Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a mind-meld of the monsters of the east and the autobots of the west. Although modernized into an alien invasion and the apocalypse of humanity, a more descriptive title of this cinematic battle would be “Godzilla meets Maximus Prime.”
A fan of the Japanese genre of monster films and adept at the demonic images of his Hellboy films, del Toro brings these together in the demonic dragons of the Kaiju. Explaining that we were looking the wrong way for an alien invasion when we searched the stars, the story begins with an explanation that a breach has opened deep within the earth that allows the Kaiju to attack earth from the sea.
Monstrous in size, the human reaction to defend against these formidable enemies is to build equally gargantuan robots to hunt them. Appropriately named Jaegers, the German name for hunters, these nuclear-powered machines are overwhelming. Creating a link between human and machine as the diminutive human pilot attempts to guide the mechanical warrior, the pilots soon discover that controlling the machines is too much for a single person to do. The solution is to mind-meld two or three pilots’ directions into one thought and fight the monsters as a team. As the Kaiju increase in size and power, so do the Jaegers. The battle therefore becomes increasingly intense.
The ensemble cast focuses primarily on Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) who experiences his brother Yancy’s (Diego Klattenhoff) death while still in a neural link. This trauma causes him to step out of the battle. But when the director of the Jaeger project, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), tracks him down to help in a unique battle, he returns. Needing a new co-pilot, we are introduced to Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuch), a beautiful and excellent candidate. Joining others from various nationalities, it is clear both within and without the Jaeger that Raleigh and Mako are meant to be together.
Joining the pilots are two scientists who provide both comic relief and real expertise. Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) is a biologist searching the bodies and minds of the Kaiju, and Gottleib (Burn Gorman) is a mathematician seeking to predict the pattern of the attacks. They are humorously competitive with each other yet competent members of the team.
The internal struggles and personal stories of the team and its members add a layer of interest, but in the end, this is an action film with little insight into either humanity or our possible enemies.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. The relationship that Mori and Pentecost have is difficult to understand even as we witness its inception. What more would you want to know in order to understand it? Does it mirror or give insight into any of your relationships, past or present – and if so, how?
2. The melding of two minds together through a neural link would mean that everything about you becomes known to another person. Would you be willing to allow this? Why or why not?
3. There are several deficiencies in the science fiction, not the least of which is why our military’s weapons would not take out a biological organism no matter its size. Did you find such lacks in the logic distracting or were you able to suspend these and enter into the story with its physical boxing matches between these giants? Does a story have to make sense to you for you to enjoy it?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.