Of all the things I could say about Pacific Rim, and folks, I could say a lot – in fact, the thing I want to say most about it is, “SEE IT AT THE CINEMA!” followed by, “AT LEAST TWICE!” and then, “IN 3D!” though by this time I think it’s making its way out of theatres in Western countries, so get your skates on! – the thing I will say (okay, write) here is that there are very few specifically negative things people seem to be saying about it.
I reckon it’s a bloody entertaining film made with heart, mainly because at its helm from go to whoa is someone who loves the material it’s based on. I often find myself thinking that there are a legion of Transformers fans out there who want to strap Michael Bay into a chair and force him to watch Pacific Rim over and over until he gets it.
So it’s cool that all us nerds – who paradoxically have both the easiest and toughest time with suspension of disbelief – have so few “WTF?!” moments to complain about in Pacific Rim.
(lightbulb) Hey – is Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a great Jaeger name or what?
Yet suspension of disbelief is a tough thing, and it’s supremely subjective. You never can tell whether a given element or event in a narrative is going to suddenly snap a particular member of the audience out of their rollercoaster-ride zone and leave them saying, “… wait, what? WHAT?!”
There is one moment that people on the Interwebs keep dragging out as a brain-breaker, so much so that someone even whipped up a Captain Picard meme for it. Sadly, neither Google nor Bing were willing to cough the image in question up.
Anyway, the brain-breaker is this: Right at the end of the second act big barney between the movie’s giant robots (called Jaegers) and giant alien monsters (called Kaiju), one of the two crew of the “hero” Jaeger, Gipsy Danger (see what I mean? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Awesome, right?), suddenly remembers that Gipsy Danger has a huge freaking sword built into its arm. She deploys it and promptly does awesome with it (said awesome held back for fear of spoilers – warning, some are on their way, so stop now if you want your viewing experience unsullied).
And people started posting on boards and creating Annoyed Picard memes that essentially say, “Why didn’t she deploy the damned thing earlier?!”
(And if you’ve not seen it at the cinema in 3D yet – WHY AREN’T YOU FIXING THAT RIGHT NOW?! I don’t care what time it is. Call your nearest cinema’s projectionist at home, rouse him and / or her out of bed, break into your multiplex and see this film at the cinema in 3D!)
It actually speaks to the topic of suspension of disbelief. See, on one had, there seems like there’s a lot of it to be done for Pacific Rim. I read an article where one of the production team, an engineer, was doing the maths on how much energy something as big as a Jaeger (as big as a small skyscraper, by the way) would expend to move and the hydrodynamics of a Jaeger moving through water (as they all do during the movie – all up, the Jaegers spend more time wading or submerged than they do in dry land). His conclusions were that a Jaeger would have to expend phenomenal amounts of energy to move more than a handful of inches per step, and that if something that big were moving through the water at even the ponderous plod of a Jaeger, the water would be exploding around it.
Yet those things we nerds tend to swallow without breaking disbelief. We know that someone could quite easily “fan-cruft” or “technobabble” an explanation. Get your mitts on a copy of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual for a good example; its text on inertial dampening fields covers off why the crew of the Starship Enterprise aren’t suddenly turned to bulkhead pizza when she goes to Warp 1 in the blink of an eye.
No, it’s when someone whom the narrative has built up as intelligent goes and does something dumb that stuffs things up for a nerd.
See, one of the things we like to go to science fiction for is an escape not from the mundanity of the everyday, but the stupidity of it. All the morons making patently short-sighted and self-serving decisions, the lack of logic or even basic awareness of the world around them; sometimes we just want to live in a world where someone took care to make sure it all made sense. It’s why Isaac Asimov’s dry stories of scientist heroes are still revered within SF circles today.
And when we watch some SF and someone does something patently stupid, it can feel like the screenwriters and editors were either collectively incompetent or purposefully raising their middle finger to their audience. “Screw you for having a functioning brain, nerd!”
In this case, the misstep seemed glaringly obvious. Not only is the co-pilot in question, Mako Mori, a trained Jaeger pilot, she also oversaw the restoration and upgrading of Gipsy Danger; she knows the robot literally inside and out. How the hell could she have not revealed the sword at the beginning of the fight?
But for all the fan grumping, I reckon director and co-screenwriter Guillermo del Toro, co-screenwriter Travis Beacham and the rest of the creatives on Pacific Rim made the right call.
Sure, I could try and craft some fan-cruft to try and justify Mako’s supposed slip of memory that might keep some fans happy (Mako was a rookie pilot, the more emotional experiences in the Drift rise to the top, they were too busy making sure they brought silence to the Drift in the midst of all the action), but the script writers didn’t bother doing so in the film.
You know what? They don’t need to, and here’s why:
Reason #1: The moment when Mako reveals and deploys the sword is actually the best moment for her to do so – in action terms.
It’s right when things are dire for Gipsy Danger; every other option is exhausted and she and Raleigh needed to pull something out of the bag. What else but the hot-buttered awesome that is that fold-out sword? It was the perfect toy at the perfect time, in good part because -
Reason #2: The sword hadn’t worn out its welcome.
A huge honking robot carrying a huge honking sword is about as cool as it gets, and the only thing that could make it less cool is repetition. Have you seen all the pictures people have made with the Jaeger Designer on the Pacific Rim website? How many of them have swords? Lots, right? Doesn’t it get dull quick?
Having it turn up earlier would make it less of a big deal at that key moment – or the production team would have to come up with something else to top the sword. And you’ll note that they didn’t for the finale.
But it also would have meant that:
Reason #3: So much other awesome would have been lost.
Had the sword come out earlier, there would have been:
- Not two, not one, but no brilliant lots of bare-knuckle streetfighting between Gipsy Danger and Kaiju:
- No rocket-powered punch:
- And most importantly, no this:
And a world without baseball boat would be a poorer one indeed.
Are you non-plussed?
Which movie moment stopped you suspending your disbelief so well that it fell from a great height and shattered on the ground?
Why have you not yet seen Pacific Rim at the cinema in 3D? No, I don’t want to know why it’s not your taste – I want your best damned “my dog ate my homework” excuse, and given that you’ve had a month it had better involve ninjas!