5 – PACIFIC RIM
Did you know that Del Toro loves anime, videogames and Godzilla films? Well you will after watching this! A portal to another dimension has opened up in the Pacific and Kaiju (titanic beings, born for destruction) have started pouring through at an accelerating rate. Mankind has since come together and developed enormous mech-suits called Jagers to fight back. We are loosing the war, but we also have one more chance to put a stop to the invasion once and for all. Everything that follows is a teenage boys dream come true.
Although advertised as giant-robots-punch-giant-monsters-in-the-face the movie, there is more to it. Okay, not a whole lot more but still. What sells Pacific Rim is its world. It doesn’t just feel grand, it feels lived in. You could just step through the screen and you’d be there. People are living in bones, they are working thankless hours for survival. Governments want one thing, but the people want another. There are entire life styles and businesses that run purely off the Kaiju. That is Del Toro’s key to making this film work. Adding to that the performances of Ron Perlman, Idris Elba and even Charlie Day and just the sense that everyone involved is having the time of their lives and the sense of fun is intoxicating.
And when we do have giant robots punching giant monsters in the face, it’s very fun. It’s rare that a film achieves this level of spectacle without feeling shallow, with every moment of awesomeness – and yes, silliness – feeling earned. Ramin Dwardi’s score helping in no short supply. It is a shame that the character’s we are immediately following are just dull. Rinko Kikuchi has an interesting character arc, but she’s played surprisingly flat and it feels like her character is just going through the motions of a character like her usually does in films. And Charlie Hunnam, while a fine actor, is out of his element here. He doesn’t have the charm or presence needed for the lead role in a film like this. They can make the film drag a bit, but everything around them makes sure that this dumb-fun thrill ride is never boring.
4 – THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE
After the mess of Mimic, Del Toro returned to his independent roots with arguably his most personal project to date. The Devil’s Backbone is a near perfect film – which demonstrates what is to come next. It is also his most underrated film to date. The Devil’s Backbone follows the story of an orphanage for young boys during the Spanish Civil War. The orphanage is haunted by the gruesome ghost of a young boy who went missing under mysterious circumstances. This only gets worse, but not because of the ghost, but because of the cold-hearted caretaker of the orphanage.
To get this out of the way, no, The Devil’s Backbone isn’t that scary. This is a shame and I think will have made the film perfect otherwise. But the horror in this isn’t meant to scare, it’s meant to provoke. That it does very well. You get a perfect look at the era and the people suffering within it. The caretaker is a great look at the cruelty of men. Like his later masterpieces, it’s a great blend of fantasy and fairy tale with brutal reality slipping in and soon taking over. It’s a theme that rings true with many of us, making his films special – a rare thing in this increasingly cynical cinematic landscape.
It’s beautiful and yet perverse, with shocking moments and moments of sustained dread. All of this to a wonderful period background and atmosphere. The characters are all likable, with the exception of the villain who is someone you love to hate. There is nothing but passion put into this film. This is true with all of Del Toro’s films – barring Mimic – but here, that comes out most of all. It’s rare a filmmaker can make the film they want to, how they want to. It’s a must see for anyone, aspiring filmmaker or not.