How far would you go to protect your planet? What would you sacrifice?
Perhaps that’s too big a question to think about. Maybe, it’s better to think of how far you’d go for your loved ones? Your husband, your wife, your lover, your mother, your father, brother, sister, son, daughter.
I was personally interested in Pacific Rim due to it . . .well, it’s big mechanical bipods versus big alien monsters. Big as buildings. That sort of big. I’m a huge fan of the Battletech universe, and while a Battlemech is nowhere near that size, I got the feeling that Pacific Rim would be the closest thing to it I’d ever see on the silver screen.
The story starts off pretty simple. Alien life didn’t so much come from the stars as it opened a portal in the pacific ocean and then punted an ever-growing succession of large beasties upwards and outwards in an attempt to wipe humanity off the planet.
Being the ornery, stubborn folks we humans tend to be. We didn’t take kindly to the big monsters trying to kill everyone and fought back. Tanks and planes were of limited use, so to fight these Kaiju (Japanese for Monster) we created Jaegers (German for Hunter). Robotic machines, hundreds of feet tall, commanded by not one, but two human pilots, controlling the machine through a neural interface both with it and each other. That is to say, the two humans were in each other’s heads, their memories, maybe their souls laid bare in what they termed the “Drift”.
The story focuses on Raleigh Becket, a youthful Jaeger pilot with a painful past of loss that drove him to abandon the project. And Mako Mori, a young Japanese woman, her only desire to pilot a Jaeger and obtain revenge against the alien Kaiju for some past harm.
A short few-minute scene in the beginning of the movie details Raleigh’s reasoning for abandoning the Jaegers. And clues viewers in on two facts. Firstly, this human-alien started several years prior to the events pictured, and continues onwards as the movie jumps ahead in time after the first scene. Secondly. The Kaiju are slowly winning. Their attacks are increasing, their size and strength growing. Each wave of beasts is nastier than the last. And worse, the Jaeger pilots, once heralded as the rockstars of humanity, are now losing ground, loss after brutal loss.
Time-Jump ahead five years and the Jaegers are all but gone, their construction halted, humanity (and this boggles my mind, by the way) somehow putting their trust in steel and concrete coastal walls to defend them rather than the mighty machines. The commander of the Jaeger program, Stacker Pentecost (played wonderfully by Idris Elba), is told flatly that he’s got eight months funding left, and is to redeploy his final four Jaegers to the city of Hong-Kong, which houses the last operational Jaeger base.
Now, don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but I’ll chat your ear off for another minute or two with a few things I liked and disliked. What I liked? The graphics are an obvious choice. And I’ll admit, they were stunning. The Jaeger vs. Kaiju smackdowns were bonecrunching and truly fun to watch. Personally though, I liked the . . .heart, I guess, of this movie. And it keys in on what La Revenant and I drove away conversing about. Sacrifice. The Jaeger pilots pictured in the movie are the last of their kind. Humanity wants walls to hide away the beasts, not metal monsters to punch back. And yet these stubborn few believe in their commander and defending humanity still.
Stacker rides herd over a fun group of characters. Though woefully only a few of the pilots are given much screen-time, with the focus being on Raleigh and Mako. Obviously a romance just waiting for the two to be in the same room together. These two damaged pilots (played capably by Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi) are fun to watch. Raleigh’s a bit arrogant, hotheaded, but has an earnest charm to him. Mako’s adorably awkward at first, but as the movie progresses more of her iron resolve peeks through and proves the two to be perfect copilots with each other, able to look at each others’ past pain and trust each other completely.
Honorable mentions go to the father-son duo of Australian pilots (actors Max Martini as the father and Robert Kazinsky as the son) are equally good to watch. The father’s veteran, practical approach balanced by his son’s arrogance and utter assurance of victory.
Other likes included the feeling that it wasn’t any one specific nation that was the primary leader. American, Japanese, Russian, Chinese. Goodness, the most powerful Jaeger they had was an Australian made machine. It was a rather cool feeling to think that in times of dire need, humanity would collectively put aside a few of its differences to punch aliens in the face. Other than that? The music. It struck an excellent blend of metal and inspirational to be an amazing companion to the visuals.
Now, what I didn’t like? The story was decent, but could have been more. Let me be clear, I had a load of fun. The story I liked. But it could have been more. Though that admittedly would have driven up the length of the movie, I imagine. A lot of movies, I think, make the mistake of substituting shiny graphics for actual plot. Pacific Rim didn’t do that, and thus deserves a huge plus. But they didn’t give it a fleshed out plot.
Also, while I loved the protagonists of Raleigh and Mako, it would have been nicer to see their relationship given a little more time. And after that? The other pilots. The Russian pair were mentioned to have defended a port in Russia for six years without letting a single Kaiju attacker live. But that’s about all we ever know about them. The three Chinese brothers piloting the last Chinese Jaeger? Saw even less about them.
It would have been a nice dynamic I think, to include those two teams more as well. At least to the level of the Australian pair.
But that all sort of fades, to me. I left this movie with a smile on my face, it wasn’t one of those movies where the goodguys win without cost. There’s no “alien’s aren’t actually that scary when facing the heroes” syndrome.
There is loss along the way to the end.
But there is also hope.
Give it a watch, dear readers, I rather think you’ll have fun.