Pacific Rim: a reaction

Now that the general excitement over the movie has died down, I managed to secure a date (my wife) to the new robot-on-monster flick that had everyone abuzz.

This is more of a ‘reaction’ to some elements than a full-blown review, and should be relatively spoiler-free. Even so, I don’t recommend reading anything extensive about this movie, or watching too many trailers, before seeing it. The fresher it is, the more fun you’ll have.

Frankly, it was pretty awesome.

I don’t have a background in much mecha, though I enjoyed a few related concepts when I was younger. My family all played the hell out of One Must Fall 2097, a fighting game starring giant robots controlled by the minds of the world’s best fighters. Aside from being one of the only 1v1 fighting games I ever really enjoyed, it touched on some ideas which stuck with me into my adulthood.

Pacific Rim took the idea of tapping into the human brain to control robots and took it further: one mind alone, this movie says, is insufficient to handle the strain of controlling the giant mechanical beast. That’s where Pacific Rim really captured my imagination.

The ‘Drift’ exists where two minds connect, become meshed together, in order to form parallel processors to control the giant mecha, or ‘Jaeger,’ as this films mechanical gladiators are called. Just as you cannot expect that any two processors will mesh when strapped together into the same operating system, so must Jaeger pilots be sure that they are compatible with each other.

I really wish the film had enough time to further explore this bonding, to really help us feel the connection between two Jaeger pilots. As it stands, Pacific Rim does an acceptable job of implying all these things – and even explores the implications of such pairing – but as it was the movie’s most original concept, I was anticipating a bit more.

One thing I truly appreciate from Guillermo del Toro and his writing team is that the prominent female character, Mako, does not have a romance subplot. In a typical Hollywood summer flick, the two pilots would have overcome adversity and realize that they belong together.

Well, actually, that does kind of happen, but on a platonic level. Frankly, it would be sort of creepy for them to suddenly ‘want’ each other. It would be sort of masturbatory. After melding minds, the two know each other too well for any mystery, any romance, to take place. I was on the edge of my seat toward the end, fearing the worst, but left the theater not only content, but pretty happy.

One concept other than the Drift got my interest but was not really explored. The movie’s opening narration (so technically this is a spoiler, but less than five minutes into the film isn’t bad) details the rise and fall of the attacking monsters (‘Keiju’). The Keiju committed acts of terrible destruction while humanity got its act together, but once the Jaegers were an effective force against them, the Keiju were taken less seriously.

They tell us of how the Keiju were actually adopted into pop culture, and the Jaeger pilots became celebrities. Again, Pacific Rim used all the time it had pretty effectively, so I guess I wish the movie was ten minutes longer to give this a bit more exploration. As it stands, the whole era is glossed over, ending before the viewer’a eyes just after it begins.

Pacific Rim is largely a satisfying film. It may not break a lot of new ground, but it does everything it’s trying to do right. Also, its roots in familiar territory likely help elevate the few new ideas it did present. I highly recommend checking this out in theaters, not only because it’s a blast on the big screen, but also to vote with your dollars for movies rich in concepts and character development that makes sense.

Also, robots fighting monsters.

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