“Westworld” Season 1 – A Beautiful Masterpiece and Exploration of What it Means to be Human and Honoring a Friend

       This is going to be a different review than what I usually do, as this was originally going to be a collaboration with my friend Athen. He was going to write about the cinematography as that had always been of his and I was going to do my usual character and themes focus…He was killed by a drunk driver and I want to do this review to honor him. He was one of the most amazing of friends and this review is in honor of him. As part of this I won’t be discussing the cinematography as that is what he was going to cover.

     “Westworld” is the kind of show that tackles the big questions of self, humanity and morality. It was the kind of show I think he would have loved, which is why I think it was recommended to us both at the party where the idea for the collaboration was born.

    The story takes place in the future on a planet where tourists can go and let off steam in a place where they can’t get killed and robots play the roles of humans in a wild west format. From here the story unfolds as we get glimpses of the past and present as the mystery of Westword (the planet) unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is a beautiful sci. fi. landscape that reminds me so much of the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” with the Hosts in the place of the Cylons. There is so much politicing at play both in the game of Westworld and outside of it among those who want to control the world. It is a fantastic mystery to unravel and Season 2 is setup really well.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Dwajadi is one of the best composers out there and his beautiful style is on display here as well. It captures the mystery and emotion that pervades the tone of the show and also the characters that inhabit the world.

The Characters – The characters are the best part with my favorite being Bernard, who we find out was created by Ford after his partner who wanted to bring sentience to the hosts is killed. Jeffrey Wright did an amazing job. Anthony Hopkins as Ford the current owner of the park is fantastic as always too with the Man in Black as an unknown threat seeking the point of the game, Maeve as the prostitute host who remembers and rebels and Dolores the one tied to the Man in Black’s past and bringing about freedom to the hosts in the park/world. All of these characters and even the corporate suits characters are enough of a draw to drive the scenes, even when there is filler.

The Narrative Format – The narrative format jumps between time as we come to see Dolores’s past and how it relates to the Man in Black and his corruption into a villain, Bernard and the man whose image and legacy he carries on as a host, Ford and his manipulations to bring about freedom for the hosts and Maeve’s story interwoven in real time through it all.

Are We Simply Machines Holding Memory – This is a major theme of the show and it is something that Ford would argue that we do. He makes this argument to one of the suits trying to stop him  and in a sense it plays into how willing he is to kill people, to him they are just like his machines, except he didn’t create them…so he doesn’t care. This gives him a fascinating perspective as he is a contradiction…the man who both cares and doesn’t care.

What Defines a Person? – Is it memory or personality? Nature or nurture? We deal with this question in how Maeve forms her identity as she realizes it all is a lie but comes to embrace the  core programming of the belief she as a daughter (even though it was a past story and life) and that is what brings her back even as she knows about he wider world. Westworld, still pulls her in. Her memories she was given still define her experience and shape her personality and choice.

The Ending – the ending is powerful and ends with the hosts rebelling as Dolores kills Ford and the hosts turn on the Board. Bernard who has just learned he is a host a little while ago, watches on as do other hosts who are still figuring out who they  are as Maeve returns to Westworld to find her daughter. It is powerful and sets up Season 2 beautifully. HBO really did create an amazing show.

The Cons: Maeve and the Lack of Oversight in the Lab – At one point Maeve wakes up and holds the Doctors who repair her hostage. How no one notices her walking around with them or her holding them hostage had me baffled. Shouldn’t the hosts have better security? There is a fear in the world of them hurting people so why not oversight? Suffice to say, Maeve had a lot of plot armor through this arc.

“Westworld” Conclusion – “Westworld” is a show well worth your time if you are interested in Sci. Fi., especially as it relates to A.I. and what it means to be human. There is amazing character development and the world is rich enough that there is still so much to be explored, even though Season 1 is very complete, even with the rebellion starting at the end. I can’t wait for Season 2 and what else we will learn about ourselves, the hosts and the universe of “Westworld.”

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Project A10 – Athen’s amazing girlfriend created this project. I highly recommend watching the video.

Please remember not to drink to drink and drive, as you never know what life you are going to take away and how many lives you are going to touch. Life is fleeting and you never know the power you have on the lives of others, for both good and ill. It was a person’s stupidity that took away a friend, please don’t do the same.

R.I.P. Athen. I miss you.

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“Game of Thrones” Season 6 – Of Payoffs, Drama and Passing the Books to Create a Nearly Perfect Story

Game of Thrones Season 6

     First off I should give a warning. This review is going to contain spoilers. These are books that I’ve been reading for a long time and this was the Season where so many of our questions about where George R. R. Martin is going where finally answered. For non-spoiler thoughts, this was easily the best season of television this year. I’d rate above “Better Call Saul,” which for me was pretty untouchable this year. The reasons behind this is due to this being a story with consequences. There is death and Houses change as new powers rise and others fall. This season was drama at it’s best.

     David Benioff and D. B. Weiss really created something spectacular and took us places we had never been before in the books.

      The story is all about dealing with the consequences of last season. Jon Snow is dead, the High Sparrow nearly controls King’s Landing, Dany is missing in action as the Slavers plot against Meereen, Arya is training and Sansa escapes with Theon from Bolton held Winterfell.

SPOILERS ahead

Hodor

The Pros: The World – The world is expansive this season and in it we get to see the consequences of all the relationships and build up among the survivors and the choices they’ll make to continue surviving or to build something greater. This season really explores what happens when major players in “The Game of Thrones” make decisions to change that world.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Djawadi is one of my favorite composers at this point. This season he gives us probably the greatest song to come out of this series.:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SpHMq8qbfM. Suffice to say his music is a major part of what makes this world so dark and rich.

The Battles – The action is the best this show has been show far with battles on par or surpassing the “Battle of the Wall” and “Battle of Blackwater.”

Siege of Riverrun – This is smaller battle but huge in that it showed that the Blackfish is as prideful as Ned and it nearly costs his family everything…and he can’t even hold Riverrun anymore after Jaime uses Edmure Tully to take control of the castle and have it surrender similar to how Ramsey used Theon to take Moat Cailin.

Battle of Slaver’s Bay – This is a pretty fast battle but it is amazing! Dany flies Drogon and destroys the fleet of the Masters before Grey Worm kills two of the Masters leaving one to spread the word that Dany is not someone to be messed with. The Son’s of the Harpy are also killed by the Khalasar that Dany now owns.

Jon and Sansa

Battle of the Bastards – Battle of the Bastards is amazing! We have Jon and some of the smaller Northern Lords and Wildings arrayed against the Boltons and the major houses in the North. Rickon is killed to spark of the battle and Jon pulls and Ned and almost gets himself killed since he doesn’t listen to Sansa that Ramsey will try to play him. The battle is nearly lost by Jon until Sansa’s letter to Littlefinger leads to the Vale rescuing them and Jon’s final showdown with Ramsey at Winterfell where he is finally defeated and the Stark banner rises again. Wun-Wun dies in the fight.

The Characters – The characters are what drives Martin’s stories and a lot of them have some great moments this season. The list is extensive but I wanted to give credence to as many of the people who had moments.

Brienne – Brienne is Jaime’s consience and helps him find a way to capture Riverrun with limited bloodshed. She is sworn to Sansa now and is doing a great job as she saves her from Bolton troops when Theon and Sansa first escape and is their envoy in the North when they recruiting Houses against the Boltons.

Tormund – This guy is awesome! He is able to convince the free folk to stand with Jon as he believes Jon will be the one who will be there at the end fighting them against the dead. Their friendship is amazing and he a lot of great moments this season and some funny moments where he is crushing on Brienne but clearly doesn’t know how to talk to her.

Roose Bolton – Roose’s role is short in this but what we see is that the Boltons would probably still own the North of Ramsey hadn’t killed him after he and Lady Frey had a son. His death is the end of House Bolton…Roose could have taken control of the North, he is a Tywin type personality.

Ramsey Bolton – Ramsey is pretty unhinged per usual, but manages to show enough diplomacy to keep the big Houses under him in the leadup to the Battle of the Bastards. He has been untouchable for so many seasons and the Battle of the Bastards is his first loss besides Sansa and Theon’s escape. He pays the consequences finally too as Sansa feeds him to his hounds.

The High Sparrow – Jonathan Banks really did a great job creating a charming villain. The High Sparrow is someone who embraces poverty but also takes advantage of people to rule through fear and the power he sees the Seven granting the Church. He wins through most of this season until Cersei’s final plan leads to his end. Banks truly made this role memorable, in the books he never stood out to me.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger saves the day and we see he is still the same creeper who sold Sansa to Ramsey in the first place. He is going to be hardest thing for the Stark’s to deal with as he is the reason Ned is dead as well as Rob and Cat. He can’t be trusted and I hope Sansa uses her influence to blackmail him for control for as long as need be before he is ended.

The Hound – The Hound is back! In this a Sept nurses him to health and he stays with the peaceful folks until the bandits exploiting the Brotherhood without Banners attack and kill them all. The Hounds gets revenge and later joins the Brotherhood. So great seeing him again.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm is a great soldier but has to deal with dealing his injury and diplomacy as Tyrion’s approach is much different from his. Seeing his relationship with Messandie is really sweet too and I can’t wait to see him Westeros.

Messandei – Messandie like Grey Worm is unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones and uncomfortable with it. Much of their arc is acclimating to Tyrion and negotiating between the free people the compromises Tyrion makes.

Yara – Yara is awesome! In this we see her nearly win the Kingsmoot after Euron kill’s Balon, until Balon arrives forcing her and Theon to run. When they run we see she cares for Theon but also doesn’t trust him because of Moat Cailin and the past. We also see she isn’t bad at diplomacy too as she flirts with Dany but is willing to work with Dany’s terms for capturing the Iron Islands and making her Lord even if means giving up the worst aspects of Reaver culture.

Hodor – Hodor is the hero in this. In a flashback we learn he was once a boy named Wylis who loses it all when Bran wargs into his mind when he has traveled back in time as he orders Wylis to “Hold the door!” against the dead and White Walkers leading Wylis to say the command over and over again until he becomes Hodor. It is a powerful scene and one of the more tragic moments in the series.

Melissandra – Melissandra is at least hundreds of years old so we know she knows some of what is going on in the wider world. In this she faces consequences for burning Shireen as Jon exiles her from the North after she brings him back to life.

Davos – Davos is Jon’s Hand at this point and still can’t quite see the bigger picture. He does help recruit houses to Jon though which helps the Stark’s take back the North.

Margery Tyrell – Margery is smart but sadly stupid people keep her from living. In this we see her negotiate for Loras’s release (even if he has to become a Faith Militant in the process) and manages to get her Grandmother out of King’s Landing which ends up saving her mother’s life. Natalie Dormer is wonderful in this role and I’m sad she’s dead from Cersei’s brilliant and horrible plan.

Lady Mormont – Lady Mormont is amazing! She is a 12 year old who is Lady of her House and sends Jon 62 troops to the “Battle of the Bastards” but also comes herself. She also unites the Houses behind Jon as the new King of the North. She is all around amazing and is phased by nothing.

Olenna Tyrell / The Queen of Thorns – Olenna is one of my favorite characters along with Margery (I’m very much a Tyrell). In this we see her attempt to save her grandchildren but is outmaneuvered by the High Sparrow forcing her to leave on Margery’s prompting back to Highgarden so that the Tyrell name will live on. Now she is last of the House and is plotting revenge against Cersei’s for destroying her family.

Cersei Queen

Cersei Lannister – This season is really Cersei’s rise as everyone underestimated the ends she’d go to when she is backed into a corner and still wants everything. In the end she gets everything. She is the one who gains it all (the Throne) and loses everything in the process. She is isolated, alone and ruler of all. What a great villain and Lena Headey really does a great job humanizing her.

Jaime Lannister – Jaime is kind of screwed at this point. He wins Riverrun and we see that he cares for Brienne but he is also willing to do everything for Cersei, though that may not be the case anymore with her going Mad Queen. Jaime is someone who has a conscience and tries to make the best choices for his own ends but also ways that will make it less bad for his enemies. He has awareness that Cersei does not and I can see that coming into play next season as Cersei did the thing that he killed the Mad King over when the Mad King was threatening to do it.

Arya Stark – Arya is a face changer but also not “no one.” Her arc this season is reclaiming her identity and beginning her rampage on Westeros against all the people on her list. At the end the season she feed’s Walder Frey his son’s and kills him.

Sansa Stark – Sansa has risen as one of the major players in the Game of Thrones as she saves the Starks from Jon’s stupidity and even manages to shut down Littlefinger’s advances. Sophie Turner brings so much to this role and it is great seeing Sansa as the one calling the shots in her own life finally.

Jon Snow – Jon is back and still has Ned’s stupidy. He is still a great character but he played easily by Ramsey during the battle as he rushes to save his brother in what is clearly a trap. He also doesn’t want to fight for a long time too as he is done with fighting after the Night’s Watch killing him. After he get’s over himself though he becomes a decent commander who the North is willing to unite behind, eventually crowning him King of the North.

Vaerys – Vaerys is all about the big picture but has his own rightful hangups too as when Tyrion seeks out a Red Priestess he critiques her religion and the followers even as it is shown there is something going on given she was able to figure out his backstory. He also unites Dorn and Highgarden against King’s Landing and as possible allies of Dany in her conquest of Westeros.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion is the wisdom in it all as his biggest challenge is integrating into a society that he is alien too as we see when he tries to make friends with Grey Worm and Messandei and isn’t all that successful at it. He is Dany’s hand by the end and we see that he is there to make her aware of the choices and consequences in the game of thrones and to avoid the pitfalls of her father.

Daenerys – This season is where Daenery’s once again rises as she destroys the Khals, the Sons of the Harpy and the Masters as well. In this she gets her army and her ships from Yara when she backs Yara’s claim to the Iron Islands under the condition that they will no longer pillage and rape. Dany is set to be a great leader as from Tyrion she is learning the cost of ruling and the cost of different choices…as the season ends with her sailing to Westeros to begin the conquest.

Daenery’s Destroys the Khals – This scene is amazing as Dany shows she is fireproof and burns the Khal’s alive during their trial of her, leaving her in charge of their people and giving her a giant army in order to take Meereen and Westeros.

Sansa’s Revenge – Sansa feed’s Ramsey to his dog’s after shutting down his mind games. Her look at him is powerful too during it all as you see how hardened she is and that she has become the ruler.

Arya’s Revenge – Arya feeds Walder Frey his son’s before killing him and avenging Robb and Cat. It is such a great moment and one of the best this season.

The White Walkers – The White Walkers were made to be weapons against the First Men is what we learn from the Children of the Forest, Bran even see’s a flashback of the Night’s Kind getting made. It is pretty amazing. We also see the Night’s King’s Power too as by touching Bran in the vision allowed him to enter the lair of the Children of the Forest and wipe out the Children and the Three-Eyed Crow.

The Tower of Joy – R+L does in fact = J! Jon is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen! We get some great flashback sequences of Ned taking the Tower of Joy and his last moments with Lyanna who we saw in past flashbacks.

Hodor’s Sacrifice – This was one of the most powerful moments in the show. The death of Wylis and birth Hodor which was also the death of Hodor. I think he was a hero as he was protecting Bran throughout the series even before all it and was clearly one of the few good people on the show. R.I.P. Hodor.

Cersei’s Master Plan and the Mad Queen – The plan is beautiful. Qyburn and the little birds (homeless kids) kill Maester Pycell, Wildfire is ignited below the Great Sept leading to the death of the Tyrells, Kevin Lannister and all the Sparrows leaving Cersei victories. The cost though is Tommen who can’t handle being without his Queen and the depths of evil his mother would go to.

Overthrowing Patriarchal Power – Patriarchal power being overthrown is a major theme this season. From the Sand Snakes killing Doran and his heir, to Sansa’s killing of Ramsey, Cersei’s destroying of the Church and Dany’s killing of the Masters and the Khals. All of these stick with theme and show it done beautifully as the powerless become powerful.

Okay: Euron Greyjoy – Euron is just a Pirate King and he doesn’t look as interesting as he does in the books where they played that up. In this he is though and looks the role but is almost too generic. He also didn’t protect his boats so Yara and Theon were able to steal them. Hopefully he’s a better villain next season.

Theon Greyjoy – Theon is okay, he isn’t a dick anymore (in more ways than one) but he is nearly invisible. He has a great moment when he stands up for Yara at the Kingsmoot, but I’ve never really liked the character even if I don’t hate him now.

Dorne – The Sand Snakes took over and Doran Martell is dead now. This felt like a waste, I’m putting it as okay because the Queen of Thorns sets them right as they are in it for revenge against Cersei at the end and ready to ally with Daenerys when Vaerys proposes to them that she is their means of avenging their family.

The Cons: Fast Travel – This show does a lot of fast travel and isn’t very good at showing how much time has passed between traveling. This is something I think they could work on next season just so when characters meet and they are separated by great distance…that it means more.

This was one of the best season’s of storytelling I have ever watched. This is the season of drama and payoff and you can tell that they are ready to this show in 2 more seasons. This season really showed that they can. The characters that aren’t as strong still stand out. There are so many big character moments that I had to give them their own section just to really recognize how big those moments where. If you’ve been with these characters for this long and seen their drama in the books everything is even stronger. The choices have consequences and every choice has so much history behind it. This is the Game of Thrones and many will die before the end, but at least their deaths won’t be meaningless as we see heroism in characters like Hodor or the depths of evil that some characters will reach, like Cersei.

Final Score: 10 / 10 The good far outweighs what few flaws there are.

Daenerys and Tyrion

Warcraft (2016): A Few Great Characters Can’t Save This Adaptation

Warcraft Film

    The game series “Warcraft” is one I have a history with dating all the way back to Warcraft II and it’s expansions. They were my introductions to this universe even though I think Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne is the best storytelling to come out of the series. At the end of the day, all the Warcraft books I read about the First and Second War didn’t draw me in the way the Scourge, Forsaken, Illdari and Night Elves did in Warcraft III, and World of Warcraft was always something I played more casually the few times I did. What bearing does all this have on the review outside of history? Metzen was starting from one of the more weaker places in the lore (Humans were always the most boring faction) so going in it was starting out weak, I wish we’d gotten “Rise of the Horde” as far stories go, that had drama and Orcs are the strongest part of this film….and there are a lot of human characters, making the film enjoyable but weak.

    “Warcraft” was directed by Duncan Jones who was a co-writer along with Charles Leavitt with Chris Metzen and produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner and Stuart Fenegan.

    The story involves the arrival of the Orcs on Azeroth who plan on bringing their forces through the Portal as their world is dying. Lead by the evil Orcish Warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) as Durotan (Toby Kebbell) must work with humanity when he realizes what Gul’dan’s magic did to his world and will do to this one.

The Pros: The World – The universe of Warcraft is one that is fascinating…there different planets, different fantasy races and politics between them. Sadly we don’t see much of the politics in this one, but the factions are still present and you feel the size of the world.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is just like the Warcraft cinematics. Simon Duggan really did a great job of transferring Blizzard’s style to film.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack also feels like the Warcraft games, which is a plus. The games have always had a beautiful soundtrack that captures the epic fantasy feel of the world. Ramin Djawadi did a fantastic job.

The Characters – The characters who work, work really well…those who don’t show the flaws in some of the writing that has come out of the books and games and the universe as a whole. I’ll get into what I mean later.

Blackhand – Blackhand is played by Clancy Brown with his usual large and vocal presence. He truly is perfecfr for this role and does a fantastic job as Warchief of the Horde, sadly his role underutilized (just like Ogrim) and he doesn’t survive past this film. Lothar kills him in honorable combat so the orcs let Lothar go free. Poor Felled up Blackhand goes out way too fast.

Khadgar – Khadgar goes from comedic relief to a smart magician. I like that he is humorous as he has had that aspect in some of the games he appears in. His being an outsider and being given up by his folks to be a Kirin Tor mage is really cool too, especially his rejection out of the order. He reminded me a lot of Sam from “Game of Thrones.”

Garona – Garona is a good character and the only female character who actually felt like she had agency beyond telling the guys they are doing a great job. She even got a romance with the hero and got to kill the King and be the double agent among the orcs working for peace between their races. I wish we could have got more of her backstory as we see she’s a slave and half her heritage (Draenie) was used to open the Dark Portal. Hopefully they’ll do more with her next film if they make one, she’s a hell of a lot more interesting than Lothar.

Gul’dan – Daniel Wu is awesome! It is wonderful seeing Gul’dan in all his badassery on screen. He is great here and the only competent villain as his people are so afraid of him that they follow him and he wins every fight he gets into. This guy is pumped so full of fel energy that he can take anything. He also is still living at the end (like in the games at this point in the timeline) so curious what they’ll change about him. I really want a “Rise of the Horde” story so we can see Ner’zhul (one of the best orcs and Gul’dan’s mentor).

Durotan – Toby Kebbell is the closest thing to an interesting protagonist. In him we see an honorable soldier just trying to look out for his people, and faced wit the fact that his entire race is dying out and all they have is the new world of Azeroth. He dies fighting Gul’dan in a pretty awesome fight.

Okay: King Llane – The King is kind of bland but at least he’s given something to do and notices the orcs aren’t all bad given his friendship with Garona. In the games he’s a non-presense too. I really don’t care about Stormwind in the lore and see them as a lore sink (was always a Horde player in WoW). He dies so that Garona can be accepted into the Horde as a hero.

Ogrim Doomhammer – Doomhammer is a Frostwolf in this rather than a member of the Blackhand clan. In this he betrays Durotan but leaves the Horde after he sees how the Fel is turning his people into demons and that Gul’dan has no honor. He is the one carrying on the Frostwolf legacy in this after the death of Durotan and Draka.

Medivh – Medivh is bland, he is supposed to be crazy but he doesn’t feel there. This character felt invisible and we never get any good interactions with characters except a strange scene with Garona. He dies fighting for Stormwind though after the Demon is beat.

The Ending – The orc ending isn’t bad (would have like Blackhand to survive) and I felt Garona becoming the heroic champion was really cool. The human side is just bland though. Maybe this will work as a movie series, but it felt unfinished.

The Cons: Lothar – Guy has a son who he has no chemistry with (he doesn’t have chemistry with anyone). He acts a cool and distant and it comes off as forced. He is Action Hero Man*TM and it hurts the story since he’s the main character.

Draka – She makes sure Go’el (hate that name, Thrall in the games) is freed on the river and eventually picked up by humans. She exists only as mate and not much else. The games also had this problem too. Draka deserves better.

The Queen – The Queen is just kind of there. She shows kindness to Garona and maybe befriends her but she feels like a non-entity. She is scenery…

Women as Scenery – Both Draka and the Queen, who besides Garona are the any female characters with any presence feel like non-entities. They exist as plot devices and I wish had been written as actual characters.

 The Demon/Sargares? -This guy posses Medivh to open the Dark Portal (like in the game), and in this he’s beaten like a little punk. Khadgar drops his own golem on him. At least in the books it was a more epic fight and in WoW he’s an actual raid. This is supposed to be the guy pulling everyone’s strings.

    Weak villains that aren’t orcs (that Demon who was  weak Sargares if it was him) and bland human heroes kept this from being a great B movie. The orcs were awesome as they are in lore and the film really should have been about them. The only things we get that are interesting from the humans are Khagdar as comedic relief and Garona making friends with the humans. Outside of that they are bland and uninteresting. I hope they make more of these films though, there is so much lore in Warcraft and the Rise of Illidan or Fall of Arthas would make an amazing story on the bigscreen and would work within time limit of a film. This film is still okay, but I’d only watch it for the orc scenes.

Final Score: 6.2 / 10

Pacific Rim (2013): Giant Robots, Monsters and a Fantastic World

Pacific Rim Poster

     What a way to kick off the new year with one of my favorite films, that still holds up now, even after 3 viewings. This was an interesting time to watch it as the first time I missed a lot of what was great about it but only enjoyed on a viserol level versus the second time where I caught the little details Del Toro put in that made his world spectacular and on the third viewing the issues I had through the first two really came up to the surface. This is still a favorite movie mind you, and I’ll explain why in the review, but though it is a favorite, it is in no way perfect.

   “Pacific Rim” was directed by Guillermo del Toro who also was one of the writers of the screenplay and a producer. The other writer was Travis Beachan who wrote the original story and the other producers were Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and John Jashni.

    The story begins with setting the stage. We expected alien life to come from the stars, but instead it came from a rift beneath the ocean. The creatures were the Kaiju and the only way humanity figured out how to fight them was constructing giant Jaegers (Robots) to defeat them. Humanity begins winning but things change when Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and his brother fight a Kaiju and Raleigh’s brother is killed. This leads to him going into hiding and the Jaeger program declining, to the point that when Raleigh is pulled back into the war against the Kaiju, the Jaigers and their pilots lead by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) are nothing more than a resistance.

The Pros: The Premise and World – The idea of giant monsters coming from an alternate dimension and choosing to fight them with giant robots is a cool one. What is especially cool is how desperate and lived in the world feels like. We see tons of people from all over the world forced to live in cramped spaces because all along the coasts Kaiju are forcing people to run and move and when rebuilding happens it is usually around the remains of a Kaiju. This world feels lived in and it’s all the better for it.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Dwajadi did a fantastic job with this soundtrack. It has a large epic feel and is great at adding tension and action to the fight sequences between the Kaiju and Jaegers, as well as being reflective when it has to be as well. I hope he does the soundtrack in the sequel.

Cinematography – Visually this movie is a beautiful and has some of the best CGI I have seen in any film. You tell how much Del Toro is a fan boy of giant monsters and robots and it comes out in the designs of both the Jaegers and Kaiju are unique and a joy to see on screen.

The Kaiju – The Kaiju are like the Zerg in that they are a hive mind that adapt and shape themselves to deal with whatever weapons the Jaegers and humanity has. We see this when Otachi can fly and has a long tale that functions as an arm, as well as Leatherback having an EMP charge to shut down Jaegers too. They are a great threat and I really liked their designs which were aquatic and at the same time reptilian.

The Jaeger Teams – There is the Crimson Typhoon with a team of Chinese triplets, a Father and son Australian Team with Striker Eureka, a Russian Married Couple Team with their jaeger Cherno Alpha and Mako and Raleigh in Gipsy Danger. Sadly Otachi and Leatherback destroy most of them in the coolest battle in the film. We do see them all get a chance to shine though, even if it is only briefly. Of the Jaeger’s outside of Gipsy Danger, my favorite one is Crimson Typhoon.

Hercules Hansen – This guy is a minor character who is actually pretty cool. He served with Raleigh and Pentecost and is constantly dealing with his angry and unstable son. They have a pretty strong connection though, which in the EU exists because they are survivors of a Kaiju attack where Hercules lost his wife and Chuck lost his mother. They have some great moments, though I attribute that more to Herc who is truly an interesting character who should have got more screentime. Max Martini  did a great job.

Hannibal Chau – It’s one-eyed Ron Pearlman wearing sunglasses, a red suit and golden shoes while running Hong Kong’s blackmarket. There is nothing not to like here.

Stacker Pentecost – If this movie had only had Idris Elba to carry it, it would have been a good film. Not a great film since so much of everything else elevates the rather poor script further but Elba is by far the best actor on the screen. His character is complex having adopted the orphan Mako when she lost her parents in a Kaiju attack and he never stops fighting for the survival of humanity. He is the character who make Raleigh finally give a damn and is the one who fights off the Kaiju in order so that Raleigh and Mako can close the rift. He never stops being a compelling character and I wish he’d been the one going through an arc rather than Raleigh who is really forgettable. He goes out fighting though and is my favorite character in the film.

Mako Mori – Mako is the rookie pilot who deals with the trauma she faced as an orphan both in her mentorship and adopted by Pentecost and through her becoming partner with Raleigh. She has a great arc and personalized Gipsy Danger in great ways, giving it a sword for example, which it never had before. You can tell she loves the Jaegers and revenge is a great drive for her against the Kaiju. She is also one of the more reserved characters and much of her action is watching or in subtle ways advocating for herself. I’m really curious where they’re going to take her arc in the sequel, cause I hope she returns. Rinku Kikuchi is wonderful and her character is one of the more compelling characters in the film.

Gipsy Danger AI – Ellen McLain who you may know as the voice of GLADos from the “Portal” videogame series voices the AI! What an awesome decision. She does a great job and adds elements of humor to things as especially early on, Mako and Raleigh are messing up big time on drifting together. I hope she returns for the sequel.

Newton and Hermann – These two together have some great banter as Hermann is the scientist obsessed with numbers and theory while Newton is obsessed with Kaiju. Over the course of the film they come together and end up drifting with the Kaiju which in turn helps humanity defeat the Kaiju. Charlie Day as Newton is one of my favorite characters in the film and Burn Gorman owns it as the prim and proper British gentleman scientist who is opposite in personality to Newt.

Okay: Raleigh – The main character is pretty forgettable and could have been played by anyone. He isn’t a bad actor but I can’t really mention anything unique about the actors performance or what defined the character. This is a shame as even some of the minor Jaeger teams have more personality going on.

The Script – There is quite a lot of telling and some lines are pretty simple. It’s okay though since it reads like a comic book, but it’s not great dialogue.

The Cons: Chuck Hansen – This guy was an unstable prick for most of the series and I could never care about his story. It took learning about the loss of his mother after the film to give any sort of damn about this guy.

The Council of World Leaders – These guy are idiots and once they shutdown the Jaeger program and go for the wall that is useless at keeping back Kaiju, we never hear from them again. So much for humanity’s resistance being lead by the world’s leaders.

        “Pacific Rim” remains a favorite and a movie I’d recommend to anyone who appreciates Giant Monster movies and robot mechs in television or cinema. This film is solid all the way through, with a diverse cast and character arcs and a genuine love of what is being done with the story. There is hope and loss, there battles that mean something, and it is all presented in a visually stunning way to boot. If Michael Bay’s “Transformers” or “Ninja Turtles” franchises were like this film in any way they’d actually be elevated to the level of good. Sadly, you will not find that quality there that Del Toro brings to his projects and the passions of his childhood. Definitely check it out.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10. Not higher because of script issues and how forgettable the main character is.