Pacific Rim

GENTLEMAN-GUSTAF-FUCK-YEAHIf I made a top 5 list of things I think are cool, it would look something like this:

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. Dinosaurs
  3. Robots
  4. Dinosaurs
  5. Dinosaurs

But I don’t really think the above captures how much I like dinosaurs. My parents swear that my first real word was ‘dinosaur’, I still know the names of far-too-many dinosaur species, I can give you a compelling argument as to why the T-Rex was likely a scavenger, not a hunter, I have practiced several dinosaur noises, although I remain jealous that my phone makes this noise when texted, as I doubt I could ever be trained to replicate it, and I once nicknamed a lady I dated ‘raptor girl’ to my friends because she did a raptor impression on the internet and gave me a dinosaur head (cut out of a magazine) attached to a popsicle stick on our first date — boy was that a good move! — and we remain close friends to this day. Basically, I want to be a dinosaur when I grow up. When Jurassic Park was re-released recently… let’s just say that the number of times I saw it is shameful, or would be if I were capable of feeling shame about my love for dinosaurs. So you can imagine when I saw this trailer for Pacific Rim, I all but soiled myself. IT’S DINOSAURS FIGHTING ROBOTS! But having seen it, I must admit to a mixed reaction.

WARNING: with most media, I feel obligated to introduce a complicated system of spoiler tags. But there is no plot of which to speak in this movie. So if you fear the spoilers, don’t read on, but know that I’m judging you.

On the one hand, it was fantastic and filled me with a childish glee. ROBOTS PUNCHING DINOSAURS! It’s a wonder I have any friends left (or perhaps a testament to how nerdy my friends are), after how many times I uttered that phrase. I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at the plot twist: that the protagonists (the dinosaurs) lost in the end, but it was a good, trope-defying movie, to make such a bold statement about the inevitability of defeat of even the most likeable characters in the face of insurmountable odds. And that aside, I really have nothing bad to say about the movie: it delivered EXACTLY what I wanted, which was DINOSAURS IN A NO-HOLDS BRAWL VS. ROBOTS. It could have been made slightly more awesome by the introduction of Will Smith or Jackie Chan, but nothing can be perfect. After establishing that these monsters are from another dimension, they even drop the plot item that MAYBE THE DINOSAURS WERE JUST EARLIER VERSIONS FUCK YEAH!

Is it a heavy handed movie? Of course it is. They actually utter the line ‘to fight monsters, we created them’, which is a huge trope in sci-fi — first you have the ‘creating monsters’ trope, which may have originated with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and still lives on in shows like Battlestar Galactica, but on top of that, you have the ‘give up humanity to survive in a world bigger than humanity’ trope.

But on the other hand, the more I watched it, the more troubled I was by elements of the movie which are indicative of our culture’s failings in general. It’s not necessarily that these troubling elements were more present in this movie, it’s that there was nothing to hide them. Let’s start with female characters. Or rather, female character, since Russian tank lady has 1 line and then dies — I could start with the point that ther are literally 2 female characters in the entire movie; this might not seem strange (because it is a sort of default in movies), but imagine a movie with ONLY two male characters. That sort of thing would be notable. The only major female character is Mako:

They go to great lengths to establish that Mako is THE most qualified available pilot for what appears to be a possibly suicidal mission which could save the world. You see, there are more and more dinosaurs from under the sea, and the only way to stop them is to blow up their inter-dimens — I’m sorry, I don’t remember exactly what it was because I got distracted by dinosaurs. All that’s left is compatibility, which you apparently determine by fighting. After protagonist-dude owns all of the actual contestants, in comes Mako:

And yet she still isn’t (initially) allowed to be his co-pilot. You know, because she needs to be protected, what with the end of the sodding world coming up. I’m not adding these motives in to make a point, they’re made very explicit in the movie. Of course, she eventually gets to be his co-pilot, only she gets too emotional during their first test run and almost blows the whole facility up. And once they’re piloting the mech? She has almost no lines, except to remind the protagonist that they are indeed not out of weapons, because they have a sword (why do they not use the sword before then?). Instead, he basically calls out all of their moves, and I imagine she…nods along or something. So basically, she’s a woman who gets too emotional, doesn’t talk, and falls in love with the male protagonist the moment she meets him. Yeesh.

Then there are the scientists: Newton (that’s not a heavy-handed name for a scientist at all) and Igor (not his name, but it may as well be). Igor is built on a rich tradition of scientists who think social niceties are limited to using silverware, whereas Newton is the ‘I just do what I think feels right’ scientist who would be barred from any serious study, with such lines as “fortune favors the bold, dude”:

Or, as they’re more commonly represented:

I mentioned the Russian earlier, but all of the non-western-european characters (Mako aside) are killed off pretty much immediately. I’m not even sure why they introduced an asian mech and a russian mech only to kill them off right away. I’m just glad there was no black mech with bling, because we all know it would have been the first to go!

So, like I was saying, there are problematic cultural expressions in this movie that stand out because there’s not much to the movie. Basically, what is this movie?

—-I’m sorry, I just lost my train of thought. You should see Pacific Rim, because it’s got robots fighting dinosaurs. I’ve just discovered this game, so I’ve got to go:

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