Go see Pacific Rim. Just do it. This film is awesome, and in a summer of sequels and remakes…it’s an original work of fiction that is just epic. That’s it – just go see it.
Pacific Rim is the giant robot and massive monster movie that our generation (the early 20-year-olds), and the generations coming after us, needed. The last massive monster movie that I actually remember coming out was the 1998 Godzilla, and we all know how that went. And, I guess there was Cloverfield, but you didn’t really get to see too much of the monster. So, yes, Pacific Rim was a much needed breath of fresh air into the genre – and I think (and hope) it’ll be a turning point for more massive monster movies in the future. (I’m a gal who really loves massive monsters, for the record.) Pacific Rim does some pretty amazing stuff, though – and I’m not just talking about the epic fight scenes.
The story of Pacific Rim goes about like this: In 2013 a transdimensional portal opened up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and giant aliens (dubbed Kaiju) started to attack cities – utterly destroying those human populations. In order to fight these monsters, the countries of the world put aside their differences and created Jaegers, giant humanoid robots that have to be piloted by two people with an intense connection. Enter Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who, along with his brother Yancy, was a Jaeger pilot until Yancy’s death drove him to leave the Jaeger business. By 2025, however, the Pacific Rim governments have discontinued the Jaeger program, leaving only four functioning in the Hong Kong base as a last defense. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who ran the Jaeger program, has a plan to close the portal once and for all, and he decides to pull Raleigh from retirement. So, Raleigh needs a new co-pilot to share memories with in the Drift (which is how two pilots control one machine in perfect unison), Pentecost has to let his adopted daughter Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) be her own person, and together Mako and Raleigh have to detonate an atomic bomb in the portal to stop the Kaiju and save the world. All of which is pretty typical and predictable for an action sci-fi film – but it’s utterly wonderful and not what you think. So, let me explain why Pacific Rim is not your typical action sci-fi film.
Most high budget, summer action films rely on tropes to help explain a large part of the story. These tropes help an audience identify the Good Guy, the Bad Guy, and everything in between. They also help establish characters’ story arcs and how they’ll interact with each other – all expected and based around the idea that we, as an audience, already understand the formula of their existence. Pacific Rim has its tropes – they’re recognizable and it doesn’t apologize for them. In fact, Pacific Rim glorifies its tropes, but in a way that really falls under the Tropes Are Not Bad trope. It takes all the tropes typical of its genre, plays with them, accepts them, and then utilizes them in the best possible ways.
In your typical action sci-fi film, Raleigh would be your white reckless rebel hero bro with a tragic past, who is also your main character. And, yes, Raleigh is your white reckless rebel hero bro with a tragic past…but he’s not the main character. I’d argue that Mako is the main character. See, Raleigh doesn’t have a journey in this film, and that’s what makes or breaks who the main character of a story is. Does he narrate the history of the world at the beginning? You bet your ass he does. But does he go on a hero’s journey of self discovery? Not on film. Raleigh doesn’t have to learn how to cope with the loss of his brother, or how to even pilot a Jaeger again. Mako, though? She does all of those things. She has to learn how cope with and use the loss of her family, how to pilot a real, live Jaeger, and she has to learn how to let someone who isn’t Pentecost into her life. In fact, Raleigh is submissive, supportive, and he’s already dealt with his own shit. Mako, though, she’s the wunderkind who needs to go on a journey of self discovery, and Raleigh is there to help her find her way.
There are other ways that Pacific Rim twists and turns typical tropes, such as Chuck Hansen (Robert Kazinsky) being antagonizing but not quite the antagonist, but the subtle changes in who Raleigh and Mako are, both to the narrative of the story as a whole, and to each other is probably the ultimate joy of this film. It’s what makes this film atypical, while still being amazingly familiar.
So, yes. Go see Pacific Rim. It’s amazing, epic, and utterly fantastic. I give it 9 our of 10 successful drops.
– Emily Frances Maesar