Note: This article assumes you have some knowledge of the film’s premise, either via trailer or from seeing it, so I won’t be breaking down plot points too much other than to note how they are idiotic. I mean, none of us has all day here, we’ve all still got babies to kiss and shuffleboard to play. And of course, huge, powerful, potentially movie-ruining spoilers here. If you want to see it, and don’t want to know, do not seek the treasure.
Off we go.
The Ten Most Egregiously Idiotic Things About ‘Pacific Rim’ (SPOILERS)
1. NO ONE FOLLOWS ORDERS, EVER
This phenomenon leads off the film, and it continues throughout. It’s alien monsters vs. military robots, and the good guys pilot the robots. In charge of the “Jaeger” program is Idris Elba. He’s a general, or something equivalent, and he tells folks when to do what. And of course, as the world seems to be in a legitimate state of war, there’s even more reason to expect that orders will be followed to a tee, because when they aren’t, bad things potentially happen.
I mean, remember this famous cinematic scene?
So what transpires in the opening few minutes? Some jag-off named Raleigh and his brother (for some inexplicable reason named “Yancy” – which I’m certain nearly got him beaten to death in high school) decide to take their Jaeger out into the ocean to save a fishing boat, disobeying direct orders to stay by the shore and protect a city.
Here are the extenuating circumstances which could come to Pacific Rim‘s aid if you were feeling suuuuuuuper kind (hint: I’m not):
1) Illegal orders have a precedent of not being followed. It’s a big deal when it happens, and there’s all sorts of rigamarole that then transpires, but if one could argue that an order was illegal, then one could theoretically disobey it.
2) In the opening voiceover (of course they start with a voiceover, because telling a story with pictures is too hard) it’s explained that they have gotten pretty decent at killing the monsters, aka the Kaiju, and so many of the early Jaeger pilots went off to become celebrities. It could then further be argued that the pilots who are left are, you know, mental deficients. It’s an argument I’m willing to entertain, and it would make sense given the rest of the movie, but sadly the rest of the film doesn’t have Raleigh running into walls or finger painting his eyes. It does have him delivering terrible dialogue, but I don’t think that was a character choice.
So we’ve already proven #2 can’t be true, given the context of what happens afterward, what about #1? Couldn’t it be rescuing the fishing boat was the only real choice?
No. In fact, it was an absolutely terrible choice given the context, which was: Elba gave the order because Raleigh and his older brother were the only thing standing between a monster and a fully populated city. I should also mention that Elba’s character is named Stacker Pentecost, because that is also highly ridiculous, mostly stupid, and completely pointless. Moving right along, Pentecost’s order makes total sense. The military’s job in this case is to protect the most people, and running your giant robot out into the ocean, where you could potentially leave an entire city at risk, is really really really dumb.
BUT THIS ISN’T THE ONLY TIME THIS HAPPENS.
In fact, the exact same thing happens about an hour later. Same deal, monsters, cities, “hold back because you’re the last line of defense” and blah blah blah, only the pilots again disobey a direct order. There are many other instances of this occurring, as these pilots are oh so rogue, and oh so heroic. My guess is Elba’s obedience rate is clocking in around 40 percent. He’s more of a “consulting general” than a “leader of men and women”. Even sillier, there’s never any fall out to any of it. It’s like, “ah well, you crazy kids are going to do what you’re going to do with trillion dollar government property and millions of lives on the line. You kidders!”
Ugh. That’s dumb, even within the context of a film that’s aspiring to nothing greater than Starship Troopers.
2. THE FACE PUNCH FIGHTING STYLE
Pacific Rim contains oooodles of fighting. So much robot vs. monster action, you’d think you’d died and gone to Michael Bay heaven. And to be kind, most of this fighting is fair to middling, I mean you won’t fall asleep or anything, even if water effects and darkness are used to obscure many of the details.
And clearly, as fights take up massive chunks of the film, they need to be compelling. So how do you make them interesting, competitive, visceral, and vibrant? Why, you have everyone punch everyone in the face, even if technology indicates that this method is sillytalk (Note: Man of Steel suffers from this problem as well. The circumstances that make the fight compelling are the same ones that make the fight illogical).
Allow me to explain.
When the Kaiju and Jaeger fight, it generally, say 80 percent of the time, involves only face-punching. The aliens punch our face, and then we punch their face right back in the face hole. Uppercuts, jabs, roundhouses, you name it, we’ve got a punch for that face. Back and forth it goes, until someone’s face is punched so much that they are just plain depressed, choosing instead to rest their face on the ground to avoid further punches. Which would be all well and good if it was the ONLY method used. If face punching = wins, and NOT face punching equaled losses, clearly you’d solve for face punching. Then you’d retire as the greatest mathematician of all time.
But nope, the other methods are what undermine this whole endeavor. Because sometimes, right in the middle of punches, laser cannons are used. Other times the monsters shoot acid from their mouths, and one time, amazingly, a sword comes into play (Also, randomly, both monster and robot occasionally throw each other, though this seems to do very little damage, the equivalent of a noogie).
Here’s the bad news. These other 20 percent of the fights, generally the kill shots, mean that all the punching that has come before was just for show. For if you have a laser cannon, you make sure it shoots 100 yards, and then you retire for some tea. If the sword cuts a monster in half, you pop that puppy out immediately. If monsters be shootin’ acid at yo face, you never get close enough to get a face full of acid. I mean, that’s just common sense, right? And this is what makes the fighting so so stupid.
Because when one is developing military hardware, one isn’t concerned with making the fight even. This is why we’ve evolved from sticks and stones to drone missiles. For why win by a little, when you can win by a lot instead? So then, if giant monster aliens did invade, and we did attempt to develop offensive capabilities against them, we would likely develop something better than robot boxing. Monsters and robots boxing makes for compelling visuals, and if they’d stuck with only this method it would have been contextually logical, but once you go for those “sweet” looking death scenes you also undermine everything else you’ve shown prior. That’s a problem, the sort of problem a bad movie is lousy with.
3. ZANY SCIENTISTS
Now lookit, I love Charlie Day. LOVE. I’ve interviewed him, I’ve watched “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” since its inception, and he once accepted a MySpace friend request from me. So it’s safe to say I’m in the tank for C-Day, wishing him a lifetime of love and happiness with the waitress.
That said, he should murder his agent for signing him up for this putridity. In this film, he’s the wacky scientist! And his partner, though we have no clue as to why they are working together, is also wacky, but in a foppish way, instead of a silly one! Oh joy, oh bliss, aren’t these science fellows a holly jolly cutesy bunch?
Aaaaaaand, please punch me in the face, hold the sword.
Again, this is the end of the world. The end of humanity. The big one. And our hope rests on two jabronis who are playing out their own personal “Laurel & Hardy” script? I dare say that, if you presented these two clowns to any military official, in a time of war, they’d just have them shot and be done with it.
“No more distractions,” said General Smith, the smoke still rising from his sidearm.
I get that there’s a long history of wacky scientists, from Goldblum in Jurassic Park to Doc in Back to the Future but in those cases the subject is more intimate. It’s a few lives. If all the lives were on the line? I’m fairly certain the minds involved would be extremely sober, extremely professional, and not at all caricatures of mad men. Hell, even Armageddon managed to get this detail right. You didn’t see Billy Bob Thorton running around on a pogo stick with a lollipop stuck in his hair. I mean, c’mon fellas, let’s act like we’ve been here before. Pacific Rim is a movie that is so determined to be cute that it completely forgets to be intelligent.
4. THE SCIENTISTS DRIFT, NEURAL LOAD, NEURAL HANDSHAKES
Sigh. This one would require so much context, so much explaining, and I’m already tired. Let’s just say I’m calling this whole strand of thought idiotic and save our powder for the rest of the film. Oh, but one quick thing I will mention is that the Jaeger pilots are pretty much enacting a sillier version of “Dance Dance Revolution” each and every time they step into their super cool robots. Awesome.
5. YAY FOR ETHNIC STEREOTYPES!
This one is sort of amazing. The Chinese fighting team wears all red, uses martial arts, and has smooth looking technology. The Russian team wears grey, has the heaviest Jaeger, and says things like “We CRUSH” a lot. The Australian team features roughneck attitudes and a father-son dispute. The American team leader, Raleigh, doesn’t play by the rules! He’s an individual, he’s risky, but it’s his apparent lack of discipline that’s actually a HUGE strength when it comes to fighting monsters! Huzzah and happy days!
The portrayal of people in this film is so simplistic, so sophomoric, that it’s a wonder they didn’t just CGI them too. I mean, this is a film with no real heart in the fight (It’s PG-13 for optimal audience garnering) and where no real attempts to build or establish character are even bothered with. Here, throw a bulldog in the scene so people know these guys are stubborn. People will get it. Lunch time!
6. THE CONTINUAL MOVIE TROPES
There’s the scene where someone goes up to someone’s else’s door but doesn’t quite knock. I mean, what would they say? There’s a scene where a person spies on another person’s undressing through a peephole. There’s a scene where someone rushes into a room and says, “I’ve got to talk to you right now!” and the other person responds, “Not now! We’re busy!” There’s the moment where someone tells someone that he’s not a good enough pilot, only to then come around near the end. There’s the “I need your help” moment, the “this will never work” agony. There’s a scene where one of the characters is sick, and if he ever does this one thing again he will DIE. So will he do that thing again, to save the world?
This isn’t a film full of tropes, it’s a film comprised entirely of tropes.
7. THE SPEECH
There’s a scene in Pacific Rim where Idris Elba starts giving the grand finale speech, and I swear they must have been playing this for laughs. He starts off by walking up to a raised platform, back turned on the crowd, and starts talking. Then he turns to his side, all the while continuing his speech. Finally, he turns to face them. It’s bonkers. No one starts a speech with their back turned! And wouldn’t the folks listening shout, “Hey, who are you talking to?” And how do you even know someone is about to make a big ol’ speech? Was it on the day’s itinerary? The big speech in movies is always a trope, yes, but it’s telling that they couldn’t even execute this without some nod to shoddiness, and this was a trope that stuck out as particularly horrible. King Trope, if you will.
8. THE KIKUCHI MELTDOWN
Rinko Kikuchi is a fine actor. You may have become aware of her work in Babel, or perhaps The Brothers Bloom, and her participation in Pacific Rim should have been a reason for celebration, because diversity is basically non-existent in big-budget studio films. So Kikuchi, as Jaeger pilot Mako Mori, was set up for success. And then she got her marching orders.
The set-up here is … fine, I suppose. She’s a pilot who has never been allowed to go on active duty, though it’s mentioned that she’s a perfect 51 for 51 on simulations, which I’m guessing simulate actual combat. Elba doesn’t want her on active duty, for reasons that will become clear later, via stupid-planation (trademark, patent pending). However, when Raleigh needs a new partner, it’s clear that Mori is the best possible choice. And yeah, that’s great! Let’s do this! Women kicking monster tail!
So what goes down? On her very first real live mission she has a total meltdown. Like a stage four disaster, almost destroying all of the tastefully named “Shatterdome”. Why? Too emotional. Can’t deal with memories. Women be shoppin’!
This plot point essentially posits that the simulator doesn’t simulate the emotional toll that driving a Jaeger inflicts. In fact, my guess is, given Mori’s perfect 51-51 record, that it doesn’t help with much of anything. For all we know it could just be a giant Oregon Trail screen. Nevertheless, she melts down, and who has to save her? TWO MEN. Not only that, but two men at different points in her life! Raleigh saves her in the present, as she’s remembering being a little girl and holding on to a, wait for it, RED SHOE. He gives her the Inception line about how it’s “just a memory”. And in the memory Elba saves her! Yes indeed, a previously capable female Jaeger pilot is actually revealed to be a shoe-holding crying little girl who can’t handle stress. Aaaaaand scene. Later on, Raleigh will save her again, and then Elba will lay down his life for her, because women simply don’t ever do that in movies, because, well, you know, too stressful I suppose.
Luckily, she’s not the female lead in the film. (Checks notes) Oh, no wait, she is. She totally is. And she’s completely marginalized for preciously held gender role stereotypes. Tip of the cap, Pacific Rim. Way to strike a blow for gender equality.
9. THE CONSTANT THEFT FROM BETTER MOVIES
As I just mentioned, Pacific Rim is a film that loves to crib from other movies, almost as if they thought if they strung enough scenes together that competent filmmakers had done that would somehow equal into one halfway decent film. Nope!
Inception is woven into “the drift”. Ghostbusters is all over the scientists. The entire movie’s structure is Top Gun (which the creators actually admitted in interviews, much to my chagrin, for if you admit you’re just liberally jacking from better movies it makes my job more difficult). Armageddon pops up near the end, via sacrificing oneself for humanity. There’s a chase scene lifted straight out of Jurassic Park, where the monster seeks a specific target. King Kong and Godzilla might have well as shared the theater marquee.
The motivations from the Aliens franchise are in full effect. There’s a Mortal Kombat fight scene. And finally, the actors are all asked to channel the Starship Troopers method of “acting” like they are acting, never for one second convincing anyone that they aren’t just hamming it up for the camera, fully aware of how silly it’s all playing.
There is nothing unique about this film, in the slightest, it does nothing to further the medium, and everything to push forward an agenda of commercialism murdering art. It is the nadir, a cry for help. There’s simply no reason to watch this movie, because you’ve seen it all before.
10. THE GREAT WALL PLAN
Finally, we’ve arrived at the end. And I think we’ve all learned something about how not to make a movie, and how not to put willfully stupid angles into a story. Yay! But let’s put this to bed with the most egregious example of awfulness Pacific Rim has to offer, the frickin’ wall plan.
I’ll set the scene for you. It’s the the roaring 2020s, and the Earth is in year 7 of the Kaijen War. We’ve been under near constant attack from monsters from another dimension, so we built our own robotic monsters to combat them.
So far as that goes, within the construct of the film, it’s hard to ding. I mean, you could argue the idea of a giant Voltron is idiotic right off the bat, but it’s probably more fair to spot Pacific Rim a few yards of rope here, because suspending disbelief is an integral part of the blockbuster process. So sure, giant monsters coming out of the sea, our robots sent to punch them in the face, life is good.
They get Elba on the video conference line and tell him, point blank, that they are pulling the plug on the Jaeger robot program (Potential NY Post Headline: Jaeger Bombz!). They are doing this to throw full support to a “let’s build a big wall program”. Now they call it something stupid, like “Wall of Life” or “Coastal Defense Shield” but it’s clearly just a big wall. And these walls ARE big, and they are being built everywhere, and they clearly have been under construction for a good long while.
By way of explanation, our hero, once his brother died, lived a vagabond life and became a wall builder for years, meaning this idea has been around, in the mix, an alternative to straight up monster wrestling. Thus, in the logic of the movie, 1) Jaegers are being decommissioned and 2) walls are the new go-to strategy – and I suppose a parallel to this might be the U.S. decom’ing aircraft carriers to throw money behind coastal moats or something. Whatever the case, this is the direction the powers that be are going, much to the chagrin of Stringer Bell.
And you know what? I have zero problem with any of that right up until what happens next. Because what happens next is a Kaiju breaks through a wall in a good 90 minutes. NINETY MINUTES. Think of the implications of this. This wall feint is:
A) The main strategy
B) In fact, the only strategy
C) A strategy they must have had 100 percent confidence in because they let the Jaeger program dip to four total robots, and three of those are older models.
D) A strategy no one, anywhere, on the planet, tested.
E) Like, at all.
Because wouldn’t you try this out in, I don’t know, ONE CITY FIRST? Like a proof of concept? Or wouldn’t you say, “Well guys, this wall can withstand 10,000,000 pounds of force, and our readings suggest these monsters can deliver no more than 2,000,000 pounds,” and so on and so forth, with dissenting opinions and groups of experts and master builders and the latest in wall technology being referenced and utilized? Because, you know, the WHOLE GODDAMN PLANET depends on such expertise? And then, once you’ve said, “These walls are the TITS” wouldn’t you still throw a little money towards offensive capabilities? Is building a bunch of city walls so draining on the local economy that no one can get together some scrap parts for a giant robot or two? We’ve built walls since the beginning of time! Surely we could build walls and do other things like build robots too??!!
This makes ZERO SENSE. Combined, and with everything on the line, governments would be throwing cash left and right at every idea imaginable. Chemical warfare would be on the table, lasers would in play, our own genetic mutations, the idea of planetary emigration, the strategy of cordoning or draining parts of the ocean, the notion of nukes, the game-planning of mountain bunkers – EVERYTHING would be on the table. They wouldn’t just go, “well, hells bells, let’s throw up some walls and just be done with it. Hey, whose move was it in our Monopoly game?” I mean, this was end of days stuff going down, and humanity has proven to be very resourceful when it comes to improvisation. There’s just no chance a wall, and again, a wall that lasted 90 minutes, would be the final call. This simply wouldn’t happen, even within the logic of the movie, unless there was another scene where the leaders of the free world were also hooked on whippets and continually choking on their own tongues.
A wall? A wall and no robots? Highly, highly dumb. Egregiously idiotic even. A fitting final note for a determinedly terrible excuse for a summer blockbuster. A pox upon your house Pacific Rim, and may you build your wall high and strong enough for me to never witness the likes of you again.