Heart of Metal, 10,000 Tons of Fun
In today’s blog post I’m revisiting a movie that I love. Pacific Rim. It’s a kaiju film directed by one of my favorite directors, Guillermo del Toro. It’s a crazy mix of giant robots and monsters which happen to be some of my favorite genres. Released before Legendary’s Godzilla and Shin Gojira a few years later, Pacific Rim healed that open would of no kaiju films since Godzilla Final Wars and Cloverfield.
Pacific Rim is a fun filled monster fest of anime, mecha, and kaiju films. A fantastic ride that I fell in love with first watch and have re-watched it many times since. Let’s examine this film and understand why it is so beloved by its fans and not understood by its critics.
“To fight monsters, we built monsters!”
We begin our movie with info dump via our narrator, the main character in this action flick, Raleigh Becket. Raleigh is a jaeger pilot, and a bit of a rebel. He and his brother pilot a giant robot called Gipsy Danger fighting invading aliens known as kaiju. These kaiju come from a breach in the Pacific Rim, heh get it? The pilots drift minds to control the giant robots. It’s already Saturday morning and we have one of the coolest concepts in the film. It’s not original, but quite interesting as a plot device as we shall see later.
During a routine kaiju assault, Raleigh and his brother Yancy save a boat off the coast of Alaska. Unfortunately, the kaiju coined as Knifehead rips out his brother leaving Raleigh by himself. It is a difficult task to pilot a jaeger on your own, but our hero saves the day and does the impossible, killing the kaiju at the last minute. The last time we see Raleigh is when Gipsy Danger falls on an Alaska beach.
Flash forward a few years, it seems that kaiju keep coming through the breech and are destroying the jaegers faster than the planet can pull its resources to stop them. To compensate, the world governments plan to build a giant wall. The movie thought of the idea before Trump did. And, guess what the wall doesn’t work, a kaiju makes quick work of the wall and is stopped by an Australian jaeger called Striker Eureka.
Speaking of that wall, it seems Raleigh has been building the wall along the US coast. His commanding officer, Stacker Pentacost arrives to recruit him. Apparently, Raleigh still had a part of his brother’s brain in his mind when he died. Not to mention, he doesn’t want anyone else to go through what he did. But, for whatever reason he returns with Pentacost.
It is here that we meet Mako Mori, a Japanese orphan whom Pentacost has adopted. She shows Raleigh around and introduces him to his old jaeger, Gipsy Danger. There are only four jaegers left and they have one more mission. Reach the breach that the kaiju come from and plug it with an atomic bomb.
We are also introduced to Dr. Netton Geiszler and Gottlieb two researchers who are completely different from each other. Gottlieb is a nerdy academic while Geiszler is a kaiju groupie meaning he loves kaiju. He is quite eccentric as we will see later on.
Mako and Raleigh seem to not like each other at first with Mako chastising him for being reckless. But, soon, we see that none of the recruits that Mako brought are up to standards. The two get into a fight, and eventually Mako and Raleigh show they are drift compatible. It is kind of pushed that way, and rushed, but it gets the show running.
Pentacost allows for Mako to test a drift with Raleigh. At first everything goes fine, but because we need drama problems occur. It begins with Raleigh’s PTSD triggers from losing his brother, remember he has a part of him in his brain. This gets the two of them out of sync. Mako who has never done this before, because Pentacost views she is a liability, gets lost in the drift. We see Mako’s past, and there is a lot of character development. Mako, however loses control and almost kills everyone. She gets blamed, well to be fair both get blamed, but really Raleigh and Pentacost are to blame for different reasons. Mako just gets caught in the cross fire. A fight breaks out and Pentacost puts the two of them off duty.
Meanwhile, Geiszler decides to drift with a kaiju brain, what a genius. We find they have a hive mind, more on that later. This triggers two waves of kaiju, which Gottlieb had predicted earlier. The two kaiju fight three out of four of the jaegers. Two of these jaegers are destroyed quite quickly, and disappointingly I might add.
"Today, we are canceling the apocalypse"
To add insult to injury, Striker Eureka the big shot and latest cutting edge of the jaegers gets disabled due to a kaiju with magical E.M.P abilities. While another kaiju goes after Geiszler who knows their secrets. Geiszler had went into Hong Kong to go find a guy named Hannibal Choi as the former needs a full kaiju brain so he can get more information from the kaiju’s hive mind. Once, Hannibal finds out he shoos him away, as it is revealed that Hannibal also mind-melded with a kaiju, once.
With Gipsy Danger the only one left, our two leads pilot her successfully this time. The gorilla like kaiju falls easily by plasma shotgun blasts the size of airplanes. The other beast who was looking for Geiszler shows it can fly. The kaiju tries to take Gipsy Danger into the sky but is destroyed thanks to Mako giving Gipsy Danger a sword. She has killed a kaiju and has completed her character arc. The only one in the film.
After the fight, Geiszler gets a hold of a kaiju brain. Him and Gottlieb mind meld with the kaiju. Meanwhile, Pentacost pilots Striker Eureka and along with Gipsy Danger the two go to close the breach. Geiszler and Gottlief have found out that they need a living kaiju to pass through. The two jaegers are ambushed by three kaiju, one of which is an upgraded version of Knifehead fought at the beginning. The fights are at the bottom of the sea floor and unfortunately, Striker Eureka sacrifices itself. Gipsy Danger takes a corpse and goes towards the portal but is stopped by the upgraded kaiju. So, instead Mako and Raleigh light up the ocean floor and use that kaiju instead. They send the nuke, but in the last-ditch effort, Raleigh sends Mako with all of his oxygen, saving her life. Don’t worry, because this is a movie, he survives through space and time and somehow makes it out alive. The world is safe now, and our heroes can do whatever they did before the kaiju attacked humanity.
This movie is awesome, as it is action packed and filled the itch of kaiju films. The designs of the kaiju and jaegers are awesome, both unique and interesting. The size of everything is immense, bigger is better in this film. Many of the scenes are beautiful, both the fight choreography and the foreshadowing. A good scene is before the flying kaiju revealed it had wings, there was a scene when it made land fall from the sea where parts of its legs/arms folded like wings.
The plot is not amazing, but it works for a monster movie. The characters are all interesting and many of them of them border on eccentric, but except for Mako they don’t have arcs. Raleigh seems to have been the token narrator and we see the world and events through his eyes, but I don’t find him compelling. If he was the war-torn soldier, he should had been the secondary/supporting character. If Mako was the main character I would had been more invested. After her character arc reaches its climax, she doesn’t really do anything, and its sad. I feel that hurts her character in the long run. Mako is the heart and soul of the movie. The focus should had been on her.
Besides that, I would had liked to see more jaegers in combat with kaiju for a bit longer. The other robots like Crimson Typhon and Cherno Alpha didn’t get enough screen time and were just fodder for the kaiju, whom Gipsy Danger made quick work of. But, as we will see next week, maybe dial it down a bit.
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A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.