“You live in someone else’s head for so long, the hardest thing to deal with is the silence.”
“All I have to do is fall. Anyone can fall.”
Pacific Rim tells us the story of the Kaiju War where monsters from another dimension (and that’s a question—is it actually another dimension or is The Breach actually a stable wormhole that the Kaiju are being transported through from another planet?) are invading Earth and obliterating everything in their collective path. The world has banded together to create the Jaegers: mechs piloted by two humans who have been Drifted together via a neural handshake, which basically means that the pilots share their minds and memories so that they can operate in tandem to control their Jaeger.
It also means that, if one pilot dies during a confrontation, the other pilot will feel it all.
And that? That’s trauma with a capital TRAUMA.
And that’s Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam; Sons of Anarchy and Queer as Folk), our narrative-in, who was connected to his brother-cum-co-pilot when he was killed during a kaiju attack.
It’s kinda understandable that Raleigh would run from the Jaeger Program—or, at least, until Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba; Luther, Prometheus, and Thor) drags him back to the war.
The reason? We’re losing.
We’re starting to lose badly: lose people, lose Jaegers.
The Jaeger Program has been shut-down by the Pan Pacific Defense Corp (PPDC) in favor of The Wall (or “The Wall of Life,” which are basically huge walls that were being built along coastlines to protect coastal areas), which means that the Jaeger Program has lost funding and any hope of protecting the world.
They’re being decommissioned in 8 months.
So, Stacker being Marshall and totally not having any of these shenanigans, takes the Jaegers, their pilots—the entire Jaeger Project—and moves it to the last Shatterdome (i.e., PPDC regional headquarters) in Hong Kong.
Which, I swear, during the movie I heard Tokyo because, of course, it would have made sense for the last functional Shatterdome to have been in Tokyo so that we can have mechs fighting kaiju for the future of humanity.
I’m actually kinda disappointed that the last Shatterdome wasn’t in Tokyo, and we didn’t have Tokyo Tower get destroyed. Seems like a waste of a reference.
But, the Jaeger Project is now no longer part of the PPDC; it’s now Resistance—whether the PPDC likes it or not, whether or not the Jaeger Program is still technically under funding or not.
Which is a good thing considering The Wall amounts to zero protection.
And, yet, the PPDC seems surprised by this—because evidently they haven’t been paying attention for the duration of the Kaiju War, and, really, how the people running PPDC thought that the steel and concrete of The Wall was going to stop kaiju who have blithely been tearing apart cities that are, by definition, made of steel and concrete like they were tissue paper is beyond me.
Also, the kaiju are obviously systematically testing human defenses, coming back bigger and bad-er and with greater frequency, and there’s no way to close The Breach.
They’re learning our defenses, learning how to tear the Jaegers apart at the seams.
Obviously, there has got to be an intelligence behind the invasion—either the kaiju themselves or someone sending them.
And, it’s kinda both at the same time, which makes it even worse.
How is the PPDC not noticing this?
Politicians. It’s always the politicians—largely can’t see beyond the end of their noses.
Seriously. Go in the corner and examine your collective lives.
And, that’s the frame, the over-arching story that encompasses our primary heroes—Mako Mari (Rinko Kikuchi; The Brothers Bloom, The Sky Crawlers), Stacker Pentecost, and Raleigh Becket—that’s what we need to understand to be situated for the last push, the last attempt to stop the kaiju invasion because, if it isn’t stopped like now, it won’t be long before the kaiju will be appearing with a couple days between attacks.
Then a couple of hours.
Double and triple incursions at once.
We’re all going to die.
Because this? This isn’t a typical monsters-destroying-the-planet text.
This is a colonialist text from the perspective of the colonized in the earliest years of colonialism.
And, that’s one of the reasons that—although we have amazing characters of color and a trans-national operation going on to try to save us all from the kaiju—I’m a little annoyed.
This is supposed to be the world saving the world, but in the end, we have Gypsy Danger—a Jaeger that was commission by the US and that del Toro has even said “walks like a gunslinger”—saving the day.
With an American pilot and a Japanese pilot at the helm.
And this seems like the subtlest, sliest, most problematic incident of embedded Imperialism that could happen.
Also, there are only two characters that are women, and only Mako is more than someone barely elevated out of the background.
Mako is amazing and bamf and totally hands Raleigh his ass and is like genius-levels brilliant (she’s been assisting in the refurbishing and rebuilding of the few Jaegers that the PPDC/Resistance have left).
She loves and respects Stacker, her adoptive father, and while she’s frustrated with his protectiveness, she is never resentful of it.
She’s my favorite, my absolute favorite. She strong and no nonsense and a perfectionist and has a deep sense of obligation and a need for vengeance, but she’s also frustrated and annoyed and has a bit of a temper and carries her grief like a weight, in a way that is realistic in its representation—that grief never leaves, that grief catches you sideways and drags you down.
That grief is both the marker of end and beginning.
She’s also about a million percent done with Raleigh as soon as he walks through the door, and they have just the best fight scene together that I’m going to be loving for the Rest of Forever.
And, best of the best is that, even though they grow to like each other (sorta) and pilot Gypsy Danger together, we are never presented with Mako as Raleigh’s love interest.
There are no love interests.
Can I just say that again? There are no love interests.
I have never been so happy about anything in my life—and that’s only a slight hyperbole.
And, Mako and Raleigh’s compatability of spirit that allows them to pilot Gypsy Danger together is because they are the obverse and reverse of the same coin: Mako running towards the Jaeger Program, towards being a pilot, being a perfectionist, excelling in all areas of training with a 51/51 sim-kill score; whereas Raleigh was a pilot that ran from the Program, who ran towards building walls, who was never the star athlete, who was cocky and disobeyed orders and lost his brother in the process.
They both know pain and trauma and their bond is based upon those human qualities.
We’re told early on that the deeper the bond between pilots, the deeper the bond with the Jaeger, and Mako and Raleigh’s bond is so deep, so connected that ops cannot shut Gypsy Danger down when Mako chases the rabbit and gets lost in the Drift because Mako is too strong.
That’s kinda great.
And, because I can’t leave the scientists out (I adore the scientists.), we have Dr. Newton “Newt” Geizler (Charlie Day; It’s Always Sunny in Philedelphia and Saturday Night Live) and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman; Game of Thrones, Spies of Warsaw, and Torchwood) who both work in K-Science to try and determine the where, what, why, and how often of the kaiju attacks and categorizing the kaiju based upon the Serizaawa Scale.
Gottleib is essentially a mathematician using predictive inference to determine when the next kaiju attacks will happen and is the one who determined that the kaiju incursions were increasing in frequency and ferocity. He’s also kind of stuck-up and pedantic and is totally rocking the Walter Bishop Anorak of Science with a side of Manhattan Project chic.
He and Newt don’t get on well.
Newt is essentially a xenobiologist who’s about two steps left of full-on Mad Scientist-hood whose main job is determining the what and why of the kaiju. He’s also kind of a kaiju groupie in a “we really need to stop them, but they’re just so freaking cool” variety to the point he has kaiju tattooed on his arms.
Literally, the best line in Pacific Rim is Newt’s: “two thousand five hundred ton of awesome. Or awful.”
But, together, they are the unsung heroes of the film, obtaining vital information in the last moments via a human-kaiju Drift (previously accomplished by Newt alone, which is when we learn of the kaiju Hive Mind and the Kaiju Masters).
So, amazing film is amazing. Pacific Rim is beautiful to look at, the Jaegers are drool-worthy in their detail, the kaiju just keep getting better and better (and have tentacles!). The characters are subtle and nuanced and flawed and as likely to frustrate as they are to be woobiefied. The writing is minimal but strong because this is more about monsters and mechs and all the things that we are never going to be prepared for until they occur.
The theme that—to survive as a species, we have to learn to work together and take care of each other—doesn’t manage to be overwhelmed by any intentional or unintentional Imperialism.
As Marshall Stacker Pentacost reminds us, “Today—at the edge of hope, at the end of our time—we have chosen to believe in each other. Today, we face the monsters that are at our door. Today, we are cancelling the Apocalypse.”
Today, we stop the clock.
- Pacific Rim has an entire Wikia devoted to its universe. Y’all should check it out.
- There is some really amazing fanart for Pacific Rim. Take a look and love.
- And, if you’re committed to Sparkle Motion Pacific Rim, take a roll through the Pacific Rim tag on Tumblr. You will totally be sad and lose control of your life not regret it.