Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Conspiracy Theorist's Review of Pacific Rim

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Background and Summary

Now, this is a good movie, this is what it looks like. In my opinion, it stands out as this Summer’s best sci-fi, as I’ll discuss later on. I mentioned in my blog The Dragon’s Triangle, that there is a large, ominous body of water off the coast of Japan. Coincidentally, it is located within the Pacific ring of fire. Many IFOs and marine vessels simply disappeared into that watery grave, or supposed watery grave, because no one knows what happened to the casualties after they’ve disappeared. Could they be alive? Could they be dead? Could they have been a meal for sea faring ultraterrestrial monsters  known as the Kaiju?  According to the Pacific Rim movie, absolutely.  Though these titans, who have a symbiotic relationship with machinery, are by all accounts biological robots for real extraterrestrials hiding in another dimension on the sea floor. Their purpose as slaves? To wipe out the human population so the real extraterrestrials can colonize our planet, consume its resources, and then invade another planet once they’ve destroyed ours. It’s a tradition for them, both in the movie, and in some UFOlogical mythology.

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The movie doesn’t name the Dragon’s Triangle as the source for these alien beings, but I believe its title says it all.  Furthermore, in the movie there’s an underwater portal in the Pacific Ocean that leads to an extra-dimensional city in its ocean floor. There is a whirlpool in the Dragon’s Triangle that many have speculated serves as an entrance to an underground extraterrestrial world as well. So, to sum it up, the portal in the movie and the whirlpool in Dragon’s Triangle are located in the same region of the world and serve the same purpose, so it’s safe to assume that they’re the same thing.


Seemingly out of the blue, the Kaiju cyborgs rise out of this marine portal and slaughter humans. Supersonic planes, state-of-art tanks, nuclear submarines, anything and everything are used against these titans to no avail. So, in a last ditch attempt to save the human population from a burgeoning invasion, world governments work together to build an army of gigantic robots called Jaegers, which are comparable in size and strength to the Kaiju. These Jaegers are basically giant, hulking transformers that don’t transform into anything at all, but have their own unique abilities. They are piloted by two pilots who join their minds, or consciousness, together with a neural bridge process called drifting. Pilots can then share each other’s thoughts, emotions, memories (you have to be real compatible to drift), and control one of the Jaeger’s arms.  In other words, they become symbiotic with each other and the machinery-becoming virtual cyborgs like the Kaiju. 

The protagonist, Raliegh Becket, drifted with his twin brother for years until a Kaiju killed him.  Then he became a washed-up pilot working as a carpenter while trying his best to leave the Jaeger world behind him. But these cyborgs are constantly being upgraded, making them increasingly dangerous and unable to defeat. So his old boss, Stacker Pentecost, has no other recourse than to recruit Becket once again, and pair him with his old Jaeger and, eventually, his adopted daughter –the beautiful, ambitious, talented rookie, Mako Mori. Of course you have to have that beautiful woman who the protagonist falls in love with. 

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The fact that Becket and his old Jaeger are antiques in the squadron, proves to be a blessing in disguise.  The Kaiju have found a way to shut down the newer, more automated Jaegers, but they can’t shut down Becket’s old clunker. So, with a raw mixture of physical dexterity and Japanese sword wielding (which makes the Jaeger look like a robotic samuri…I’m in love with that detail!), Becket and Mori are able to defeat the Kaiju in the Pacific Ocean and make their way to the underwater portal. The icing on the cake is the old-fashioned nuclear bomb in the Jaeger’s chest. None of the newer Jaegers have this function, so Becket and Mori are the only pilots who have the ability to destroy the entire colony of extraterrestrials on the ocean floor. In my opinion, this movie is filled with propaganda, which is probably why it was widely panned by industry critics. But that doesn't take away from its awesomeness. 


So, why I am convinced that this is the best Summer sci-fi bar none? First of all, let me say that Guillermo Del Toro’s ode to Ray Harryhausen's The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Ishiro Honda's Godzilla, is texturally thick…it borrows from the the Kaiju genre, the mecha anime genre, and UFOlogical genre, but it doesn’t fall flat like other refurbished movies such as Superman, Spiderman, and the endless ilk.  That’s because its storyline was all around very original and tight-tighter than the other sci-fi movies this summer such as Man of Steel, which is too episodic, Oblivion, which has a messy ending, or World War Z, which isn’t very suspenseful and borders on comical.  I’m going to review all those movies later.

As an aside, what bothers me about this film, is the misusage of the term apocalypse, which is actually a very common mistake. It simply means the unveiling of a hidden truth such as an extraterrestrial presence engaging our reality. So, it already happened in the beginning of the movie, because the aliens already unveiled themselves to the human population…yet they were planning for an apocalypse. What they should have been planning for was armageddon. 

The Pan’s Labyrinth director, obviously didn’t do a rushed, marketing job by throwing in some storylines that would appeal to a target audience’s taste, and it shows. Del Toro cultivated it like a baby, giving birth to a movie with well developed characters whose relationships were sufficiently developed, even with minimal storyline (though some critics complain that the dialogue was cheesy and had too many works for this genre, I find). For example, you learn just how much Pentecost and Mori mean to each other while she is drifting for the first time. She’s an orphaned little girl, she is frightened to death because the Kaiju are attacking her city and destroying everything in their path, and Pentecost manages to save her. As he emerges from his Jaeger like an angel, he becomes Mori’s savoir and the father figure she idolizes. The dynamics of their relationship is set as the movie moves forward not to mention they appeal to your emotions. You want these characters to survive and excel. Man of Steel, for example, didn’t bring us that type of attachment, or if it did, it was sedate as to render it unmoving.  

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The relationship between Mori and Becket, however, is not so clear from the onset. Mori doesn’t like him at first because he’s a washed up pilot joining a younger generation of fresh, new talent. So she dismisses him as too old and subpar for the job, though she, herself, is just a rookie. When Becket playfully challenges her to a duel, she learns that she underestimated his martial arts skills and that she’s not all that special after all.  She also finds out that they are compatible for drifting. Yes, you guessed it, drifting compatibility is also symbolic for romantic compatibility.  You can tell there’s some romantic tension between them in the movie, but they never connect romantically till the end, because they're focused on their mission to save the world. That’s another thing drifting is symbolic of….the importance of working together to achieve a goal...the war would not have succeeded if they didn't work together and getting involved romantically always messes things up. Plus, let’s face it, who would want to mess with daddy?  

Their relationship is realistic which is just the way I like it...with less syrup and more substance (for the most part-Stephenie Meyer created a true romantic legacy).

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Drifting also symbolizes understanding the enemy during times of war…one concept with so many symbolic meanings which is brilliant, actually. That concept was expressed when the crazy scientist, Dr. Newton Geiszler, drifted with the brain of a Kaiju. But this is more than about thinking like the enemy to defeat the enemy. This is about understanding your enemy’s motives, emotions, point of view, and perceptions of reality (something we should have done before we invaded Iraq, for example). Putting yourself in your enemies' shoes, so to speak. The only problem is that once his neural bridge connected with the Kaiju, another Kaiju comes searching for him in the city, bringing with it a new round of destruction. But it ultimately doesn’t notice him, because he has the neurological scent of a Kaiju. So by adapting to the Kaiju, he was able to survive. He also learns while drifting with the Kaiju brain, that the aliens are planning a full scale invasion, and how the pilots can successfully defeat them. No amount of macho ego-tripping could muscle their way to victory against the Kaiju. Defeating the Kaiju took brains as well as brawn.

The visual elements were bold,  beautiful, sophisticated, and very realistic. From the giant transformers to the Kaiju baby, everything was elegant and very detailed. Frankly, he also managed to do something that is unique to the 80s movies- he managed to prolong the suspense so there was no quick resolution; you were on the edge of your seat till the very end, as you should be. Being an 80s child, I appreciate that aspect of the movie very much. It was something that was notably lacking in the 90s movies and certainly didn’t improve until this movie…in 2013. Other movies left the suspense feeling rather stale and not worth watching because your hopes for the characters were appeased almost immediately…everything was resolved too soon, perhaps in order to cater to a generation or two with short attention spans. But everyone likes suspense, which is why most people who are in their 30s and 40s turn to trashistic reality television shows.  All in all, Del Toro earns major kudos for this film.