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Badger & Vole Review: Pacific Rim
V: Hi, and welcome to this week’s edition of our prose podcast, “Badger & Vole Review.” Today we’re talking about—
B: Alice Cooper?
V: Go ahead. Rub it in. Like the rest of us have old music industry friends who can get us primo tickets—
B: Free primo tickets—
V: To be followed by a free ear exam and complimentary hearing-aid fitting?
B: Well, I was pretty much down to hearing only throbbing white noise by the end of the show. But my ears stopped ringing an hour or two later, and there doesn’t seem to be any permanent damage. No tinnitus.
V: Have you ever begun to consider the possibility that you just might be getting too old for this sort of thing?
V: I SAID— Never mind. Alice Cooper, eh? He's got to be pushing 70 now. Makes me wonder how he keeps it going. What did he play?
B: He’s 65. And he played pretty much what you’d expect after a career as long as—good grief. I first saw him forty years ago.
V: In Milwaukee?
B: Let’s not go there.
B: Basically a greatest hits revue. A little Killer, a little Billion Dollar Babies, some Welcome to My Nightmare, some Alice Cooper Goes to Hell. “Poison,” “Hey Stoopid,” “Feed My Frankenstein”—“The Ballad of Dwight Fry,” which was both a surprise and a treat; roll out the guillotine, lop off the head, come back for a really interesting medley: “Break on Through,” “Revolution,” “Foxy Lady,” “My Generation.” The sight of an auditorium full of aging, fat and balding baby boomers standing up and screaming along with “My Generation” was something remarkable to behold. Then return for the obvious encore, “School’s Out,” complete with the “Elected” confetti and balloon drop. All in all, a great show. His current band is just terrifically tight and talented, especially the lead guitarist, Orianthi Panagaris. Holy Cow, can that woman play guitar!
V: And I suppose that offstage...
B: Oh yeah, offstage Cooper is every bit as intelligent, funny, and self-effacing as—
V: Stop. That’s enough.
B: But I thought you wanted—
V: Just shut up.
B: I don’t get—
V: Shut. Up. Let’s just talk about the damn movie, okay?
B: Okay. This week’s movie is—
V: Guillermo Del Toro's giant robot monster action film, Pacific Rim!
B: Pacific Rim? I thought we were reviewing Despicable Me 2.
V: Do we need to? It’s the hit of the summer.
B: Very true. Still, I want to plug it. It’s sweet without being sappy. A movie with a kindly heart.
V: A good spin on the old “find a parent for the kids with only one parent” story. The final ending was predictable, but there were enough clever twists and turns along the way to keep things fun and lively.
B: It’s also a movie with two adult main characters who really care for their kids, and who are trying their best to look out for them and do what’s best for them. Not the all-too-familiar Stupid Grownup variety.
V: I am so sick and tired of seeing the Stupid Dad Who Would Be a Total Loser If Not For His Wisecracking-But-Always Right Kids, or the Clueless Dad Who Is Saved By The Wise Mom. So seeing adults who were not stupid and who went the extra mile for their children was a nice change of pace.
B: Or in this case, guacamole.
V: You mean the gag with the hat?
B: Ssh. Let’s not spoil it for them.
V: Enough slapstick humor and silliness to keep the kids entertained. Enough sly moments, clever bits, and inside jokes to amuse the adults. Some really clever and inventive “super spy” gadgets.
B: Enough moments when you’ll suddenly realize, “Hey! They’re spoofing Raiders of the Lost Ark!” Or Attack of the Clones.
V: And this is definitely one that’s worth watching in the theater, because the CGI world is big, imaginative, complex, and beautifully realized. There’s always something going on in the background, especially whenever the minions are on the screen.
B: I get the feeling this is one I’ll be re-watching on Blu-Ray and spotting new things in the background of for a long time. Which is an important consideration when you’ve got a movie that your kids—or in my case, grandkids—will be making you watch with them for years to come.
V: Sometimes multiple times in the same day.
B: So I guess we’re in agreement. If you see only one movie this summer, see Despicable Me 2.
V: But if you’re just made out of money and want to see two movies...
B: Then see Voltron Meets Godzilla.
V: Yeah, Pacific Rim is that, but in a good way. Good action. Good soundtrack. Giant robots fighting giant monsters. Fun for the whole family!
There are caveats, of course. This is a movie for people who loved Transformers but thought the plot was too hard to follow.
B: Lots of steals and lifts from other movies, most notably Independence Day.
V: But somehow the steals and lifts weren’t as annoying as they were in The Lone Ranger or Star Trek Into Darkness. In The Lone Ranger the steals were grating because they didn’t fit the story or the mythos. In Star Trek they were worse because they were looting from and ruining their own history. If I wanted to watch Pirates of the Caribbean or The Wrath of Khan, I’d watch those movies. The steals in Pacific Rim at least work in the story.
B: And somehow they missed the seemingly obligatory scene in which all the jaeger pilots get naked together, a la Starship Troopers. For me, that’s a plus.
V: Mind you, there was plenty of stupidity in Pacific Rim, starting with the whole idea of building giant robots and giant walls as protection from giant monsters.
B: There are good reasons why we build tanks instead of walking mechs.
V: Yeah, the whole giant robot thing is silly. But if you take that away, all you’re really left with is Independence Day with submarines.
B: Which would be awful.
V: We know going in that we’re going to get giant robots fighting giant monsters, so that idea gets our suspension of disbelief.
B: Don’t just suspend your disbelief. Sedate it and let it sleep through this one.
V: It’s all those other things you need to disbelieve that can cause problems. That's why this movie needs a new category beyond “popcorn muncher.” I’m thinking “nutrient vatter,” since you really need to just take your brain out and drop it into a big ol’ vat of nutrient fluid to keep it alive while you watch this one.
B: This is an anime epic with live actors doing the cut scenes between the big CGI action sequences we’re paying to see.
V: Mind you, the peripheral live actors are a treat. Ron Perlman was great. There's a special surprise in there for Torchwood fans, and also for fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
B: And this is definintely worth seeing in the theaters, because it’s just so damn big. Buy a big bucket of popcorn—
V: You can even get a big drink to go with the popcorn. If you take your bathroom breaks during the cut scenes, when the jaeger pilots are recycling all the bits of business you’ve seen before in Starship Troopers, Top Gun, Battlestar Galactica, etc., etc., you won’t miss anything important to the plot.
B: Just get a big group of friends together and go see it.
V: I thought The Boy summed this one up best, when he said, “I’ve never seen a movie where I thought ‘That’s stupid!’ so many times but still ended up really enjoying the movie.”
B: It’s big, long, loud, larger-than-life, not something you’ll spend any time pondering the meaning of afterwards, but totally fun from beginning to end.
V: Just like an Alice Cooper concert.
B: And that pretty much sums it up. It’s fun. Go see it. And join us next week, when we review...
B: Let me think about that and get back to you.
Badger was once an award-winning SF novelist, until his involvement with a legendary multimillion-dollar Hollywood bomb destroyed his writing career. Vole was once a million-copy-selling comic-book writer, and he still thinks the “lion” version of Voltron is pretty darn cool.
Today, they’re just two old guys who like to watch movies, eat popcorn, and kvetch. Oh boy, do they kvetch. And despite his mild-mannered appearance, Vole will always be known around here as the man who wrote the brilliantly funny but hopelessly unpublishable comic-book script, "Bruce Wayne's and Lex Luthor's Ex-Girlfriends Meet and Compare Notes," which introduced the now legendary "Crotchless Batgirl Costume."