Examining Atlantic Rim, the perfect primer for Pacific Rim

Feature Ryan Lambie 5 Jul 2013 - 06:32

Atlantic Rim may be a cheap, DVD imitation of Pacific Rim, but it also works remarkably well as an unofficial prequel, Ryan writes...

History is full of uncanny coincidences. Mark Twain was born on the day Halley's Comet swung by Earth in 1835, and died when it hurtled around again in 1910. The writer Morgan Robertson wrote a book about the sinking of a huge ocean-going liner 14 years before the Titanic collided with an iceberg in 1912. And by an uncanny twist of fate, last month saw the release of Atlantic Rim, which appears to have anticipated Guillermo del Toro's giant-robots-versus-giant-monsters flick Pacific Rim by several weeks.

American film studio The Asylum has a spooky knack of releasing its own similarly-named film just before a major blockbuster. Transmorphers appeared just before Transformers in 2007. I Am Omega appeared at around the time of I Am Legend. Other offerings from the studio include Sunday School Musical, Princess Of Mars (which anticipated John Carter, and probably made more money, dollar for dollar), Almighty Thor, Clash Of The Empires, Rise Of The Zombies and Alien Origin.

The Asylum's powers of divination are such that we can only assume the studio has a necromancer locked in a basement somewhere in California, whose sole task is to stare into a scrying mirror and predict what Hollywood's going to make next.

This would explain how the studio's managed to make Atlantic Rim - a film that not only has a similar title to Pacific Rim, but also a remarkably similar plot. Gigantic reptilian monsters are bubbling up from the floor of the Atlantic, and menacing the world's oil rigs and major cities. Fortunately, NASA's Dr Margaret Adams has been secretly building equally large robots,  which are sent into the fray to defend civilisation. 

The pilots of these metal behemoths are Red (former Baywatch chap David Chokachi), Jim (former Naughty by Nature rapper Treach) and Tracy (former model Jackie Moore). Red is the maverick type, who has a tendency to get drunk and pick fights with people standing around and chatting on their phones in the street. Jim's the kind, sensitive member of the team, who saves children from burning buildings and does voluntary work for the Red Cross when he isn't thundering about in his giant robot. Tracy, is tough, brave, and is for some reason torn between her affection for the virtuous, kind-hearted Jim and the faintly sociopathic Red.

Films from The Asylum are rarely noted for their starry casts, yet Atlantic Rim features no less a talent than Graham Greene. Oscar-nominated for his performance as Kicking Bird in Dances With Wolves, Greene has starred in Die Hard With A Vengeance, The Green Mile, and dozens of television shows, including this year's SyFy series, Defiance.

Greene plays Admiral Hadley, a military man whose job primarily involves staring at graphs on a flat panel screen and huffing grumpily. I think it's fair to say that Hadley isn't Greene's finest dramatic creation; at times, it genuinely seems as though he's being paid by the hour, as he murmurs through his lines in a hurried monotone, like a dispirited horse race commentator. 

Then again, Asylum movies are known for their rushed productions. According to the studio's Wikipedia page, an average movie takes them about four months from beginning to end, with the crew rattling through about a dozen pages of script per day during filming. As a result, everything about Atlantic Rim has a rather quaint, handmade feel, like Michael Bay attempting to make one of his blockbusters with a local amateur dramatics troupe.

Everyone involved in the production rolls their sleeves up and plays more than one role, so you'll see the director don a helmet and make a cameo appearance as a fighter pilot, while the chap who does the motion capture for the robots also appears as a paramedic in one scene. The acting's earnest, the script's hilarious ("That man's a wild card. I'm gonna have his head for a trophy on my wall"), the special effects are a bit Discovery Channel circa 1998, and the ending's pilfered from The Avengers.

Some scenes are pure comedy gold. At one point, one of our heroes is stuck in a locked room. His compatriots are outside, panicking about how impregnable the door is and how they can't possibly get their friend out without a key. Hilariously, the door is clearly made of thin wood, and wobbles whenever an actor touches it. It's later revealed that the door can be unlocked by hitting it a few times with a hammer.

While it's easy to poke fun at the rough edges, it has to be said that Atlantic Rim has its own quirky charm. Everyone involved appears to be having a thoroughly good time - well, apart from Graham Greene, who looks like he just wants to go home and read the paper - and William Shannon Williams is good value as the villainous Captain Dager, who wears an eye patch, looks angry enough to explode and spends the entire time ranting about nuclear missiles. 

Either through coincidence or those uncanny necromantic powers we theorised about earlier, Atlantic Rim actually makes for a perfectly enjoyable primer for Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. With del Toro's film picking up years after his giant Kaiju monsters have already invaded, Atlantic Rim could even be regarded as its unofficial prequel, made by squirrels out of plastic cups and bits of string.

The rather rudimentary robot models could be put down to the fact that they're earlier versions of the better-looking, more powerful mecha in Pacific Rim. The monsters might look a bit scrawny and weird (they even have googly eyes, bless them), but that's just because they're younger, less evolved versions of the ones that appear in del Toro's movie.

Having seen both, we can safely say that comparing Atlantic Rim to Pacific Rim is like comparing an F-15 Strike Eagle to a hang glider - Pacific Rim is simply superior in every respect. But while Atlantic Rim may be woefully cheap, it's also exceedingly cheerful. Our suggestion? Get hold of a copy, and watch it just before you head to the cinema to watch Pacific Rim for the perfect modern kaiju double-bill.

Atlantic Rim is out on DVD now. Pacific Rim opens in UK cinemas on the 12th July.

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Oh lord. Every film made by The Asylum is barely watchable. The amount of times they've been sued by major studios makes me wonder how they have any money left to make their rip off films.

i have no respect for asylum movies. making a "bad" movie is one thing. no one wants to make a bad movie. but when you intentionally make a bad movie it instantly loses its appeal because you arent making a "bad" movie. its not like in the 50's when there was only so much they could get away with because people didnt want to fiance genre films. these movies arent bad, they are lazy.

Cheap is one thing, you can make an amazing movie for cheap like los cronocrimenes or even the Daywatch and Nightwatch movies. the simple fact is that they are trying to manufacture a poor quality product because people "like" to watch failures. But these are intentional failures and about as much "fun" too paint drying. its not like a movie like Kitten with a Whip where you dont know what the unwatchable thing in the next scene will be; in an asylum movie you KNOW every scene is going to have some intentionally bad prop, over the top dialogue or first take acting.

DOG needs a regular piece dedicated to the masterworks of The Asylum. Such gems as War of the Worlds 2 or The Day The Earth Stopped must not EVER be ignored

My local massage parlour sells a lotion that's also marketed as 'the perfect primer for a Pacific rim'. *cough* so I'm told that is.

Goddamn it Richie :l

I always look forward to that reply :-)

I laughed so hard I spat out some tuna sandwich all over my keyboard.
And no, that's not an euphemism.

Nerd Nitpick: Halley's Comet is actually visible in the sky for several days when it comes around. Twain wasn't born and didn't die on the exact date that the comet appeared, but it was during the same years that the comet came around. :)

You filthy little sod! Haha made me chuckle

Have you seen 'English Channel Rim' ? Jeez, talk about low budget!!!!

I'm not sure if you were trying to be intentionally funny or not, but you seem to be under the delusion that the Asylum accidentally made a dozen very similar themed and named movies as upcoming blockbusters. I mean you do know they make these specifically to cash in on the names of said upcoming blockbusters and have a much much shorter production time. You do know this right?

Whenever I review one of their films at Anythinghorror, I try to point out that an Asylum film is as much an art form in itself as kabuki or a disco musical, with its own rules and internal logic. They are films from an alternate Earth where movie budgets have been capped at $1 million and employment laws require stars from the '80s or earlier to feature. But the thing people seem to forget when they deride these movies is that, no, they're not $250 million 3D extravaganzas, they're not po-faced art movies - they're bits of fun. The people who made them had fun (and yes, they're well aware that they're cashing in on bigger movies that are on their way).

The Asylum vs Robot Jox?

While I'm here, many vessels with tons more folk sank before Titanic. It didn't take a genius to figure it'd happen again. Only difference is a few folk lived to tell part of the tale.

That, and if Kate winslet had shifted her fat ass up a bit then Jack would have lived.

Cool.

Your sarcasm monitor needs adjusting, methinks...

After reading the opening paragraph several times I was wondering the same thing, but then I became convinced the author was being sincere. Who knows maybe I'm wrong.

And it's not as if big budget movies have never copied another film.

Exactly! One summer we had Volcano and Dante's Peak, another we had Armageddon and deep Impact, and then there was Independence Day and Mars Attacks...

Turner and Hooch and K9 and, most recently, The Raid and Dredd.

Ryan, the character with the eye patch is "Sheldon Geise" played by Steven Marlow.

That's an epic eye patch , must be quite a hole in Dagers face!

Stick some grey hair dye by his ears, swap the eye patch to the other side and you've got Earth 616 Nick Fury (subconscious Marvel tie-in?)

Your boyfriend bought it for you?

My father just downloaded (yes, for free) this piece of ... And all I have to say is ... Im glad that he aint paied a thing for this.

I just saw the MASTER PIECE fron Guillermo del Toro Pacific Rim and I cant wait to watch it again :D

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