March 27, 2022
Collected on: March 27, 2022
Ten years ago, the world was brutally attacked by a vicious sea monster. Soon after, another creature attacked. And another. The monsters kept coming.
To defend itself against the onslaught of these monsters (also called Kajiu), humanity started building giant robots to fight them. Each robot, called a “Jaeger” was controlled by two pilots.
When the movie starts, humankind has one last shot of finally destroying the kaiju once and for all. Will they succeed?
Robin: Welcome to this in-depth, spoiler-free discussion of the movie Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, which our curator Lotte has added to the Escape Velocity Collection, a series of items that we believe represent the absolute peak of what the speculative genre has to offer.
I challenged Lotte to defend her addition to the Collection – why should everyone hurry to drop down on their couch and watch this movie as soon as possible?
If you ask me about my favourite movies, I will not hesitate to mention Pacific Rim. It goes without saying that I’ve wanted to add it to the collection from the moment we started this project.
I’ve been pestering Robin to watch Pacific Rim for… a while now. She never really responded with the appropriate enthusiasm to my recommendation, which I kind of get. If you’d explain the plot of Pacific Rim to me, I’d also be a little hesitant. Look, giant robots don’t sound that cool to me. I like things being destroyed in movies as much as the next gal, but before I watched this movie, I really didn’t think I’d enjoy watching giant robots doing the smashing. To my surprise, when I did end up watching the movie, I was instantly hooked.
Pacific Rim tells the story of a war between humanity and giant alien monsters (Kaiju). What do you do when giant monsters attack human cities? You build giant robots to fight them, of course! The movie follows two pilots of such “Jaegers”. Controlling the robots from the inside, they are the only thing left standing between humanity and the apocalypse.
Recently, a bunch of us read the Themis files. This book series revolves around a giant robot that gets controlled by humans from the inside. Sound familiar? Robin loved the Themis files, and at this point I was sure that she’d be able to appreciate Pacific Rim, too.
It’s true, Lotte has been telling me to watch this movie for maybe five or six years now. So why hadn’t I watched it until now? The main reason for my hesitancy was that action movies are just very much not my thing. In most cases the characters in these movies are as flat as they are unoriginal, while the entirety of their character development tends to be some predictable version of ‘handsome white boy gets the girl, the end’. I can imagine that this doesn’t bother people who mostly watch these movies for the action, but extended battle- or action scenes tend to bore me.
That said, when I finally caved and agreed to watch Pacific Rim with Lotte so that we could have this conversation about it, I was pleasantly surprised. The scale of the monsters and the robots is truly epic, so that even I was impressed by their clashes. I kind of wish I could have seen this movie on a cinema screen.
Lotte, how do you feel about action movies in general? It is a genre that you tend to enjoy?
What Makes Pacific Rim Different
I’ll be honest: much like you, I don’t usually like action movies. They often take themselves very seriously and especially in monster movies, it’s like… where’s the monsters? If you’re not willing to spend half your budget on CGI, you’re clearly doing something wrong. I’d say the only action movies I really do like, are the ones that are extremely destructive. And I definitely agree with you on wishing I’d seen Pacific Rim on the big screen. My biggest shame in life is actually that I promised myself that I would at least go see the sequel in cinemas and then just… didn’t. (having since seen the sequel, though, it turns out it wouldn’t have been worth it anyway)
I’m adding it to the collection because Pacific Rim knows what it wants to do, and does it extremely well. The central theme of the movie is Big Robots fighting Big Monsters. At no point do they compromise on telling that story. Even if you hated seeing interesting characters on screen, or you’re the kind of person who likes to point out “plot holes” (or, as I like to call it: opportunities to Think for Yourself) – you’d be hard pressed to complain about the quality of the special effects, and the astounding quantity of them.
The second reason – also the reason why I would recommend Pacific Rim to people who don’t usually go for action movies – is the fact that the characters are truly great. It’s interesting because I wouldn’t necessarily say these characters have “a lot” of depth, but they have just the right amount of depth for the story that’s being told, does that makes sense?
Yes, they could have given the characters more depth, but I don’t really think that would have benefitted the movie. Mostly because this movie is clearly not meant to be a character-driven story, and so adding too much character drama would take away from its main purpose. However, do you think there are any missed opportunities when it comes to the choices that were made for the characters?
I mean, I would disagree with the statement that it’s not a character-driven story, actually. I really do believe it is. This movie would have been nothing without the relationship between Mako Mori and Stacker Pentecost. If you take that away, it becomes just another blockbuster. This can be seen in the sequel: there’s still Jaegers and Kaiju, but the story is missing in strong character dynamics.
But to answer your question. There’s been plenty of discussion about how Pacific Rim doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. There’s only one important woman in the movie, and not only does she not have a discussion that’s not about a man with another woman. No: she doesn’t talk to any other women AT ALL.
The problem for me is that while Mako is a great character, there were plenty of other characters that could easily have been women. While I love the current cast of the movie, you could replace Dr. Gottlieb or Tendo Choi with women and it would still make perfect sense. There’s no reason why there’s only one woman in the main cast of this movie.