"Pacific Rim? What's that, a porno?"
No, my naive little friend, it is one of the most influential movies of Summer 2013. Haven't heard of it? Haven't gone to see it? Well, this is your much needed kick in the butt.
"An alien attack and giant robots. Pft, I've seen it before."
While I agree that the monster and mecha genre have been around for quite some time, I'll almost guarantee that you haven't seen it like this before. Where "dark and edgy" seem to be the new trend going from movie to movie (even tv show to tv show), Pacific Rim is a surprising breath of fresh air.
At its most basic and two-dimensional definition, it's about big robots punching even bigger aliens in the face. I know, I wasn't that impressed at first. Never before have I enjoyed eating my words as I did with this.
It's loud, it's flashy, it's in your face but it's different.
"So what is it about?"
It's a story that takes place in the near-future (2020s) where humanity suffers under the threat of attack from a race of creatures (called Kaiju) that come from an interdimensional portal that lies on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. After years of fighting, humanity developed Jaegars or giant robots to fight this enemy. Pilots form a mental bond, and connect through "the drift" where they share one another's thoughts and memories (so that the mental load of controlling a Jaegar is split into two). The story follows the co-pilots of one specific Jaegar (Gipsy Danger), as they work together to rid the world of impending doom.
But it's so much more than that.
It's about how strong humankind can be. When humanity has been forced to hide behind walls, or cower under the threat of imminent attack, they find a way to push through. It's surprisingly comforting to see humanity live on. To see a movie explore the after, in as positive a light as they could. That with such a colossal and terrifying threat, cities still stand. To see that they have adapted. To see that they have the power to fight back when everything is at stake. To forget the restrictions of race/gender/etc., and join forces. It's great to see a humanity that has been beaten down, a humanity that has risen back up, a humanity that spits in the face of the apocalypse.
"Psh, what's so great about it?"
This is not an origin story. I don't know about you, but I have had it with origin stories. We get it Batman, your parents are dead.
Pacific Rim gets rid of an hour's worth of backstory, with the careful placement of flashbacks. Sick of sitting through a collection of "who is he," "what am I," or "what should I do?" Have no fears. You will know everything that has led up to this point during the first twenty minutes or so of the movie. And you won't expect it to go where you think it will.
This story is not about personal conflicts. Sure, there are characters that clash and duke it out. But Del Toro had stated that one of the main focuses was to support a story where that concept is life. That you won't agree, may never agree, but you'll work together when you need to.
And together not only means man and man, but man and woman, race and race. When you walk the halls with Raleigh as he takes in the lively happenings within the dome, you bump shoulders with women and people of color scurrying around: each playing an important part in keeping humanity alive.
Sure they're only minor characters, but that's a lot more than can be said for other casts.
Speaking of which, let's talk about Mako Mori.
When Raleigh comes in, all blond hair and baby-blue eyes, you think that Mako would just swoon and fall into his arms. That he would end up saving her. And you would be absolutely wrong. Mako Mori can save herself. She can fight by herself, for herself. And he respects that.
In fact, he spends a good portion of the time trying to convince her to be his co-pilot. Not because she's a pretty face but because she has what it takes to pilot a Jaegar. To drift with him. And that's the hero I've been wanting to see. A hero that I've been wanting to call my own. Someone like Mako. She doesn't need a snarky "better than you" attitude, to make her assertive. She doesn't have to be Ms. Serious-Business. She can be soft-spoken, with blue-highlights, and she will still be a pilot. She can still be a protagonist with a story all of her own.
"What about Raleigh?"
Raleigh, Jaegar-program veteran who lost his brother during a mission (experiencing his brother's thoughts and feelings through the drift). He had all the makings of a cocky, a maverick, a loose cannon. But he isn't. What we expect to be a movie about his healing, we get a movie about his acceptance.
He made a mistake. He was brash. It cost him his brother. It cost him his Jaegar. It cost him a lot of emotional stability. But he made peace with it, his part in the consequences, and all before the real plot of the movie started. We don't need to see a ninety-minute fight back to the top. What we see is a man who knows how the world works (and has a message to give): you mess up, but you live with it, and you move on.
If anything, he is one of the best heroes for kids to look up to. In the case of Mako, he could've been that character who would use his god-like charm to snare her into being his partner. But he wasn't. He was the one who pined and begged. And it didn't make him any less of a character, any less of a pilot, and any less of a man. Their relationship is not romantic (not exactly). It's a bond between two people who have suffered but have had to strength to come back. They don't need to kiss, they don't swoon, they don't need to do anything to show that they are strong. That they can be partners. That they can drift.
And that's the most realistic thing.
Cheers to Del Toro, by the way, for taking the setting into Hong Kong. It makes sense. This is a worldly threat, so why not actually include people and places from all over as well?
"So, Pacific Rim."
Yep. It's not your average Transformers.
So take a friend, take a sibling, a parent, a partner, and see what you drift compatibility would be.