Posts Tagged ‘Guillermo del Toro’

Fourteen short men traverse a forest and see wondrous things in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

December 31, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 31, 2013

Director Peter Jackson’s latest take on the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This, the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy based on The Hobbit, begins with a brief prologue setting up the quest at the heart of the story: The wise, powerful and quirky wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arranges a meeting with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the heir to a dwarven kingdom that the dragon Smaug has conquered, dispersed and occupied.

Gandalf tells Oakenshield what he told the dwarf’s father: Rally the seven dwarven armies and drive the fire-breathing lizard from its roost in the dwarven-carved caverns beneath the Lonely Mountain. Oakenshield is willing to try this, but he has a problem. His people’s armies will only unite under the command of he who wields the Arkenstone, and that gem is among the jewels and precious metals that Smaug is lounging upon right now. Gandalf smiles upon hearing this, for he knows a thief that might be able to spirit away the Arkenstone…

Cut to the present moment. Gandalf, Oakenshield, a certain Hobbit thief (Martin Freeman) and a company of 12 dwarves are working their way toward the Lonely Mountain whilst being hunted by a band of powerful, bloodthirsty orcs. Gandalf leaves the group just before they enter the foreboding Mirkwood Forest. The short-of-stature travelers are captured first by hungry spiders and then by irate elves. Heroism by the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins by name, is required in both cases to extend the quest.

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Monsters! Robots! Clichés! Not entirely to its credit, ‘Pacific Rim’ has it all.

July 26, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 26, 2013

Every once in a while, there comes along a science fiction movie so novel and so well executed that its audiences stream out of theaters feeling as if they might step out into the night sky and simply take flight.

Pacific Rim, alas, is not such a film; in fact, it’s a badly flawed picture. But it is rather novel, and some of it is very well executed, and it is a fun flick — if one that fails to live up to its maximum potential.

The movie, co-written by Travis Beacham and director Guillermo del Toro, is premised on the notion that some kind of interdimensional rift opens up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. (That happens in 2013 in the film’s chronology — fingers crossed!) The rift repeatedly disgorges enormous monsters known as kaiju, each of which mercilessly pounds one Pacific Rim city or another before it can be dispatched by the authorities. In response, world powers band together to build multiple jaegers, which are similarly enormous fighting robots.

The jaegers successfully put down kaiju until one stormy night off the coast of Alaska in 2020, when a monster plunges its claw into the control pod of the Gipsy Danger jaeger and extracts one of the robot’s co-pilots. That marks a turning point in the war; by 2025, the arsenal of jaegers has been winnowed down to a handful, and humanity is attempting to seal itself off from danger by building enormous, purportedly unbreachable walls. (Oh, yes: And also by moving rich people a few hundred miles from the shores of the Pacific, a throwaway line reveals.)

The only trouble is, erm, that those unbreachable walls turn out to pose little resistance to the kaiju. Despite that inconvenient truth, the world’s nations are unwilling to recommit resources to the increasingly ineffectively jaegers. Consequently, a commander with the extremely unlikely name of Stacker Pentecost (!) embarks upon a last-ditch program to take the fight to the kaiju, rather than continue mankind’s losing game of defense.

Pentecost’s strategy relies upon a newly renovated Gipsy Danger and that jaeger’s surviving co-pilot, a retired “ranger” with the slightly less unlikely name of Raleigh Becket. Not only must Becket be able to step back into the cockpit where his co-pilot and brother was killed five years previously, he must identify and meld with a rookie co-pilot. Unfortunately, the best candidate for the job, one Mako Mori, is a woman whom Pentecost is determined to keep out of the cockpit.

Pentecost’s plan also depends on the two members of his crack — oops, better make that crackpot — science team being able to ferret out information that kaiju haven’t yielded despite a dozen years of urgent scrutiny by (presumably) the world’s best researchers. And it depends on one of those scientists being able to partner with a black market kaiju organ dealer to procure something no one has ever managed to obtain: a living monster brain.

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