Acclaimed film Blackfish and summer blockbusters come to campus

Culture Film

Campus movie theatre Cinecenta has been featuring a unique selection of praised films, especially documentaries. Throughout next week and the week after, Cinecenta will have a special screening of the 2013 documentary film Blackfish, which addresses how the confinement of a killer whale named Tilikum led to its deliberate, fatal attack on a top SeaWorld trainer, Dawn Brancheau, in 2010. In response to Blackfish’s accusations, SeaWorld Entertainment sent a detailed critique of the movie in July, to critics who were planning to review it.

The director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, was sceptical that a human-friendly, intelligent orca could kill an experienced trainer. The press releases at that time blamed the trainer’s ponytail (which, it was suggested, may have floated in the water, enticing Tilikum to pull the trainer) and Tilikum’s natural aggressiveness. After learning how deliberate the attack was, Cowperthwaite decided that there must be a bigger story behind it. Blackfish devotes great detail to the 2010 incident, but it also equally focuses on the concealed reality of captive killer whales and dangers the trainers are facing.

This documentary seems conventional in presenting facts and uses extensive footage, interviews and narration to show the truth; however, the film weaves these materials so tightly that the audience is deeply drawn into it. Blackfish features a variety of people, including former trainers, researchers and even those who used to capture the orca whales. John Crowe, in particular, had great influence on the production of Blackfish, due to his interview on being a poacher in the early 1970s.

Blackfish is one of the most compelling documentaries I’ve seen, and you shouldn’t miss it. I hope this film contributes to spreading awareness of not only the treatment of orcas, but also the trainers’ overlooked situations.

Summer blockbusters are also coming to Cinecenta, and I will spotlight Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro. Enormous, reptile-like monsters called Kaiju start invading cities, after coming through a portal in the Pacific Ocean. As a solution, all the countries around the world unite to build massive robots called Jaegers, that are controlled by humans inside.

Pacific Rim knows that it is a ridiculous action film and puts great emphasis on the Jaegers, Kaiju, and their fight scenes, which leaves no room for character development. We have the shallow hero, his female sidekick, comedic scientists, a bully and a commander. The female lead, Mako, in particular, presents herself as a quiet, obedient, mysterious Asian stereotype, and gets treated as a plot device to keep the other characters and story going. Also, while the promotion of the film highlighted the Jaegers, the audience will be disappointed to see other Jaegers merely paving a way for our main character to show how great his Jaeger is.

Nevertheless, Pacific Rim does a good job at striking terror; the characters we care about are constantly put in peril, showing how destructive the invading Kaiju can be. The action scenes are enjoyable and tense, and the catchy electric guitar score by Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man and Game of Thrones) adds to the thrill; however, some may find them tiring, because we cannot exactly see what is going on, due to dark lighting and fast camera work.

Director, Guillermo del Toro, has shown off his peculiar vision in previous works such as Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth. Due to too much focus on the genre, most of his unique style is washed out, but his mean jokes, playing with the monsters’ internal organs, are still seen.

Before viewing Pacific Rim, please note that this is strongly taste-oriented. People who enjoy films with giant robots or beasts might consider this film fascinating, while others who just try to enjoy an action film will be bombarded by questions coming from the absurdity of it.


Pacific Rim
Sept. 23 and 24
7 p.m. and 9:25 p.m.

Sept. 25 to Oct. 5
3 p.m. (Sept. 27, 28, 29, Oct.4 and Oct. 5), 7:15 p.m. and 9 p.m.