Monday 16 September 2013

by Nadia Marissa, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

This movie held no interest for me at first. The name sounded pretty dubious, and I had lost interest in huge robots fighting monsters around the same time Megan Fox did. But the reviews rolled in and everyone kept talking about how good the movie was. As a summer blockbuster, I was surprised to discover that the movie had no clich├ęd, romantic subplot. Even more surprising was the emphasis on the strength of the main female character—a woman who was a person of colour and wasn’t a femme fatale. Pacific Rim had me reeled in.

The movie is set in the distant future in a sort of pre-apocalyptic world where Kaijus (monsters who literally come to the Earth just to mess things up) attack the cities on a more or less weekly basis. To combat these attacks, the military develop the Jaegar Program. Jaegars are essentially huge Transformer-esque robots that have to be piloted by two people who are engaged in a neural bridge called a drift. In other words, two people share their minds, memories and instincts in order to control this really big, really cool robot.

“The stronger the bond, the better the drift.”

These are the words ingrained in every Jaegar pilot. Our central character, Raleigh Beckett (played by Charlie Hunham) knows this better than anyone—especially after he lost his copilot and brother in a Jaegar knockout while they were still ‘connected’. After his brother died, he knew copiloting a Jaegar with anyone else would be painful and not as effective. So he became a bum; typical of many other heroes in movies like these—they have to fall before rising from the ashes and emerging as better people who save the day.

Cut to about 5 years after his brother’s death and Raleigh is re-recruited into the Jaegar Program by Idris Elba’s character, Stacker Pentercoast. And really, who could possibly say no to Idris Elba? Reluctantly (as all these heroes are at first), he rejoins the Jaegar Academy and meets Mako Mori—Pentercoast’s adopted daughter. Here’s the catch, throughout the movie, Mako Mori is consistently shown to be of equal strength and power to Raleigh—that is incredible. Played by the talented Rinko Kinkuchi, she continuously outsmarts and surprises Raleigh at every turn. In the list of candidates for copilots that Mako put together for Raleigh, he beat every one of them, except her. 

It’s rare that such a nuanced and well thought out female character appears in what I perceived to be little more than a summer blockbuster. It’s even rarer to find a movie that puts two people of the opposite sex on level ground without any typical romantic-comedy undertones. The fact that Raleigh chose Mako as his copilot places her as the person he is willing to share his mind—and to a further extent his soul—with. He couldn’t do that if he didn’t respect her as a person. 

On the surface, Pacific Rim seems like another rehash of the Transformer genre. Yet, it is so much more than that. This is a movie that, at its very core, rejoices at humanity’s knack for survival. It is smart, complex and interesting without being dense. Yes, the hero ultimately saves the day in the end, but it was the journey he went on and the people he did it with that I enjoyed the most.

Rating: 5/5 

[The high rating may seem incredulous to you, but if you enjoy action movies and have at least half a brain, you’ll probably agree with me.] 
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