Were you ever a fan of giant monster movies? While recently watching the mess that is Godzilla vs. Kong, my brain cast about for a similar film that I actually enjoyed. There are not many. When I was a child, I loved cartoons like Transformers, and especially Robotech. Actually, with that last one, every few years I go back and re-watch the original series and all its subsequent sequels and spin-offs. What is intrinsic to those last two titles is the presence of larger than usual robots. With the former, the humanoid cars and planes are a race of aliens themselves. With the latter, the machines are controlled by human pilots who fight off an invasion from off-planet. As for feature length films incorporating these elements, I say no thank you to the entire Transformers franchise. A live action Robotech film would be epic, but I doubt that will ever happen. What we do have, though, is Pacific Rim (2013).
What do you do when an intra-dimensional fissure opens up on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, letting in a race of giant monsters (albeit one at a time, and at regularly spaced intervals) named kaiju to devastate the planet? That is the world Pacific Rim drops you into, and the solution is for the governments of the world to unite in developing what is known as the Jaeger Program. These are the aforementioned human piloted robots, though with a twist: there are two people in the cockpit that make it move like a man. The opening due are Yancy Becket (Diego Klattenhoff), and his younger brother Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), and they are in charge of the Gypsy Danger. At this early stage of the invasion, the humans and their new machine allies are able to get the upper hand. There is an alert system for when the kaiju arrive, and where they attack in the world there is a jaeger waiting for them. However, the kaiju are apparently getting stronger. When one moves in on Alaska where the Gypsy is on guard, the Becket brothers are called on to do their duty. In the process of defending the Yukon, they encounter not only one, much stronger kaiju, but a couple. The ensuing battle results in the near complete destruction of the Gypsy Danger and Yancy’s death. It also ushers in a new phase of the invasion, and Jaegers all over the world are being taken apart with alarming frequency. A few years pass, and Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) is trying to put together the remaining machines for one last ditch effort at defending the planet. One of his recruits for this effort is to track down an embittered Raleigh, who has taken a job building a wall around the Pacific that they hope will hold back the kaiju. Stacker sees talent in Raleigh, but there are some misgivings about the younger man, not the least of which is the fact that he needs a new co-pilot. Operating the Jaegers is not as easy as two people jumping into the area where a brain would be on you and me, and making it walk around and use its weapons. The duo has to be able to trust each other on a deep level because they are mentally connected to each other in what is called “the drift.” While in this state, they can see memories of each other that they would rather not see, or other painful past events that can derail their successful use of the machine. Hence, the next phase is to bring Raleigh to Hong Kong with the rest of the remaining teams, and find a suitable match for him. Though a few others are tried out, it is evident that Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) is the one, but she has some poignant parts of her past that surface in the drift. Still, Raleigh believes in her, so much so that he is willing to jeopardize early missions with her to make it work. While they iron out the kinks, Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) are working on ultimate solutions to the kaiju problem. Gottlieb concentrates on the mechanical and mathematical side of things. Dr. Geiszler is looking at kaiju biology, and his ultimate desire is to get his hands on one of the monsters’ brains and drift with it. His quest to obtain this organ brings him into the company of Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), who handles a thriving black market in Hong Kong of kaiju bits. Dr. Geiszler gets his beastly brain, but at a cost. When he does drift with the kaiju, he discovers that there is are even more powerful members of their species, and they plan a much larger assault soon. To prevent this, Gottlieb determines that they can enter the rift, plant some nuclear weapons, and close the portal. Despite their partnership not being perfect, Raleigh and Mako are called upon to take part in this mission, and surprise, surprise, the Gypsy is the last remaining machine at the end. Even that they have to sacrifice, though, using its core as an explosive and ejecting back to through the portal to the surface.
At first glance, Pacific Rim is not a terribly complicated film. There are giant robots fighting giant monsters. There is a certain joy to watching a Jaeger drag a massive cargo ship through the streets of Hong Kong in order to club a kaiju to death. Beyond the primitive meets futuristic combat, what appeals to me spiritual is how Mako has to work through her issues. I am sure I have covered this in order reviews, but that which causes us pain emotionally causes wounds that are difficult to see. It is not the sole purview of faith, but Christianity acknowledges that those wounds need to be cared for before people can truly move on in their lives. In reality, and other films, the stakes for doing so or not are rarely as high as being the difference between whether humanity lives or dies. That should be comforting, a little blessing for the rest of us, if nothing else. A key way Christians differ from how the rest of society deals with these wounds is by acknowledging that they never truly go away, at least not without God. The only way they are ever completely alleviated is when we go to meet Him in the ever after. Until that day, we have our Faith that can get us through for the time being, and even help us thrive. In the film, it is Raleigh’s belief in Mako that helps her to get through the trauma of facing the kaiju. Despite Faith not being involved, he encourages her to deal with the memory of seeing her parents killed during an early attack. He was with her in it through the drift, encouraging her without her truly knowing it in the moment, which is often how God works in our lives.
Pacific Rim may not seem like it has anything too deep going on with it, and you might watch it (if you have not already) and come away with that very opinion. I am here to tell you that it is an entertaining movie with a little something for everyone of the appropriate age for seeing it.