A friend of mine (who I used to frequent movies with) asked me the other night what I thought of Pacific Rim: would I go? Was I avoiding it? Could it be better than the cheesy trailer? I said I didn’t know, but that in the interest of reconnecting, we agreed to check out Guillermo Del Toro’s latest fantasy about gigantic robot/soldiers who battle monsters from another galaxy. And I must admit it: I had fun.
Starring Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam as disgraced (and emotionally battered) Jaeger pilot Raleigh Becket, and Idris Elba as his tough-as-nails commander Stacker Pentecost. These two squabble, struggle, and ultimately team up to take on Del Toro’s biggest creations to date (of course, the sport the “typical” Del Toro monster look). Becket’s emotional drive is the death of his brother five years earlier; Pentecost’s is the love he has for his assistant and potential Jaeger pilot, Mako Mori (Rinko Kichuki). Together, Becket and Mori will team as the two “drifted” pilots in the Gipsy Danger, an older Jaeger robot fighter, to battle these giant monsters from beyond.
I’m not sure you need much more plot to go on here. It’s pretty straightforward. The monsters from another dimension want to destroy all of humanity, and the jaegers are dispatched to defeat the monsters and, if possible, stop more monsters from coming through “the breach” (a hole between the two worlds). In a typical comic aside, Charlie Day (as a fellow Portsmouth Abbey School grad, I’m proud of him!) plays a scientist who thinks humanity can be better prepared by “drifting” into the mind of one of the beasts. When he encounters Ron Perlman’s black market dealer, we have a Hellboy reunion with Del Toro.
A few points stood out above the popcorn fray, because let’s face it, the movie is mostly about having a bot-battling good time! First, we see that there are definitely family issues here, that won’t be resolved until people face them. Mori has to figure out where she stands with her dead parents, her adoptive father, and her desire for revenge; Becket can’t quite let go of his brother thanks to the drift, and seems to have some PTSD; another father/son combo of Jaeger pilots have to resolve that they’ve never actually told the other one how they feel.
Second, we hear some fleeting theology in an exchange between Day and Perlman’s characters. The black market dealer tells the scientist that he believes in the power of the alien parts on the black market, but the Japanese believe that the monsters are the gods way of punishing them. I’ve written too often on theodicy to belabor the point here, but it’s sad anytime we have to find a reason for why bad stuff happens and we assume that we’re at the mercy of an unforgiving, wrathful god. That’s not how I believe Yahweh God works.
Third, the pilots “drift” into each others’ consciousness, and their unity provide a balance for the control of the jaegers. It’s an image of marriage where two become one, and allow the other to be made more complete (even though there is the possibility for some pilots to drive solo). But it’s also an image of the church, where the body of Christ is complete by acknowledging that we don’t have all of the same tools or gifts, and that united together we are stronger.
Fourth, and finally, we see some of the jaeger pilots go into the breach. They must destroy the breach to keep more death, more suffering, more monsters out of humanity’s worst nightmares from coming to the world to own it, demolish it, and terrorize it. I think that’s a fantastic vision for the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross by dying for our sins. Jesus “went into the breach,” filling a hole we couldn’t fill by paying a sacrifice we couldn’t provide. There is still suffering in this world, but we know in the fully realized kingdom of God that all death, despair, sin, and suffering has been cast out. No more monsters will get through when God finally closes the door, and ushers us into the kingdom of God. That’s good news, and it can provide us some measure of hope as we work to end suffering HERE and NOW.
Pacific Rim isn’t great, but it’s entertaining and powerful. The fights are excellent (even if the science is sketchy), and anyone who grew up with Transformers or Voltron or Godzilla should have a blast.