September Issue 2013
Aliens Versus Robots
Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, is set in a future where a devastating alien invasion has gripped Earth. Giant monstrous creatures known as Kaiju, rise intermittently from an undersea portal in the Pacific and devastate cities on the world’s coastlines.
Huge robots, called Jaegers (German for ‘Hunters’), are invented by humans to match the giant Kaiju in size and strength. Using the Jaegers they defend the planet, taking on the increasingly powerful monsters in wave-after-wave of intensifying battles to protect the world’s cities. The robotic Jaegers are so large and complex that they must be controlled by two pilots whose minds are locked in a ‘neural bridge.’ This technologically-aided telepathic connection enables the pilots to sync their movements with each other and control the Jaegers from inside.
At first this resistance strategy proves very effective, but as the invading monsters grow in power and numbers, the robotic Jaegers become increasingly outclassed. With defeat and the destruction of the human race looming large, a desperate last-ditch effort must be made to mount a final battle. The handful of remaining Jaegers are collected and repaired for the final mission, and the best pilots are selected to be at their helm. The unlikely saviours to complete this team are the films two main protagonists: a former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) who has lost his brother to one of the Kaiju in a previous battle, and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi). The stage is set for the final showdown as this team undertakes mankind’s final stand against the impending apocalypse.
The plot borrows from many of science fiction’s most enduring and influential themes. For instance, the Kaiju (literally ‘Strange Beast’ in Japanese) are directly inspired by the city-destroying monsters often seen in Japanese films, most notably Godzilla — a creature whose countless pop-culture incarnations are almost always portrayed emerging from the Pacific to destroy Japanese cities. The Jaegers, too, continue a line of sci-fi robotic machines that have consistently tantalised and entertained audiences for decades; from the recently reincarnated Transformers, to characters such as Gundam, Voltron, and Ramrod (from Saber Rider), who many Pakistanis would fondly remember from the pre-cable days of the 90s. It is, in fact, the stunning and awe-inspiring rendering of the Jaegers that makes Pacific Rim worth watching — especially on the big screen. In a time when movies like The Avengers, Transformers and Man of Steel regularly attempt to portray larger-than-life, epic showdowns, Pacific Rim surprisingly holds its own — and sometimes surpasses others in its ability to enthrall.
Approximately 200 versions of both creatures were designed for the film, but only a handful of these Kaiju and Jaegers actually made the cut, as each week the filmmakers shortlisted the pick and selected only the best. This time-consuming attention to detail delivers well on action, but seems to have taken a toll on other aspects of the film; the promising plot is rushed, the character development is weak, and the drama of the protagonists’ lives often fails to stir emotion when they are not piloting their robots. Though these drawbacks prevent Pacific Rim from being an instant classic, they don’t take much away from its entertainment value, making it a must-see for those who want to spend an exciting two hours at the cinema.