Movie Reviews Far Too Late: Why Pacific Rim Was Awful

I have friends who love the concept of giant, armored robots. I, personally, dislike the concept. For one thing, most of them are simply too big to be even halfway believable without incredibly advanced materials, but even with those, the truth is that for the money and maintenance you would expend on one giant humanoid mech, you could build a tank battalion with a fighter squadron for close air support that would a) take down a comparable mech and b) not be rendered useless by a single malfunctioning joint.

However, during the discussion, I realized that the reasons I hated Pacific Rim had nothing to do with its blatant mech fanboyism.

First, it violated what, to me, is a cardinal rule of good science-fiction storytelling. It’s a variant of something the Russian playwright Chekhov said: If a gun is on the stage in Act I, it has to be used by Act III. My variant on this for SF is this: If you’re going to tell us that some piece of machinery or battleship or whatever is incredibly super badass, you have to show it being badass. Not just tell us this, and then have it crumple like toilet paper. We were told that there was this super awesome Chinese mech, and this super awesome Australian mech, and they serve no purpose other than to be kaiju chew toys in the climactic battle. This was not necessary. Each mech could have been shown taking a kaiju down easily, and then being battered into scrap by more (or more dangerous) kaiju than had been previously encountered, exactly as we see the Death Star detonate Alderaan and then get taken down by the Rebels.

Second, and most ridiculous, they use a nuclear weapon to close the rift the kaiju are coming through, and yet no one ever thinks to use nuclear weapons on the kaiju themselves, despite the fact that the kaiju mostly materialize in the Pacific and then start heading toward cities? Someone should at least have tried this. And before anyone says that this would have been dangerous to the planet, just stop before you embarrass yourselves. Where do you think the vast majority of US nuclear weapons tests happened during the Cold War? Literally thousands of nuclear weapons have been detonated in the Pacific, with few to zero ill effects on the planet.

Pacific Rim is a blatant attempt to use a terrible, but cool-looking solution to a problem. It’s like having mounted knights go fight ISIS in 2018. I grant you that the actual solution, having satellites warning uniformed men in bunkers that it was time to launch nuclear air or sea strikes against kaiju, would not have been anything like as cool to watch. But it would have been far less stupid.

From Somewhere in Orbit