Two Fridays ago, I watched Pacific Rim with a group of friends. They’d all seen it before; I hadn’t. I was looking forward to finally learning what a kaiju was, but also a bit apprehensive because it seemed to be a “love it or hate it” type of movie. As it turns out I didn’t hate it, nor did I love it. I liked it a lot, but kept thinking it could have been much better than it was. And even though I write prose, not screenplays, I realized that some pieces of advice stay true no matter what the medium. For example…
Yes, this rule is often broken. Harry Potter is the best example, but it’s also one that proves the rule. Agents and editors always hammer home the point of starting the story at the appropriate moment. Most stories do not need a prologue; they’re crutches used by authors who can’t get in the necessary backstory anywhere else.
The first part of Pacific Rim, before the title is even shown, is pretty freaking long. I didn’t time it, but I tweeted that it felt like it was about 30 minutes. The rest of the movie takes place several years after the beginning sequence. And I thought it was completely unnecessary. Sure, it was cool to see the robots vs. jaegers right away, but all the character building could have been conveyed during the “actual” plot. For instance, the way they brought in Mako’s backstory during her first drift with Raleigh.
Not to mention the opening narration which provided backstory in a very boring fashion.
NOT FOCUSING ON THE REAL STORY
The main character seemed to be Raleigh, the former jaeger pilot who is brought back in for one last mission. It’s a standard trope of all genres. I didn’t find him all that interesting. Mako Mori, on the other hand…that’s who I wanted the movie to be about. At times, it seemed the movie was all about her. And I was all for that. I’m not saying I didn’t like Raleigh at all. He was a good supporting character, but that’s it. Give me a story all about Mako Mori wanting to be a jaeger pilot, and I’m in.
Basically, I felt the story tried to be too big. It tried to tell the story of when the kaiju first arrived, to initially defending against them, to the big last stand. Focusing on just one of those would have made the plot a lot tighter. (And it would have helped start the story at the appropriate moment!)
(Random: I made a sarcastic comment on Twitter about wanting a movie about the kaiju versus the dinosaurs. I wasn’t entirely serious, but I wouldn’t say no to that story, either.)
This isn’t to say Pacific Rim didn’t do anything well. Like I said, I really liked the movie and would watch it again. I love the universe it created. The story was interesting. It featured a diverse main cast. And it was a hell of a lot of fun.
That’s the most important lesson I learned from Pacific Rim. I need to write the best stories possible, but in the end, if people aren’t having fun while reading my work, what’s the point?