“Pacific Rim” by Guillermo del Toro is, in my opinion, the best Hollywood film about giant monsters and showdowns with them in principle. This is, in fact, the perfect adaptation of a nonexistent anime, where, in the light of the spotlights, there are battles of huge robots with monsters, and the whole script can be placed on a napkin. Now, eight years after the release of the first film, Netflix is making a full-length anime, Pacific Rim: The Black. What could have gone wrong here, you ask?
In general, for an anime based on “Frontier”, you wouldn’t even have to think too much about the script. They would show the school of the Jaeger pilots, their first assignments, relationships and showdowns – and voila, here’s a typical mecha anime, only in the setting of the del Toro movie. True, the writers of the “Dark Zone” – Greg Johnson (X-Men Evolution) and Craig Kyle (Thor: Ragnarok) – decided to take a more difficult path and write something original. It turned out strange, and I have too many questions about the show.
Despite all the efforts of mankind, kaiju continues to crowd out people. At some point, Australia has to be evacuated, thereby surrendering the continent to the monsters. The main characters, brother and sister Taylor and Haley, cannot get to the evacuation zone in time, so their parents – the Jaeger pilots – go to Sydney for help. The promised two weeks stretch for five years, and the heroes, desperate to see their living relatives, suddenly find the Huntsman, who has been standing under their settlement all this time.
Alas, rash actions (that is, an attempt to start the car) leads to disaster when a kaiju is thrown into the settlement, attracted by the loud sound of a siren.
From here the journey of two guys begins, at their disposal only a training Huntsman without weapons. Their goal is to find their parents and get to Sydney, but, as usual, they will have to face a host of other problems along the way.
By the way, here I want to ask the series the first question – what period of time are shown to us at all? Judging by certain events and mentions (for example, the series features the drone ranger cemetery from the second film), The Black takes place after the events of the second film. But if so, where did kaiju come from in Australia, why do rifts appear on the continent, and why did people not even try to recapture Australia after the events of the sequel? There they made it clear to us that further we will already invade the aliens, and here it is like that.
You, perhaps, are now twisting your finger at your temple and are preparing to say something like “Well, I’ve completely lost my mind, looking for a plot in the“ Pacific Frontier ”,” but the whole point is that in the “Dark Zone” the authors are exactly what on the plot and press.
Yes, I’m not kidding. The original, if you remember, mainly focused on the fights between the Jaegers and the kaiju, insanely pretentious dialogues in the spirit of “Today we cancel the Apocalypse!”, And somewhere in between there was the communication of characters and the disclosure of the universe of the film.
It worked in the first part, in the second part – there were exactly the battles in the foreground, and everything else was secondary. It existed simply because making a two-hour film about the continuous battle between giant robots and giant monsters would not have been enough for even Disney. And if so, then the timing needs to be hammered with something, which at the same time will help to glue the plot somehow. So, the “Dark Zone” works exactly the opposite.
There is a minimum of pathos in the series, and the same minimum of Jaegers and Kaiju battles. But the chatter of the characters, the disclosure of their personalities, as well as the demonstration of the world of “Frontier” is unexpectedly a lot here.
The trouble is, the authors never managed to find the perfect balance. Building a franchise universe with new details is cool. But to score on the key feature of all the series (in fact, battles) is not at all cool. As a result, we get a mecha-anime, the main characters of which spend most of the timekeeping not just outside their Huntsman, but also it is normal to fight with them only at the end.
Therefore, in the “Dark Zone” human relationships are in the foreground. Here the series manages to combine both typical templates of post-apocalyptic works and add its own flavor.
For example, people. At the time of the events of The Black, they somehow manage to survive in Australia, and even at the very least have adapted to the greatly changed world around. The main characters, for example, encounter an outright gang that travels through the wastelands under the guise of a nomadic settlement. The “inhabitants” of this mobile village are engaged in collecting various useful artifacts – for example, they are very interested in spare parts for gamekeepers or kaiju eggs. Not gigantic, of course, but relatively small. Which raises additional questions – where did the little kaiju come from? Why the hell did they suddenly start laying eggs? But what about live birth and cloning, which were mentioned in the first film?
Although here you can shove everything into the scene. Australia and in our reality with you is capable of finishing you off in many different ways – so why couldn’t the kaiju there be able to adapt and enter into symbiosis with the “continent of death”?
Another group that is mentioned, but almost never shown is the cult of the Kaiju Sisters, who appeared in the “Dark Zone” straight from the pages of the comic book Pacific Rim: Aftermath. It’s too early to say anything about them, although in the second season they will clearly play an important role.
From the point of view of building the world, the series makes many more interesting touches, which in some places, however, break the logic of the Frontier universe. Here they have the opportunity to adopt the experience of other pilots with the help of special “training” records, and still existing hybrids of Jaegers and Kaiju (and they, apparently, are gradually evolving), and the devil knows what else.
And this is all great, of course, and the series reveals the characters much better than it was in the original dilogy. Only the “Pacific Rim” itself is almost gone because of this.
Well, yes, another problem is the division of the series into two seasons (and this is at least). The story here ends at a cliffhanger, and I have a suspicion that the first season will eventually turn out to be an introductory one, and the main action will be just in the second. Although, of course, they are unlikely to give up chatting either.
The result is a paradoxical situation. The anime, filmed as a sequel to a film that seemed to be based on a mecha anime (non-existent), suddenly turned out to be completely different from what it should have been. The anime version of “Frontier” should be something in the spirit of “Gurren Lagan” – an insanely pretentious story with humor, a bunch of robots and extraordinary personalities, and as a result, the authors came up with something in the spirit of “Mad Max” with furs and reflective teenagers.
The series was drawn by Polygon Pictures studio (Blame !, Knights of Sidonia, Star Wars: The Clone Wars of 2008), and they got another series in their own style – cel shading and three-dimensional graphics, to which, as usual, there are questions. If you have already watched something from the studio’s works (the same “Sidonia”, for example), then you are familiar with the style. Not everyone likes it, but at least with 3D animation they work better than most other Japanese studios. Therefore, they did not succeed in the 2016 Berserk – that is, their eyes do not bleed – but there are still certain problems with the picture.
My main complaint about the “Dark Zone”, in general, is simple – in pursuit of the expansion of the “Frontier” universe, the authors managed to lose a number of key features of the original, including the battle scenes I have mentioned many times. And this is a problem, because the original film is loved for them.
Is The Black worth watching? Complex issue. At the very least, I would advise you to postpone your acquaintance with the series until the release of the second season, because the story ends in mid-sentence, leaving too many unanswered questions.
On the other hand, if you like the Frontier universe, then you have no special options. The third film is back when they start filming with all this coronavirus, so only the Netflix series remains. Only one “but” – if you expect from the series the same epic as from the movie del Toro, then it is better to lower the degree of expectations. Otherwise, you will be disappointed.