Five things it would be nice to see in a movie like Pacific Rim

Monday July 8th 2013

A joke.
There was a single moment of laughter during the screening of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim I attended last Friday, and that came with the introduction of a character played by Ron Perlman. Not because he’d said or done anything funny, but because there was an expectation that he would soon do so. As it turned out, Perlman did just as little as his co-stars to inject levity into the unfailingly sombre proceedings, and perhaps he was wise to restrain himself — after all, giant fighting robots are a serious business, worthy of sober consideration.

A legitimate female hero.
Babel‘s Rinko Kikuchi gets the sole significant female role in Pacific Rim, as stranger-with-a-dark-but-as-it-turns-out-quite-banal-secret Mako Mori. She’s chosen as a co-pilot for Charlie Hunnam’s more experienced robot operator Raleigh after competing in a tournament that was ONLY FOR BOYS, making her ultimate success a triumph for feminism and not in any way a patronising narrative contrivance. We’re told that she’s the best pilot for the job, which might be true if the robots were controlled remotely (as @incrediblesuit pointed out might be wise) but seems unlikely when they have to be operated from within, using immense physical strength, and she’s a 5′ 6″, 100lbs rookie.

The less sexy scientist being right for once.
In the opening act of Pacific Rim, we’re introduced to two scientists with opposing theories about how best to quell the monstrous uprising faced by humanity. One is a handsome, charismatic, American scientist played by Charlie Day, the other is (in Del Toro’s own words) a ‘tweed-wearing, English, phlegmatic introvert who never leaves the lab’, played by Burn Gorman. No prizes for guessing whose theory turns out to be correct.

Proper disciplinary action taken against ‘the loose cannon’.
The first time we meet Hunnam’s Raleigh, it’s during a fierce robot battle in which he elects to disobey his commanding officer and rescue a fishing boat from the path of an advancing monster. The monster is defeated regardless, but Raleign is nonetheless chewed out by his superior for gambling with the lives of millions to save a few, and maybe he fucking should be — let’s not forget: the bit we never see in Die Hard is when McClane’s insubordination results in the deaths of hundreds of innocent bystanders. Eventually Raleigh’s renegade tactics are proved effective and he’s pulled out of retirement because he’s ‘that damn good’ or whatever, but in my eyes he’s still a liability.

A 90 minute runtime.
It’s hard to know who exactly is benefitting from the current fashion for grossly extended blockbuster running times. Audiences would surely rather be in and out in under two hours; cinemas would definitely rather squeeze four showings into a day than three; and studios can’t relish the thought of paying for enough CGI robot fights to fill a movie that’s getting on for three hours. I can only assume that the answer lies in the seemingly boundless powers of director-producers like Del Toro, who apparently won’t be told that their glorified Power Rangers specials don’t need to unfold over 131 endless minutes.