Atlantic Rim (2013)
Have you seen the movie about the giant robots versus the giant monsters? You know, the one where young people are inside the robots, controlling them and risking their lives to save humanity from these terrible beasties that emerge from the ocean floor and attack our cities?
What? No, not the one staring Ron Perlman. I mean the one starring Graham Greene! You know, Graham Greene? The Native American from DANCES WITH WOLVES? What do you mean that was before your time? He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for that one! Okay, he was also in THE GREEN MILE! And now he’s in SyFy’s brand new series DEFIANCE! Look, never mind, think of the cool robots and monsters fighting!
PACIFIC RIM? Never heard of it. I’m talking about ATLANTIC RIM! It’s an entirely different movie altogether!
Oh, The Asylum is a favourite round these parts. Scott’s review of their Magnum Crapus SHARKNADO (his review here, and let me tell you, it’s one of their, er, greatest movies in recent years) tells it like it is. The Asylum specialises in two types of movies: weird-ass monster concepts like SHARKNADO, and the mockbusters like TRANSMORPHERS, THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED, I AM OMEGA, ALMIGHTY THOR, ALIEN ORIGIN. Movies that suspiciously look and sound like ones the big studios squeeze out.
But if you think they’re nothing more than cheap knock-offs, then you’re missing the point. Watching something like RISE OF THE ZOMBIES (my review here) and saying to yourself, “Hey, this is like the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake!” is like hiring a hooker and halfway through getting a Dirty Lugosi saying to yourself, “Hey, I paid for this!” And how often have we done that, huh, guys?
Ahem. Anyway, ATLANTIC RIM (previously known as ATTACK FROM BENEATH, 5,000 FATHOMS DEEP, and FROM THE SEA, because you can never have enough aliases out there with The Man watching you) opens with an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico being attacked and sunk by some… thing! It’s Big, with a capital B!
Fortunately NASA scientist Dr Margaret Adams (Nicole Dickson) has something which is perfect for investigating this strange and eerie occurrence: three giant robots operated from within by three young good-looking kids: Red (David Chokachi, BAYWATCH), Jim (former rapper Anthony ‘Treach’ Criss, FEAST) and Tracy (former model Jackie Moore, though I *must* mention that according to ImDb she was in something apparently called FUGLY! I know nothing further about it. I don’t want to know. The reality can never match what’s in my head). And being the lynchpins of a top-secret government project, they are all 100% professional military types.
No wait, that’s only true if this was a Non-Asylum universe. Here, Red is the maverick, plays by his own rules, flies by the seat of his pants type, a guy who lives by his instincts and picks fights with guys for absolutely no reason. Jim is the overly-sensitive type, who hears violins playing when he sees injured comrades and orphans with cancer of the puppy, and will disobey orders in order to stay and help such victims of Monster Injustice. And Tracy, because she’s cursed with a vagina, is preoccupied with which of her professional colleagues she wants to fall in love with. Hmph, women, huh?
Anyway, our heroes journey below the depths, and find evidence that the oil rig was a victim of Drive By Monstering, and before you know it, said monster has emerged to the surface to terrorise some local residents! Red takes off in pursuit, violating orders, and though the others try to follow and help, their bosses use an override button to keep their Mechas from following (the override doesn’t work on Red’s Mecha. Why? Because).
So, Red and his Robot fights the slim, lizard-like creature on the beach, smashing a nearby hotel in the process. This certainly gets the dander up of their boss, Admiral Hadley (Graham Greene), who wanted to keep the existence of the Mechas a secret. Why? Because.) Or maybe he’s just annoyed because, like the shots from within the Mechas, you get no sense that anything is actually connected to anything else. The Mecha operators could just as easily have been in Mumbai cold-calling folk about software upgrades.
Anyway, the fight up top continues, and it’s swift, so swift you can barely see how crap the CGI is. Eventually Red’s friends join him in time to deliver the coup de grace, though obviously many have died in the disaster, and while getting out of their Mechas to assist the rescue efforts (one would think a trio of giant humanoid robots might have helped clear away rubble and debris and put out fires a lot more quickly and efficiently, but what do I know?), Red gets arrested for disobeying orders, and is locked… um, somewhere (although the Admiral does let him out long enough to attend a victory party being held that night by the locals, who have obviously cleared up very quickly and have decided to put the death and destruction behind them real fast).
But the story’s not over! The Monster has a brother, or sister, and is going to want revenge! But can Jim and Tracy free Red in time for all of them to put the stomps on Reptilicus Jr?
ATLANTIC RIM has the same rushed, homegrown feel as most of their other efforts (when you see two of our heroes talk about breaking down an ‘impregnable’ door that shudders as they touch it, one can almost feel the spirit of Ed Wood smiling down upon them from On High). The trouble is that, unlike SHARKNADO, which was practically a Bukkake Movie of bad CGI sharks, we get next to nothing of the Mechas or the monsters, except for brief, fleeting scenes. Too much time is spent on contrived personal conflict, between the three Mechas operators, and between Admiral Hadley and the eyepatched Captain Dager (William Shannon Williams), whose insane insistence on using nuclear missiles on American soil to destroy the monster is there only to make Hadley look less villainous (though he remains constipated-looking throughout). But credit where credit’s due, the CGI of the robots that you do see, are impressive for the budget. The acting is fine, and everyone seems to be having a good time (and in true guerilla film making fashion you may see crew doubling up as extras).
In the end, ATLANTIC RIM is disappointing, but only because it doesn’t go completely batshit crazy like SHARKNADO does (though I’d love to see some team-up movie sequels like ATLANTIC RIM VS TRANSMORPHERS, or maybe ATLANTIC RIM MEETS SHARKNADO. Only with cyborg sharks, or something. I’m not giving The Asylum any more story ideas unless they start paying me like one of their staff – in Dominos Pizza coupons.
But if PACIFIC RIM is full up and you’re on a tight budget and have an undiscriminating (or stoned) audience to entertain, you could do worse. It’s available on DVD, and the trailer is below.
Director: Jared Cohn
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. No wait, I mean ‘salient’. Without it, I’m just Eggsy.