Most people who follow us on Twitter or Tumblr know that we’ve been waiting for Guillermo del Toro’s latest, Pacific Rim, as if our life depended on it. A movie that promised to deliver giant robots, creepy kaiju, a diverse cast of badass characters, and non stop action? Yeah, we’re there. Well, most of us have now seen the film and what follows after the cut is our conversation about the movie, what it delivered, and where it failed. Be aware: our conversation is spoiler filled, although we’ve done our best to edit out some of the biggest elements from the last part of the film. Still, if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s up to you how much you want to know. Otherwise, enter for a discussion of platonic relationships, questionable casting decisions, and the proper way to wear suspenders.
Moxie: OKAY! Pacific Rim time. My thoughts: it was a fun summer movie, and everything about it was solid EXCEPT the dialogue which was very clunky. Idris Elba did a great job trying to make it sound natural, but Charlie Hunnam aka New Wave Mark Wahlberg did not. Rinko Kikuchi was really great, but when she was speaking Japanese, she sounded way more natural and clear. When she was speaking English, she almost whispered and seemed very unsure, and it didn’t complement her character at all. Her scenes with Idris were the best ones; he gave her more emotionally than Hunnam and they seem to connect better.
Lois: Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba were just my favs, alright? It’s pretty obvious that Elba is the superior choice over Tom Cruise to be Stacker Pentecost. I had some issues with Kikuchi’s character, but I do think Rinko made the best with what she was given and nailed it. Also, that spar scene sent my heart fluttering. Rinko, you delightful girl, you need to do more movies. If you do want to see Rinko Kikuchi in another film, you should watch The Brothers Bloom, which I kind of adored. It has Mark Ruffalo, and my boyfriend Adrian Brody. WHO YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT. Just watch it.
Tanya: I forgot about Brothers Bloom! She was great. Loved the whole movie.
Moxie: I have seen this!! I just forgot she was in it! I’m the worst. Anyhow, on its face, diversity seems A+ in Pacific Rim: a Black man, an Asian woman, and a Latino man, who I don’t know if he is playing a multiracial Latino/Asian character but I think he is, and they all get a good amount of screen time. BUT. The first person we see is a White man, and he is the overall hero of the story; the other best pilot in the world, it seems, is also a White man. This is about regions in the Pacific, but note that the best pilot teams are comprised of 3 sets of White pilots: Russian, Australian, American (though Rinko joins that team later on) and Chinese triplets who don’t speak and only fight once. We see several East Asian featured extras as candidates for the program, but no identifiable South Asian, Aborigine, Inuit (one station is in Alaska), or Pacific Islander candidates or characters. One of the Russians is a woman, but she has minimal screen time and speaks once.
Lois: Ah! The sexy Chinese triplets! I loved the Wei brothers’ total devotion to their jumpsuits and how they’re always playing basketball. I also dug the stoic and almost cartoonishly Soviet couple. By the way, that team was totally led by the wife.
Moxie: As far as Mako, she is not sexualized and her relationship with Idris is great. To me, there is no obvious romantic subplot with her and Hunnam, though it could be taken as such.
Lois: I’m relieved that Mako Mori’s character wasn’t fetishized as some exotic Dragon Lady. Thank. Goodness.
Moxie: The film doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because there are no other women in the main cast with speaking roles. The little girl who plays Rinko as a child gave the best performance in the whole movie, and everyone I was with agreed. I gotta say, the IMDB listing is deceptive. There are a ton of named characters that seem to be played by actors of color, but they barely featured extras in the film. CGI was great, though I didn’t care for the score. I think the movie would have benefited instead by using a soundtrack of popular music. There are too many coincidences to take the science of it seriously, but otherwise it was really fun, I would venture to call it Awesomely Bad, it could definitely become a cult hit.
Lois: OK, so I’ve already mentioned some stuff that worked for me. A few other things. Idris, that coat of yours did your shoulders good, although I enjoyed looking at your butt in your robo suit. I’m so glad that Tom Cruise and his shifted teeth didn’t get this role.
Tanya: Idris Elba is my everything in this movie. He owned that role.
Lois: A united international military effort to save the world? Absolutely. This was one of the many things that made Independence Day awesome, even if it fell into place towards the end of the movie. Giant robots that require two pilots to be virtually connected and mind melded to each other? Absolutely! Stride along the ocean floor, my pretties! Also, Ron Perlman bringing the ridiculata.
Tanya: Ron Perlman’s teeth!!!
Lois: Now, as far as what didn’t work. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a little more from the character of Mako Mori. I had thought from trailers and promo stills that she’d be more steely, more tough, and less passive. Sure, she had a lot of screen time and as much development as any of the other characters (which was close to none for anyone), but sometimes she was just kind of young and a bit juvenile at times, pouting because she’s not allowed to be a ranger, or schoolgirl-ish with her slightly dazzled infatuation with Beckett and his reputation. Inside the Jaeger, Beckett called all the shots, made all the decisions, and basically did all the saving. Outside, he’s always affirming and validating Mori, which is really something she needs to do for herself. If Mori was the brightest, then even rookie or not, she should have had some star moments, right? Right.
Tanya: As far as her being somewhat timid, to me that makes sense as a character when we know about her childhood and her relationship with Idris Elba’s character. She was obviously super traumatized and still hasn’t gone past her childhood loss, as is clear from the first Drift. At the same time, while it’s not blatant, I could TELL Pentecost was super protective of her, and loved her to bits, which is perhaps why he may have been like, “You are my wonderful smart daughter, but you can’t do this dangerous thing.” I think it’s clear she respects him deeply, as she said herself to Raleigh – it’s not about obedience but about respect – so she’s had to hold her comments to herself, even if she wanted something else. Her respect for this strong, kind man who basically saved her and gave her a new life has subsumed her desires. But Pentecost realizes that he’s been rigid and has held her back, and he makes the right decision to let her shine. Still, knowing what we know of how there are these cliched tropes of Asian women being “timid”, there IS a danger in that interpretation of the character. But I was just looking overall at her character arc, and I think her being reserved, timid and not wanting to disobey authority make sense within the character.
Lois: The spar scene between Beckett and Mori was awesome, though. Although they didn’t really have much chemistry, which made their interactions a little awkward. I know their characters weren’t intended to be romantic, so it just seems Hunnam and Kikuchi really just didn’t work together in that sense.
In conclusion, I would have liked more of the sexy triplets, more character development, and more lady Jaeger rangers. All in all, great action movie, if you take it at face value. Who doesn’t want to watch giant robots battle the shit out of alien dinosaurs and wade around in the Pacific ocean like it ain’t no thang?
Lois: “You’ll find me in the drift” WHYYYYYYY!!!!? Oh, and addendum: I know it was a joke, but there the fuck was RoboPope? I wanted to see some Cardinals hop on into a robotic Royal Holiness.
Elyse: I just want to say you are all super smart and wonderful because I agree with all of you. What I really appreciated about it was how much I noticed the effects of del Toro saying he didn’t want this to be the typical blockbuster, that he made very deliberate choices with it. Because it is just a summer blockbuster, but it’s clear where he resisted certain tropes and wanted to do something new, and that’s what made it so enjoyable to me. That’s why I let all the little things slide, because it almost felt like an experiment, and I am here for experiments that might mean more people like Idris Elba and Rinko Kikuchi in my movies. (I also didn’t understand why they didn’t let Rinko speak her lines in Japanese the whole time, since they set it up that everyone could understand her, and her delivery was so much more emotive with the Japanese lines.) Basically I feel like Pacific Rim and Snowpiercer are some of the first movies that really focus on international collaboration and representation and I love that and I want more of it.
Tanya: Elyse I also at first wondered about the whole Japanese/English back and forth in Mako’s dialogue. But then I thought about it a bit more, and actually if you think about her background, it makes sense. There is no way she would NOT be able to speak English since Pentecost raised her. Having her speak completely in Japanese the whole time would actually be more incongruous, just as if she spoke English the whole time. I liked the bit of codeswitching, especially since it seems she reverted to Japanese when speaking with her adoptive dad in particularly emotional moments.
Moxie: So, the more I think about the film the more I am absolutely sure it would have been better with a stronger male lead. It’s like they ended up with Hunnam because the Hemsworths were busy or something. I honestly would have preferred him to be played by a Latino considering he’s supposed to be from the Bay Area (if I recall correctly). If nothing else, I’m 98% sure he’s from California and I mean the Latino population matches the White population now. This supposed to be some time in the future, so it would absolutely make sense. I would have even preferred a White presenting Latino as opposed to this straight up Anglo guy; we have the Australian team to fill that role.
Lois: Main character and the Australian guy looked way too similar for me. During their fisticuffs I thought they were in a battle to prove who was the evil twin. And Raleigh Beckett looks a bit like Spencer Pratt sometimes, especially when his facial hair started growing in. It was a bit terrifying seeing him get so close to my beloved Mako.
Moxie: Yeah, my want for the lead male to be POC is not just political but also visual, with the lead now and the Australian hot shot looking way too much alike. It took me too long to tell them apart. Should’ve been more distinct.
Tanya: When Raleigh is at the wall construction site and is looking at the news with the star Australian Jaeger ranger, I was like “Wait, is that him on TV? Who is that?” I think that was odd casting. I almost wish they’d just dyed Raleigh’s hair or something, so I could tell them apart.
Moxie: Where are Victor Rasuk and William Levy? That’s what we need right now, America. Or sweetie darling from Friday Night Lights. Or Michael Trevino. In fact, I’m just convinced Victor Rasuk should have been the lead and Santiago Cabrera should have been his brother.
Tanya: So I do want to say, I know many people read Mako and Raleigh as romantic, but I read it as “maybe” there is an inkling of it, but mostly it’s, “Holy shit we just went through a lot and established this intense bond.”
Rick: Tanya, I’m with you on the Mako/Raleigh relationship. I think it’s extremely significant that it ended on a hug and touching foreheads rather than a kiss. They are bros.
Tanya: Mostly, I am straight up scared of kaiju coming up out of the ocean. You have NO IDEA.
Lois: I’m kind of having mixed feelings about Mako Mori the more I think about it.
Moxie: Hm. I still disagree that she’s the love interest, though I don’t think she’s the main character. (Lead female, sure, but not overall main). I absolutely think she should have been directed to have a stronger presence: take up more space with her body, not speak in whispers, let her speak Japanese and not give a fuck about it, generally be more confident. I mean, she’s not unconfident – she wants to fucking rage! That’s why she couldn’t go in the field, because you can’t rage when you’re out there. It should have been set up from the jump (and followed through) that Mori could go toe to toe with everyone there. She knows it, and she’s gonna get her a kaiju, pee on it, and set it on fire in the name of her family. Then it wouldn’t even be a question, because it wouldn’t seem like she’s an emotional prop for Raleigh. I mean, her scenes with Idris were the emotionally the best in the film. Whatever was going on with her and Raleigh, while I don’t think it was romantic, did feel forced. I think part of that is the screenwriting and direction both seemed to not know how to write a close platonic hetero relationship.
Lois: I don’t know. For me, the more I think about it, the more I see it as del Toro not delivering on his promise of a fully fleshed female character. Maybe I’m being overly picky but I think there could have been more and been better. So I want better?
Tanya: I kinda disagree with the assessment in that post you linked. For me Pentecost was the heart. His relationship with Mako was key. Raleigh was just a catalyst for Pentecost to stop holding her back. Also, the scene where she is staring at Raleigh shirtless, my eye immediately went to his scars. She idolizes him, the only sole ranger besides Pentecost, the way one idolizes a sports hero. I could have done without the macho fight, granted, but frankly, it was nice to see that smug Australian kid get owned.
Moxie: YES! Tanya I felt the exact same way about all of this!
Lois: But at the end of the movie, Mako’s still defined by her relationships to men – be it Pentecost or Raleigh. Stop it, brain.
Moxie: Maybe we also could have avoided this if Mako had some female friends or something, so that her emotional core wasn’t just Pentecost and Raleigh.
Moxie: No, I mean overall I enjoyed the film and saw it as a success, but it was misleading because of all the hype, and the way the film was promoted. I didn’t even realize Raleigh was supposed to be the traditional lead just from the trailers. I definitely expected more from Mako and Pentecost individually and together. And for Raleigh and that Australian to not be twins.
Lois: Yes, I think that’s exactly it.
Tanya: So as far as Raleigh and Mako, I actually felt like they were both Pentecost’s kids in a way
Moxie: I can see that, I like that reading, Tanya.
Lois: Allison, Rick, do you guys have anything you want to share?
Allison: For me, I was really loving most of the tropes as almost a cultural reference. We have Maverick & Iceman, we have the “only analog ship” (BSG), we have Burn Gorman as Crispin Glover and Charlie Day as Hipster Doc Brown. Plus, of course, GladOs. I wanted more of Sideburns McBowtie. I’m also glad that del Toro went with fan fave Perlman as the crime lord, as the East Asian Crime Lord is overplayed and offensive. But yeah, I could NOT tell Maverick & Iceman apart. Like, for the life of me. Except for the accent. Jesus, if they have to both be White, at least make one of them brunette or ginger or something.
Rick: While I don’t actually hate that the teams had, as one reviewer put it, the cultural sensitivity and subtlety of Street Fighter characters (because, really, this movie was essentially G Gundam as a Sentai show), I really would have loved to see at least one successful mission that included the Russian Badasses (one of whom I swear was basically Gwen Stefani X Sniper Wolf) and the Wu triplets. Thing is, I know that Del Toro probably filmed them and then had to cut, so I’m waiting for the director’s cut. Also, the Bone slum in Hong Kong reminded me hardcore of the Leased Territories in the Diamond Age.
Tanya: The Bone slum was cool. A bit Blade Runner, a bit already existing stuff like Kowloon.
Moxie: BONE SLUMS N HARMONY! Sorry everyone.
Allison: NEVER APOLOGIZE!
Rick: I liked that Sideburns McBowtie was obviously a Chicano from LA who spoke Mandarin. He was pretty freakin’ sweet.
Allison: Everything about SMcB was perfect – from his sideburns and pomp to his bowtie and suspenders, to his 1940s wide-leg trousers, to the worn-out rosary wrapped around his wrist. Perfect character design is perfect.
Tanya: Well I had a minor quibble with the fact that he had fucking suspenders on pants WITH belt loops (you’re supposed to remove belt loops if you wear suspenders) but yeah he was great.
Allison: It’s the APOCALYPSE , Tanya. Belt loops be damned!
Tanya: I’m pretty sure he had those pants BEFORE the apocalypse. No excuses.We can’t take off belt loops but we have BLUE HAIR DYE, Mako?
Moxie: I was too busy wanting to kiss him on the mouth though.
Rick: Jack Harkness does the belt and suspenders, too. And Zachary Quinto buttons the bottom button of his suit jacket at premieres. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!?
Allison: OK, but Harkness actually WEARS both a belt and suspenders, which is ridiculous.
Tanya: If John Barrowman just wasn’t so damn handsome… Also, I do want to mention I was NOT into the cliched nerd characters played by Burn Gorman and Charlie Day. While the nerds help save the day, I was not feeling them because they were portrayed almost as too comedic. Also, they could have a dude and a lady nerd, and it would have been great to see them constantly sparring, and have yet another relationship that has no romantic subplot in the movie.
Moxie: You didn’t like AU Season 1 Misfits’ Simon All Grown Up? It’s a long name, but an accurate one.
Lois: I am screaming.
Tanya: I kind of didn’t really like Misfits at all, but now that you mention it, from what I know, yes I could see how Burn Gorman’s character was Simon. But yeah, basically I hated the slapstick elements. It felt odd somehow. It went from being a clever, sometimes quite funny scifi actioner to being a Jeunet and Caro, Delicatessen style bumbling. That rang weird to me, like they weren’t being taken seriously.
Allison: I still hold that he was simply instructed to “Be Crispin Glover” and ran with it.
Tanya: Yeah the Crispin Glover inspiration was there. Which in itself is kind of ridiculous because there is only one Crispin Hellion Glover and there shall only BE one.
And in the end, we can all agree that the one crucial Jaeger team that was missing from the film was…