It occurs to me that it is 2014. I should be typing this post from inside a giant robot flying through hyperspace by now. What’s wrong with us? We need to get our act together, people!
Considering this attitude, it is strange that it took as long as it did for me to finally watch Guillermo del Toro’s giant robot flick, Pacific Rim. And here are some thoughts:
– del Toro is a director who kinda frustrates me. Now, I am completely on board with his baroque, phantasmagoric aesthetic, his Lovecraftian yen and his general fanboyishness. But he seems to have a really hard time assembling all the cool ideas of his vision into an actual film. The whole is always lesser than the parts, and Pacific Rim is no exception. So while I liked the film a lot, and thought it had a lot of cool and creative stuff in it, it also left me feeling a little bit cold, rather than pumped, by the end. On the other hand, Joss Whedon’s Avengers flick, while being every bit as superficial as Rim and less visually interesting, was tight and exciting because Whedon knows all the right buttons to push.
– Whedon also had a better idea of what to do with his characters. By far the biggest problem with Rim is that Mako is not the main character. I found Raleigh to be a pretty boring, phoned in protagonist. Mako’s whole, “I was orphaned and now seek revenge” thing, while not being particularly original, has more potential for cool in a movie that, to be frank, is trying harder to be cool than it is original. The prologue of the movie should be about Stacker Pentecost taking her under his wing, raising her as a father while also training her, etc. I felt like there was a lot of missed emotion in the climax because we’ve always been viewing their relationship from the outside. Raleigh should be a secondary character, and his brother should survive at least halfway into the movie so that his death actually has some impact.
– And I want to see more about what sort of physical and psychological training Jaeger pilots have to undergo. One of my favourite scenes in the movie was the sparring match sequence. There was a missed opportunity for some cool and ridiculous Batman Begins/Dragonball Z stuff here.
– Hey, maybe Whedon and del Toro should do a collab project at some point. Just a thought.
– But, insofar as this is actually a movie about giant robots and kaiju rather than humans, well, yeah, it does deliver. They even have swords.
– del Toro is an ex-Catholic, and his films often have an undertone of Catholic aesthetic ambiance. In Rim, there’s an almost Ecclesiological aspect to it. The name of the Jaeger pilot’s head honcho, Stacker Pentecost, suggests, uh, Pentecost, which is the birthday of the Church and a counterpoint to the Tower of Babel in Genesis. The words of the Apostles suddenly resound in all languages, suggesting a unity which has overcome traditional national boundaries. So similarly you have the interracial team of Jaeger pilots, gathering together to help save the world from monsters coming out of the sea (Revelation, anyone?)
And while the idea of controlling the Jaeger with your nervous system carries shades of Neon Genesis Evangelion, the idea that this requires another person whom you neurally link up with carries, perhaps, a whiff of the notion of communion. The unity of everyone in the Church is most explicitly actualized in the Eucharist, where, all partaking in the one Body of Christ, all become members of the same body. Piloting the Jaeger acts as the third that makes two into one.
Or perhaps as a wannabe theologian I’m just reading too much theology into giant robots (hey, they started it).