor may be a lion but the most biased character in the film - Chief Bogo - is prey. Bias goes all around and it can infect anybody, no matter what you think. Even Judy, for all her merits, is biased. She carries around fox repellent all the time and even has this line:
Judy: “It’s not like a bunny can go savage.”
That’s what I love about this film. It’s universal. It’s not about one real life society, it is about all societies everywhere and how bias can infect them and taint them and it’s up to us to work against that.
36) Fun fact: I had no idea otters were predators before seeing this film.
37) Gideon Grey returns.
If only all childhood bullies were like that, but again it gets to my oft-repeated point that nothing in this film is superfluous. Gideon could have easily been the one note bully from Judy’s youth who gave her the motivation to prove him wrong, but he comes back 15 years later in the most perfect way. She sees that people can change and that people who are good now are not always good (Gideon when he was younger, Judy when she was biased). It is a really important moment for her that was established all the way in the first ten minutes of this movie. I love that.
38) Judy’s apology to Nick and the way he handles it is something I truly love about this movie and their friendship as a whole.
And then I really love the little joke at the end about Judy trying to get to the pen and can’t help but wonder: was that written in the script? Was it Jason Bateman’s improv that made it into the film? It’s just so natural I must know!
39) Okay, I think this is the last time I will give this note, BUT NOTHING IN THIS MOVIE IS SUPERFLUOUS!!! This is most apparent to me when Nick does a little thing like expressing how much he likes the berries on Judy’s farm and it becomes so important to the plot latter when they switched out those berries with the Night Howlers in Bellwether’s dart gun.
43) The sticky note on Bellwether’s phone earlier was for Doug, the guy who mixes the night howler drug that makes animals go savage (this is the same drug who’s key ingredient was mixed from the non-onions Duke stole earlier in the film, FOR Doug).
44) At one point Doug - who is dressed in a yellow radiation suit and makes drugs for a living - lets his client know that “Woolter and Jesse” have arrived.
And yes, they did that on purpose.
45) The entire subway chase sequence is really great, because it is based heavily on the idea of action = consequence. A ram is running at the door, he gets through and hits another ram. The train goes too fast into a turn, it tips over and Judy/Nick are up a creek. It all works very nicely
46) Honestly, I didn’t figure out Bellwether was the bad guy until just before it was revealed the first time I saw this.
47) Bellwether’s line about, “Fear ALWAYS works!” to keep the people in check should not be as relevant in 2017 as it is.
48) Okay, one thing I need to know: Bellwether is in jail, Mayor Lionheart is in jail, and Chief Bogo is still the police chief…SO WHO’S MAYOR NOW!?!?!?
49) I know this film was pretty much a buddy cop movie, but I would be totally fine with a buddy cop movie where Nick is actually a cop.
Lethal Weapon where Nick is Mel Gibson and Judy is…Danny Glover? Okay, that comparison doesn’t really work, but you get me!
50) And of course…
I honestly think Zootopia may be a perfectly written film, and that is not something I say lightly. I made it clear above how I find nothing in the film superfluous, which is an incredible feat I think. And they did it in a way that was never boring, with entertaining characters, an intriguing mystery, and a fun world. Zootopia may be my favorite Disney animated feature film, and it’s definitely my favorite of the “Modern Era” we’re in now (The Princess and the Frog - Present). Just a great, great, great film which deserved its Best Animated Picture win at the Oscars. A true treat all around.