Pacific Rim (2013) and related work:

Pacific Rim (2013) IMDb

Seen in 2018.

There is a lot to like here. The Japanese influence on the kaijū is self-evident, the Jaegers borrow something from Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) and the introduction of Mako with her silence, excellent timing and blue-tipped hair in the rain recall Major Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell (1995). The creature design is good and the plot remarkably cosmopolitan for Hollywood. I don’t mind blockbuster money being thrown away on an empty script under those premises, but the script is certainly empty, and it didn’t have to be. It’s dumber than Independence Day (1996), which works on the same basic idea of a humanoid locust species.

Consider the wall where the hero is working as a welder. This anticipates the election of Donald Trump three years later: A desperate working class walling itself in to seal its doom. It’s a dodgy metaphor, and more importantly an idiotic strategy. Nobody could believe that the monsters would be stopped by a few rusty I-beams along all of the world’s coasts. Where are the AT fields to explain why Tomahawks and nuclear weapons can’t kill? If the world is unified and kaijū corpses are so valuable, why is the Jaeger programme effectively cancelled before the walls have even come up? To exacerbate these problems, the only two remaining cartoon-character scientists studying the problem both have great points: One shows the incursion rate is rising at a geometric rate, on an apparently simple best-fit curve, and the other uses the DARPA mind-meld to find out what the enemy knows. The movie would have been better if somebody other than Pentecost had listened.

The name Pentecost for the Jesus figure is dumb. The reveal that Pentecost saved Mako in her childhood is dumb. The fact that nobody can pronounce the name Mako is dumb. The fact that the awesome-looking Russians hardly get a line is maybe not dumb, but such a shame: They’re the perfect complement to the comic-book mechanical design. I was a bit disappointed with the other design work: Monospace captions in mixed sizes and sparks out of Star Trek (1966) in the control rooms.

fiction mecha moving picture

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018) IMDb

Seen in 2020.

The next generation finds out that the kaijū never wanted to wreck cities at all; the cities just happened to sit between the great beasts and volcanic sources of rare earth elements, and/or getting to those elements would blow up the actual Pacific Rim.

The original played well in China, so this one has a lot of Chinese characters and a lot of Chinese production money. The style and subject matter are heavily adapted to newcomers to the medium. Burn Gorman’s Hermann Gottlieb, though sympathetic, is a case study in the curtailment of scientists on film in the name of pacing.

Guillermo del Toro is sorely missed, but there is one little scene in Japan that shows a CG version of a giant Gundam statue with a prominent “Anaheim Electronics” logo; it’s not clear whether this is supposed to be the real Gundam Base Tokyo or a cross-over in-universe Anahem office building. The large number of “drone” Jaegers turning organic recalls The End of Evangelion (1997), but the level of thinking here does not stand comparison.

References here: Shanghai Fortress (2019).

fiction Japanese production mecha moving picture