Pacific Rim Review

What is to follow is a bit of faux ranting. I saw Pacific Rim a few weeks back with my best friend. I’m not sure we’re friends anymore, because immediately following the movie he was treated to a 30 minute stream of consciousness about everything that was wrong with the movie. His response? “It was fun.” Groan.

I have read review after review after review glowing about this movie. Let’s call it what it is. A big budget, over the top, overly simplistic movie playing on the basest emotions of boys hiding in mens’ bodies, which tugging at strings of nostalgia, all in an effort to convince us that no, no, this effort is different.

I love movies. I will link to or reference many of my favorites in this post to drive home that point. I did not love this movie. It was “neither fantastic, nor outstanding.”

Where to start? This is in no particular order. Spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen the movie, do not proceed. The tl;dr version – if you want a ridiculous alien plot that tugs at nostalgia, but you can watch over and over? Tim Riggins saves the world – err, Battleship.

The Kaiju. They come out of a specific hole in the ground. The science community has progressed to the point where they can predict with a high degree of accuracy the time and size of the mantle gestation. The solution, apparently, to this problem is to airlift robots to the location. That’s right, airlift. To the location. We’ll get into the destructive capabilities of the Earth at this future point in time in a moment, and what this means for weapon design, but first I want to deal with locality. The hole in the ground doesn’t move. It’s underwater. Here’s a simple solution. Station a few nuclear subs around the hole. To quote the great Vizzini, “the minute his head is in view, hit it with the rock!”

OK, perhaps the simplicity of nuke launches at full term Kaiju is not going to work, let’s talk about the Jaegers. They are the same size as the Kaiju. Why? Suppose for a minute that we have progressed to the point where we, as a race, can build machines that can operate with a humanoid shape, but at a massive scale and with appropriate speed. Suspend that disbelief. Why would you choose to build this thing as the Goldilocks-just-right size to fight the monsters? Why not build something way way bigger than the monsters? The Kaiju were evolving and getting bigger. Why were the Jaegers only matching them?

Fighting. If I could fight GSP, I would not train to the point where I was 170 pounds and do it in the ring. I would do it “with a stick, while he slept.” The point is that while I love the fact that the Jaeger had an engine in the elbow to make it punch harder, the newer model Jaeger had the fighting thing sorted out. Rip open your shirt, Mardi Gras style, and spray with a series of rockets. No muss, no fuss. Sadly, the Jaegers were built to fight in a grappling style. Not a destroy from a distance style. Makes no sense.

On the topic of rockets, you don’t need a multi billion dollar machine to walk around and Hulkamania it’s shirt to spray rockets. The military has been doing this for years. Want a rocket up the nostril of the Kaiju from 30 clicks out. All possible today. And viewable on the web via live feed. There would be a Vine video of it before you could snap your fingers. One soldier, on a boat, lasing the target. A lot more cost effective.

What was up with Australian Ice Man? I mean, if you are going to steal tropes from other movies, at least give him the gum air chomp that was classic Iceman. We got the “I’m not safe if you’re out there” line. We just didn’t get it in the locker room…in towels. It was bad enough that Goose, I mean Raleigh’s brother, died when he went through the windshield. And Tom Skerritt, I mean, Idris Elba, let Raleigh know that he should still be flying, I mean fighting. Of course, the difference was that Henry Cavill, I mean Raleigh, went to find himself by working a blue collar job building a wall, not riding around on a motorcycle.

The wall. What the hell was up with the wall? On general principle alone it made no sense. The Kaiju, as we have noted, come out of a hole in the ground. Fine, build a dome over the hole. Cap it. Build a wall around the hole. Whatever. But the leap of logic required to dictate a wall from Alaska down to who knows where…astoundingly stupid. Wasteful. And the whole “these things tore down bridges, buildings, and cities” thing – ignore that. A wall. That’s the plan. A waaaaallllll. These are Kaiju, not white walkers.

And if you are going to build a wall, one might want to build it tall enough so that a Kaiju can’t, oh I don’t know, reach up and get its hand on top and pull on it. Either for climbing or destruction, leverage is not something to offer a multi-ton killing machine.

They establish early that in order to pilot the Jaegers, we need two pilots. The cognitive load was too high for one. To do this, we need pilots who can get into synch and share thoughts. I won’t even begin to poke at that one. My issue was with the way in which they establish that two people can be in phase. Apparently you fight with sticks. No science there. Do some cool martial arts with sticks. Someone with a clipboard will let you know if you make the cut.

Oh, and once they establish that you are phase shift compatible, how do they test that? You are placed into the insanely dangerous, and incredibly expensive, and rare, mech. Off you go. Let’s test this thing. Weapons free. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Nah, no chance of that.

So Mako is introduced to us as the person who refurbishes the Mark 2 Jaeger. She has made it better and stronger. Awesome. We’ve seen that the other Jaegers have cool killing toys. Great. All proven combat effective. So what does she do? A sword. She gives the Jaeger a sword. The efficacy of that decision is suspect, as no other Jaeger has one. However, the seemingly invincible nature of the sword seems to make up for this fact. It cuts through anything. Wow. If that was the case, why not build a whirly bird gizmo made of whatever that sword was made out of and send those spiraling, rotating, helio-nightmares at the Kaiju. No, that would be too easy.

And the sword. Memory lane time. Remember Voltron? The US version. The one with the 5 lions. I loved that show. Except I hated that all of the battles were eerily similar to the Pacific Rim fights. Oh, there’s a big monster. Get the robot in action. Fight with your fists. That’s not working!! We’re going to die!!! Oh, wait, I totally forgot about our sword that cuts through anything. Where did I put that thing? Here it is. Perfect. Cut. Done. Battle over. If I were one of the Voltron pilots, I would be screaming about the sword from the minute we left base. Hell, I would go so far as to put the word “SWORD!” on the flight controls of the black lion. With my luck, the pilot would be Sean Connery and he would be yelling out “scenery” “suggestion” or “sorry.” (those are all s words)

Regardless of how the Kaiju developed their EMP attack fart, I was left wondering, exactly what is an “analog nuclear” machine. Can someone clear that up?

Back to fighting. I will go on record – the picking up of a cargo ship and using it as a club? Awesome. LOVED it. The grabbing of cargo containers to hold in the fist while the Jaeger fights? What sense did that make? If I pick up a rock and punch with it, it’s because the rock is more solid than my hand, and adds mass. The containers crumpled under the strain of the Jaeger. You don’t often pick up tissue paper to make your punches more effective. And since we have already established that there is a jet engine in the elbow to make the punching faster, what difference in mass would the containers get the Jaeger?

Then we have the flying Kaiju. Cool. Except it presented two glaring problems which completely ignored physics. One, what air mass are the wings displacing at 50K feet? How are flapping wings operable at that altitude? Carrying a massive mech? Worse, how did a mech falling from that height cover the 50K feet in apparent real time in roughly 10 seconds?

As for science, let’s look at the the scientists of Pacific Rim. The scientists created a formula to predict when the Kaiju would come, and how many there would be. That’s amazing! I wasn’t aware that the Kaiju operated a kan-ban manufacturing line timed to a math system that we could crack. That made tons of sense.

Beyond that, the scientists told us that the Kaiju, while appearing different from one another, were in fact clones. Clones. So they are manufactured. And clones. Cool. Except for the whole pregnancy thing. Was the birth that of a clone or a bona-fide child? Why would the Kaiju be manufactured to have reproductive organs? And why would the baby die in the most human of ways – an umbilical cord wrapped around it’s neck? Chemical make up of the air? No. Virus or bacteria foreign to the creature? No. Pre-mature birth? Nope.

When the final plan is devised to close the gate from which the Kaiju were emerging, we are treated to ridiculous premise. The gate is coded, like a “grocery store bar code reader” to recognize Kaiju and only let them through. So the solution is kill one, and Dr. Zhivago it down the hole with a nuke. Of course, the semi live brain parts that they already had wouldn’t work. No, again, let’s concoct the most expensive solution possible. Two pilots. A multi-billion dollar mech. And a fight with a class 4 Kaiju. Awesome.

Once they fell down the hole, was I the only one who was thinking “when did Gandalf become a robot?” The similarity to the Balrog was further compounded by the eye of Sauron at the bottom of the gate. It was there in the background. Crazy.

About this gate – they talk about the Kaiju as the evolutionary followers to the first occupiers of the planet. Dinosaurs. You see, dinosaurs, we are led to believe, are the early Kaiju. However, the plot stumbles a bit here. The point of the future Kaiju was to kill everything on the planet so that the natural resources could be looted. OK. That makes sense, as this is usually the case with any occupying force. But the dinosaurs were here for quite a while. Like a long, long time. Were the overlords of the Kaiju so incredibly patient that they were willing to wait millions of years before they collected all their resources? Based on the movie, it seemed they couldn’t go more than a few days without sending another beast through the hole. So take over the planet with the first Kaiju and never return, but send one of them home dead, and the overlords get all cranky and start sending more of these guys. Of course, the comedic irony is that the resources are just the reclaimed biomass (assuming it’s oil and not water) of their dead relatives.

Back to the gate. The gate to the other dimension. I mentioned it was another dimension right? Riddle me this. How, when you are in a robot mech, in another dimension, does your tracking beacon still work, as well as your radio communications with your base station? Anyone?

Lastly, the recovery of the bodies from the emergency escape mechanism left me baffled. Despite the fact that the Jaeger fell down an inter-dimensional hole, the escape pods went up, through air and then water (though that was unclear), and then up a minimum of several hundred feet of water, if not over a thousand, to the surface. I believe hull crushing depth (if my Crimson Tide memory serves) for a submarine is 1800 feet. How did the escape pod survive that depth? How did they handle the depressurization process required from the Abyss? All very confusing.

It wasn’t all bad. The special effects were pretty cool. The animations and movement of the mechs and Kaiju felt correct. I appreciated the artistry that went into the movie. The story was, well, tripe, but you knew that going in. I just feel bad for the actors playing the Russian pilots. Not only were their only lines something resembling grunts, they were only allowed long angle shots that didn’t really show their faces, and when they did get their close up while fighting inside their Jaeger, they had solid metal face shields down. Rough gig. Hope they got SAG insurance qualification for that job.

Go see Battleship. It’s way better.

  • LineBarrel

    Not a chance. Battleship my butt. Pacific rim slams battle ship with a massive cargo ship blow. It’s a fun movie so take it for what it is. And also check out the anime “attack on Titan” starring Eren jaeger

  • Scott Reid

    Unfortunately many of your “problems” with the film are not actualy plot holes but rather instances where you would choose to do something differently.
    Some of your points are valid but many could be easily explained if someone tried to reason through an explanation.

    1) Standoff weapons. “The military has been doing this for years. Want a rocket up the nostril of the Kaiju from 30 clicks out. All possible today.” Nice idea but much more effective with targets that are either on top of or out of the water. Not that effective against underwater targets. While you could rebutt with “Well they should be considering their ability to track the Kadju in the operations center.” But that would still be future technology not “possible today”. Hitting underwater targets from miles away is difficult. Not to mention that these Kadju seem much faster underwater than submarines. Also the Kadju didn’t seem to show themselves out of the water until they were ready to attack something which means any direct or indirect fire weapons systems would have to be position first and on standby until the target presented itself.

    2) “Sadly, the Jaegers were built to fight in a grappling style.” This is true. No explanation was introduced as to why the Jaegers were built for close quarter combat. Other than the obvious idea that the Kadju didn’t show themselves until they actually attacked (Battle for Hong Kong Harbor) so standoff weapons might not be efficient when the Kadju had already closed to danger close range. There might also be the possibility that missiles had trouble targetting the Kadju due to their agility or other inherent components of their alien design. Most of the weapons seen confronting them were direct fire or close range weapons (rockets, plasma guns, blades, swords, 20mm cannon from jets, etc). It could also be that like a tank the Kadju has much greater armor on hits top and back than other areas which would mean getting to the weaker points of the Kadju is what the Jaeger was designed to do.

    3) “Australian Ice Man” is just a character preference and as a subjective preference can’t really be disputed. You just didn’t like the character. That’s fair but not really attributable to other viewers who might have liked that method of acting.

    4) “And if you are going to build a wall, one might want to build it tall enough so that a Kaiju can’t, oh I don’t know, reach up and get its hand on top and pull on it.” Many people have commented on how dumb of an idea the wall was. Many people have accepted that the Wall was just a show for the public and the government never expected it to slow down the Kadju. The earths resources were at the point that the Wall was a veiled attempt to deny surrender (although I agree what a giant waste of resources that seems to have very little strategic or tactical value).

    5) “My issue was with the way in which they establish that two people can be in phase. Apparently you fight with sticks. No science there.” Again, that you would choose to do it differently doesn’t make that method wrong. Just because there was no mention of other attributes that all of these people may have had making them potential candidates and the fighting technique was the last step in that process . . . doesn’t mean that what is not shown onscreen couldn’t exist.

    6) “Oh, and once they establish that you are phase shift compatible, how do they test that? You are placed into the insanely dangerous, and incredibly expensive, and rare, mech.” Again, there’s no evidence that this was not a rare occurence as the Jaeger program was winding down and I believe the failsafes for the Jaeger which would power down the Jaeger in the advent of such an incident also failed (according to the dialog in the film). Clearly this was for dramatic effect but this minor point goes on in just about every single fictional movie you will ever watch.

    7) “We’ve seen that the other Jaegers have cool killing toys. Great. All proven combat effective. So what does she do? A sword.” I’m not sure what your point is. The Gipsy Danger already had two plasma cannons and obviously a complete redesign was not in the cards. First you complain that she added a sword and then complain how effective it was. It seems you are drinking from both sides of the cup. Your idea of sending “spiraling, rotating, helio-nightmares at the Kaiju” might work if you wanted to invest a great deal in the weapons platforms needed to send them and convincing the Kadju to not move when you fired them. That actually sounds pretty difficult.

    8) “Analog nuclear” Agreed, no idea what that is supposed to mean. I suppose some fan-boy could suggest that the word evolves to mean technology that is less susceptible to EMP but . . . that does seem like lazy scriptwriting to me.

    9) The cargo ship and cargo containers were great visually (especially the scene of GD dragging the ship behind it) but from a physics perspective you are dead on. That cargo ship would have disintegrated after contact with the Kadju. A cargo ship is not solid like a baseball bat but instead hollow.

    10) The flying Kadju and mech’s ability to land from that altitude do not seem supportable by physics. Hell, a giant metal robot walking along the ocean bottom is equally unbelievable but that’s where suspension of disbelief comes in. If you ever watched Star Wars or Star Trek there are hundreds of those WTF Gee Whiz moments too.

    11) “The scientists created a formula to predict when the Kaiju would come, and how many there would be.” Well this is a weak argument. If an occurence or event happens at a regular pattern then how could humans not develop a simple statistical formula to predict future events??? Now if you are arguing that the aliens shouldn’t be so regular with their attacks . . . again, that doesn’t make the aliens wrong for not doing what you would do (if you were an alien from another dimension). Being a bit presumptuous don’t you think?

    12) Pregnant, cloned Kadju. This was a bizarre plot twist, I agree. I’m sure a fan boy could come up with a reasonable explanation but I’m not inclined to do so.

    13) “When the final plan is devised to close the gate from which the Kaiju were emerging, we are treated to ridiculous premise. The gate is coded, like a “grocery store bar code reader” to recognize Kaiju and only let them through. So the solution is kill one, and Dr. Zhivago it down the hole with a nuke. Of course, the semi live brain parts that they already had wouldn’t work.” In the movie timeline they didn’t discover that the portal was open all the time but protected from entry from the earth’s side until the final mission was already underway. What followed was the best attempt to complete the mission however they could. It WASN’T the original plan.

    14) “Once they fell down the hole, was I the only one who was thinking “when did Gandalf become a robot?” I believe so, yes.

    15) “About this gate – they talk about the Kaiju as the evolutionary followers to the first occupiers of the planet. Dinosaurs. You see, dinosaurs, we are led to believe, are the early Kaiju. However, the plot stumbles a bit here.” I have seen two diverging interpretations of the movies dialog that either the Kaiju killed the Dinosaurs or the Aliens created the Dinosaurs. Either way, it really has little to do with the plot of the story and is more of an incoherent hole in the backstory.

    16) “Riddle me this. How, when you are in a robot mech, in another dimension, does your tracking beacon still work, as well as your radio communications with your base station? Anyone?” Ummm, wasn’t the dimensional portal still active and operating at that time? So that seems like a pretty easy solution. That portal connected both worlds not only could radio transmissions and signals transfer through but also gigantic, multi-tonned mega monsters and metal robots.

    17) The escape pod probably does defy the laws of physics but I am not an expert at water pressure at those depths. I would think the pressures would adversely affect the Jaegers too (but again . . . suspension of disbelief).

  • Scott – that was an epic response. Probably the longest comment left on my blog ever. I don’t agree with all of it, but well done! 🙂