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Pacific Rim

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    Anonymous

    Seeing Doc’s review of Pacific Rim has made me want to throw my own blade into the ring, and hopefully hear the opinions of others on it as well.

    Note: There will be MASSIVE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go see it.

    Twice.

    Now I will completely admit that I had an absolute blast at this movie. From start to finish there’s always a sense of massive scale, much of which is due to how the film is shot, and also with the breathtaking special effects (Done by Industrial Light & Magic) for both the creation of the Jaegers and the Kaiju. Everything in this film feels BIG. and by big I mean colossal. The Stone Giants in the Hobbit don’t feel as big as these things for one major reason:

    It’s how they move. They move as though their whole body is HEAVY. their blows overshoot, deliver pounding impacts, and every movement is a commitment it’s easy to overlook in animation, many times the giant multi-tonne creatures and machines moving with the same agility as a human or sometimes even better. This much heavier approach gives a much greater sense of realism, and adds a lot to the immersion.

    The Kaiju designs as well are fascinating and, for the most part, believable, as are there abilities. They all are biologically based and are well integrated with the bodies, the designs an interesting blend of different earth and sea creatures. I will note that one major exception is the moment where the one Kaiju sprouts wings and flies off, CARRYING A JAEGER. That has all sorts of WTF, but when I saw it in the film it didn’t break my immersion and I totally bought it, so I can’t dislike that moment.

    Now that the centerpieces are done, let’s get into the glue that holds the film together: the plot and characters.

    I like that they set the plot at the END of the Jaeger program as opposed to the formation of the Rift. A typical film would have dealt with the opening of the rift, the fear, the drama, the arguing of countries, and it all would have ended with the creation of the first Jaeger and obvious sequel bait. Probably would have followed a similar formula to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Instead we open at the height of the Jaeger program, introducing Yancy and Raleigh Becket, brothers who control the Jaeger Gipsy Danger.

    Now a brief aside here to think about: Why two pilots? I don’t mean in the film’s context, but for storytelling. The movie spends a lot of time on the characters, reinforcing their relationships and evolving them and how everyone plays off each other. From start to finish every central character has an arc. This isn’t easy to pull off, and in a movie about giant robots punching aliens, it is almost unheard of.

    Now, let’s look at the two brothers. You have Yancy, the pretty straight-laced and serious brother, and Raleigh, the more fun, hero-complex excited brother. Clearly different, but you get a strong sense of their bond when they pilot Gipsy Danger to fight Knifehead. Then when Knifehead recovers from a seemingly fatal wound and wrecks Gipsy Danger, Yancy is killed and Raleigh barely managed to finish off Knifehead, barely managing to get Gipsy Danger to Anchorage, Alaska before collapsing from his injuries (Much like Evangelion, pilots share a two-way connection with their Jaegers. In exchange for the increased control, they share their Jaeger’s injuries on a somewhat physical and definitely mental level.

    This marks the major fall of the movie. the Jaeger program is cancelled, in exchange a wall is made to defend against the Kaiju. Needless to say, it doesn’t work. Stacker, Raleigh’s old CO, brings in Raleigh to help with a final offensive push by the Jaegers before their decommissioned. Right now the clock is on and resources are limited. we are introduced to the other main characters as well as several side characters. We’ll just focus on the characters that have major arcs here, as this post is already going to be a massive wall of text.

    Raleigh: Originally happy-go-lucky, he withdraws from the Jaeger program and spends the intervening years building a wall between him and the Kaiju (note symbolism) before his old life calls him back, reminding him that his past will come get him, no matter what he tries to build in the way. Once at the Shatterdome he encounters other characters, who he is both very compatible with and very opposed to. Mako Mori, who becomes his partner pilot for the rebuilt Gipsy Danger, is also another person dealing with tragedy and death in her past. When they perform the neural handshake for the first time, Raleigh flashes back to the death of his brother, which Mako sees and in turn triggers her own PTSD, the destruction of the city and her family by a Kaiju.

    This element reflects two different foils of dealing with tragedy. Raleigh went and build a wall, while Mako desired to attack out of revenge. Neither were ready to engage a Kaiju alone, however by sharing each others pain they were able to overcome their individual traumas and become stronger than before, paralleling Gipsy Danger itself.

    That Gipsy Danger is the only Jaeger that has a nuclear reactor sore is no coincidence, as nuclear power is also something incredibly unstable and dangerous, but when used properly, extremely useful. There is also a strong parallel to the inner power of humanity overcoming the Kaiju threat, as it is the self-destruction of Gipsy Danger’s core that collapses the “throat” of the Rift and ends the Kaiju threat instead of the planned nuclear bomb (the power without)

    I think I’ll cut this short here for now, but I’ll end on a brief TL:DR summary. Pacific Rim is an excellent blockbuster where you will get pulse pounding action and amazing effects, but at the same time is a very smart movie with a strong story and characters. I think it is the best original IP since Inception, and the best blockbuster in many years.

    Agree? Disagree? Have more to discuss? Feel free to reply. I’d love to discuss this movie with more people.

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