By now, my love for Pacific Rim should be no secret. But just in case you didn't know:
I LOVE PACIFIC RIM.
Besides Guillermo Del Toro lovingly paying homage to Jaeger and Kaiju lore that Japan is to thank for, I really got into Pacific Rim at first for one reason:
It is superior to the Transformers series.
I know, I know. Some people will want to fight me on that (to which I say, tell me where and when), but I stand by it. While imperfect, Pacific Rim took all the things that Transformers tried to do and executed it better. The robots. The characters. The FUN (and no, just throwing in random parts where GRASS and BUSHES explode Power Ranger-style is not enough to constitute FUN).
All bigger. All better.
In fact, my greatest beef with the Transformer movies was the fact Michael Bay is so obsessed with spectacle that he forgets that, yes, the audience does care for the more smaller scale things. Like story. Specifically the robots' story. But we really don't even get that because we're always being fed the story through the lens of some random human we don't reallllly care about, but I digress.
Anyhow, as I had been let down by Transformers multiple times (by every movie after the first one to be honest), I looked to Pacific Rim to fill the void that Transformers had created.
In turn, Pacific Rim rose to the occasion to become the robot-fighting movie that well all deserved. So, without further ado, here's how Pacific Rim did just that:
1. Mako Mori
Whereas the lead female character in the Transformers series almost always served as eye candy (and, you know, not much else), Mako Mori broke this mold in Pacific Rim.
I cannot even begin to cover all the reasons why I am enamored with Mako, but I'll try.
For starters, while most of the characters in the film didn't get adequate character development (a valid criticism) Mako did and she also got a COMPLETE character arc. The act of her having said arc would later go on to inspire the Mako Mori Test, which is a far superior test to the Bechdel Test (which I never believed was an adequate enough measurement to begin with).
Revisiting her arc took the standard revenge motivation and put its own twist on it. Having lost her family in Kaiju attack, Mako would not rest until she avenged them, much to the chagrin of her adopted father, Stacker Pentecost.
And that's it. She was really awesome, really straightforward, and she taught me a bit about reconciling childhood trauma as an adult (which, you know, is some really deep sh*t). She was not relegated to being some sex vixen and she was on equal footing with her co-lead—Charlie Hunnam's Raliegh—and every other dude in the movie.
Which, in 2015, is rare. It shouldn't be, but it is. This is QUADRUPLY so for a woman of color like she is.
2. Idris Elba
Let's be real.
Everything is better with Idris Elba in it.
Would probably be better if Idris Elba was in it.
Would probably be better of Idris Elba was in it.
The James Bond Series?
Would probably be better if Idris Elba was in it (“too street” my ass).
That God-awful Ghost Rider sequel?
Yeah, literally the only reason I even looked at it was because Idris Elba was in it.
In all seriousness, Elba played the no-nonsense and distinguished Stacker Pentecost (fearless leader and adopted father of Mako Mori) in this film. And while people were too busy riffing him for the weird accent (which I didn't mind), he still proved to be one of my favorite parts of the movie after Mako.
And also because of glory of this GIF-set right here:
Moving on, though his back-story was a little thin, Pentecost proved to be the authority figure that this movie needed to keep its face forward and its head held high. I also loved his relationship with Mako, because even though it covered familiar and potentially tired “overprotective dad” territory, once you got the whole story and once you realized how much Pentecost actually believed in Mako, the “overprotective” trope ended up not subtracting from the story like it could have.
In addition to that, Pentecost is also the reason that “cancelling the apocalypse” is a thing now and for that, I will be forever be grateful.
3. Special Effects
Let me be the 3249823432423098023948th person to say how OUT OF THIS WORLD the special effects in this movie were.
Honestly, It was so fantastic. I mentioned that this movie was really “fun” and the effects happen to be a large reason why. On top of being an extremely colorful and visually striking movie (seriously, in a summer that included the rather dull Man of Steel and the not much better Iron Man 3, it was a godsend), there was just something about how the Jaegers and the Kaiju were rendered that made me feel like a kid in a candy store.
Del Toro and his friends at Industrial Light and Magic sat down with USA Today back in 2013 and actually explained why and how they got the Jaegers and Kaiju to be that appealing.
On the Jaegers
The second problem [was] making sure audiences bonded with the robots enough to care about the outcome of a fight. To tackle that issue, animators made sure Jaegers walked with a gait that was reminiscent of a human's without crossing the line into disbelief.
"These robots have shoulders and hips, like we do, but we had to dive deep into their joints and make sure everything in there moved as it logically would for a machine,"
That meant making sure that all the machine-like pistons and connecting rods that animated a joint actually moved whenever a Jaeger took a step, even if those movements are barely discernible to the human eye.
"One of our questions was always, 'Could somebody manufacture that?' And if the answer was no, we started over," says Alex Jaeger, a senior visual-effects art director on the project. "If you think about these robots as battleships, that's where we were going. Every rivet and plate had to make sense. And all the battle damage also had to be reflected on those panels."
On the Kaiju
Some of them recall animals we know — from gorillas to lizards to serpents — and ILM staffers kept zoological images handy for reference. But from there, things got a bit crazy, with director del Toro stipulating that some creatures would spit acid, while others would create electrical firestorms. And each had to have a set of distinctive glowing eyes.
On Reflecting Damage and Realistic Effects
But his ace in the hole was making sure Pacific Rim was rife with deliberate flaws.
"Making movies is a lie," he says. "It only works if you fill it with details and mistakes."
So del Toro requested, for example, that the faux lens "shooting" the visual effects be tampered with, sometimes reflecting the impact of water spray, light and even damage.
The damage effects are what sold me, if I am to be completely frank. Like, every time something bad happened to a Jaeger—like, maybe their arm got ripped off or their torso was speared by an unforgiving Kaiju—I would sharply inhale or hiss or even look away momentarily. Del Toro and his team made me feel for objects and that alone is very impressive
Also, it didn't hurt that the suits that were responsible for moving these Jaegers were built by Shane Mahan (Legacy Effects co-owner) who is known for his work on Iron Man.
I feel like it would have been a sin if I did not put this on the list.
I absolutely loved—and still love—the theme song. As someone who is an AVID fan of franchises like the Power Rangers and Sailor Moon, it gave me a very Power Ranger-esque feel and I felt like people were gonna start doing transformation flips out of nowhere.
But being a bit more serious, I thought the theme song did an excellent job of setting the tone of the entire movie. It felt adventurous. It felt exhilarating. And above all, it felt empowering. I was honestly in the mood to go fight Kaiju (or maybe something else a bit more tangible, and you know, in existence) when I walked out of the theater, so I'm already assuming that the theme song completed what it set out to accomplish in that regard.
And because I like y'all, I'm going to post my favorite versions of the song below:
In closing, if you weren't very fond Pacific Rim before or if you missed out on the initial Pacific Rim hype train, I'm hoping these things and people that I mentioned here (Mako Mori, Idris Elba, etc) were enough to clue in you in as to why Pacific Rim is awesome (and why it does a better job than the Transformer movies).