Atlantic Rim (2013)
Directed by Jared Cohn
Go! Go! Mighty Drunken Broski Rangers!
Atlantic Rim (AKA Attack from Beneath - the less lawsuit-y US release title) is as you have probably already guessed The Asylum’s mockbuster of Pacific Rim. At the very least, it’s a mockbuster of Pacific Rim’s first trailer. I was left with the impression when it was over that the film was initially scripted based around working in imagery seen in the first Pacific Rim trailer from late last year, and from there a good portion of it was then improvised on the set, and the rest was constructed in the editing bay. Neither completely incoherent nor entirely lucid nor an outright rip-off of Pacific Rim, The Asylum have crafted their own enthusiastically goofball cinematic beast: the ultimate monster movie about booze-hounding broskis in battle bots saving New York City from a crazy-eyed giant sea beast that frequently appears to be merely a lost animal, confused and irritated that these metal men won’t stop hitting it.
Gigantic sea monsters have hatched from eggs beneath the ocean and waste no time wrecking an oil rig. Good thing the US military just happens to have on standby three deep sea submersible giant robots that look like designs leftover from a never-made Asylum mockbuster of Real Steel.
The fate of the world rests in the robot-piloting hands of “Red” (David Chokachi of “Baywatch” fame), the ultimate frat boy in the greatest frat of all: the United States military. He never follows orders, is constantly either drunk or looking for an excuse to get drunk, and – I’m theorizing here – must suffer from a strange form of Tourette’s syndrome that instead of profanity makes him randomly “woo” and unleash Stallone-esque yells that range from primal to celebratory. Red isn’t his actual name. Like any good Power Ranger, the robots and their pilots are color-coordinated: jumpsuits, robots, even the lighting in the cockpit. But only Red is so cool even his lover, drinking buddy, female broski, and fellow robot pilot, Tracy (the lovely Jackie Moore), calls him by his color more than his actual name.
Chokachi’s Red has to be seen to be believed here. The traits of the villainous fraternity jock from every Eighties college sex comedy mixed with the virtue of the maverick action hero who succeeds by playing by his own set of rules, and he’s more than likely an alcoholic. I’ve never quite seen a movie hero like this.
The commanding officer describes Red as the best they have. This will be the same commanding officer who wastes no time having him arrested for blatantly disregarding a direct order that likely got innocent people killed in the process. Then he gives him a medal. Then he has him locked up for insubordination, again. Then he excitedly cheers him on during the final battle. Then they fist bump, and the General is named an honorary Mighty Drunken Broski Ranger and invited to get hammered with them.
The tagline for this film really should have been “Go Drunk or Go Extinct”. Defeat a giant monster and rescue some citizens from a burning building – go to the bar and get drunk. Escape from a stockade as the military base is being attacked by a giant monster, doing nothing to actually save anyone, countless bodies all over the ground as they make a hasty retreat to a safe distance – go to the bar and get drunk. Given our heroes propensity for alcohol and that the robots in Pacific Rim are called “Jaegers” I must express my tremendous disappointment that nobody involved with Atlantic Rim thought to name their robots “Meisters”.
Rounding out the trio is Red’s broski-for-life Jim, played by Treach of “Naughty by Nature”. Wouldn’t you know it; he’s still down with OPP. But that’s okay because Red has such a bros before hos policy that he’s okay with you banging his ho as long as you’re his bro.
Whereas Red exists in a perpetual cycle of getting drunk and looking for any reason to get drunk, which, in turn, forces Tracy to spend as much time playing chaperone as she does love interest, Jim chooses instead to be a real Debbie downer at times, filled with so much remorse I kept waiting for him to recite Samuel L. Jackson’s speech from the conclusion of “Pulp Fiction” before heading out to walk the earth.
Red’s commanding officer is Dances with Wolves Best Supporting Actor nominee Graham Green. It is amazing to watch him underperform and overact all at the same time. Nearly every line of his dialogue is delivered in precisely the same bombastic tone as a military colonel in an old Saturday morning cartoon. Fitting actually, considering that the movie functions under that very sort of cartoon logic.
A very straightforward movie, and by that I mean director Jared Cohn keeps things moving straightforward at such a brisk pace you don’t have much time to dwell upon how completely nonsensical something you just heard or saw was.
For example, if the robots are connected to their minds so that they mimic every movement the pilots make and the pilots are sitting down, shouldn’t the robots also be in a constant seated position?
A smashed city is still smoldering and dead bodies are still being peeled off the pavement. Would city, state, and government officials throw a formal ball celebrating the defeat of the giant monster that caused all this death and destruction that very evening, and, hypothetically speaking, if such an event were to occur in such a timely manner, would bringing this scene to life using stock footage of a Mardi Gras ball complete with a giant skull & crossbones banner and a band performing in festive costumes be appropriate?
Also weirdly inappropriate, Red and Tracy’s romantic dance intercut with actual real-life footage of destruction representing monster wreckage.
Where exactly did those Wii-operated robotic melee weapons they whip out of thin air come from?
Am I really seeing insulation tubing and string lights from Spencer’s Gifts adorning the cockpits of these state-of-the-art billion dollar government robots?
Speaking of seeing, that guy with the eye patch driving the car, shouldn’t he try keeping his one good eye on the road rather than constantly having his head cocked in the direction of the General in the passenger seat he’s talking to. This guy driving never looks at the road even once during this entire scene that goes on for well over a minute, and nobody else in the car seems the least bit concerned. Either that car should have wrecked or he should have been mowing down pedestrians like it's Death Race 2000.
That guy with the eye patch, another military man also performing to Saturday morning cartoon levels of teeth-gnashing nogoodnik-ness, represents the film’s human villain. In a subplot lifted straight out of The Avengers, he wants to nuke the inhuman threat attacking the Pensacola, Florida borough of New York City. By his logic, sacrificing millions to save millions makes perfect sense, and launching a nuclear missile should always be the first response. If you disagree, he’ll shoot you. No, really, he’ll pull out his gun and threaten to kill you. That’s how the chain of command works, you know?
Atlantic Rim is definitely no Sharknado, not even in the same league. I could highly recommend that film even to people who normally would never give such a movie a second thought. This one I can really only recommend to hardcore monster movie fans and b-movie fans, MST3K riffers, and, as weird as this might sound, it truly is the perfect giant monster movie for people that consider “Franklin & Bash” the best show on television. To anyone questioning how I can grade this movie on such a curve as to give it a positive score, allow me to respond with a brief little video I assembled of the many broski battle cries of Atlantic Rim’s David Chokachi. I rest my case.
3 out of 5