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Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

The movie Amadeus argued that when a protective, tolerant environment is nurtured, genius that otherwise might have been cowed from developing, can gain the confidence it needs to come to life. Pacific Rim argues the same. If Earth is up against an alien force that'll crush it unless it reaches the pinnacle of the one thing that has been instrumental in blocking it—the drift between two well-matched individuals—then relationships, deep bonds, are going to need to be given the allowance needed to develop and ripen.

If it wants to die, that is, it would replace the one program that got humanity excited in its ability to match the adapting alien invaders—the Jaeger program—with one that feels anti-innovative rather than innovative, one that substitutes a you're-lucky-to-have-this-job environment for one where all humanity felt part of a team. You'd build a wall, that is, where people dying while working on it is both bad and good news (someone died—but left an opening!). And which when busted through by an alien in one hour, simultaneously both dispirits and gives a lift: One looks at the alien's physical resemblance to the Sydney Opera House it incurs immediately after breaking through, and you think not just of its mockery of it but of how great if would be if conjured now was something on our side which more aptly responded to it.

It is met by just that Jaeger. And what begins a sequence where the rulers-in-charge start scrambling, revealing themselves as self-concerned elites and no longer being listened to, is for sure some sense that its young pilot—Chuck Hansen—makes such quick work of it, and conveys authoritatively that all we needed were better pilots: alone he makes whatever people-abating arrogance the wall-idea still possessed, wilt even further. While the film errs, in my judgment, in not quite giving this thoroughly arrogant Chuck Hansen his due, it remains true that it is in good part his rightful arrogance here which shoulders out of the way any further contesting that the remaining Jaeger program is really all that humanity has got left. They were quit by the same kind of arrogance they were trying to abrogate to themselves, a deadly "Et tu, Brute." But as perfect as it was to have this vital young bull-dog beset upon these decrepid autocrats, who maybe all along have coveted the idea of being left alone in luxurious bunkers while the rest of humanity got crushed, it is precisely this—bullying, intimidation—which is antithetical to the Hong Kong Jaeger abode he is due to inhabit.

He's the best pilot, but there's a sense immediately upon encountering the environment that presumes in Hong Kong that his less pleasant aspects more make him rather than Raleigh, the exposed artifact the place near wishes it could rebury. What Admiral Stacker Pentecost is presiding over, is a base where you respect whatever leads to accomplishments; and especially as he patrols down the line of the four remaining Jaegers, slowing people down to individually consider the crafts themselves and the crews commandeering them, he makes clear that this can come from phenomenon that might require a bit of work to see as exceptional. The sense you have is that even if the Chinese crew had relationships with the basketballs they always carried around that seemed grossly fetishistic, that even if the Russians never relaxed out of their stern intensity—like, ever—the respect you'd have for them would envelope everything they presented to you in the most appreciative manner. Pentecost doesn't direct Raleigh to attend carefully to the genius of his scientists—in fact when Raleigh to some extent dismisses them by saying "this is your research division," his response isn't to defend them but to acknowledge that "things have changed." But implicitly he does, by how his being around them doesn't do anything to force them to quail any of their very loud peculiarities (it's funny how even their individual attempts to show themselves likewise finding the other scientist's mannerisms and arguments bonkers, very much work counter to purpose). It's not that he's vested in seeing them as mad scientists, himself the calm commander acknowledging the mad idiosyncrasies at work in the labs, but that he knows that these are men who have had to have had enormous fight in them to have remained, despite the abuse they've certainly had to shoulder, so still confident in themselves and fresh to life (they love having people share in their cool adventures—it seems to trump every other consideration). And from these types, even from just a couple of them, he knows you can get giant results.

Their greatest result comes mostly from Pentecost's not cowing one of them from doing something "rock star" on his own, which he saw no possibilities in. He's permissive, and an adroit protector of anyone who has demonstrated his or her wortheven if this meant disobeying orders—but still of limited vision—the father who can't quite see what his kids are capable of until in fidelity to their own growing confidence and sense of what they actually need, they disobey and show him. And he's not quite in fidelity to something the film is quite explicit in trying to communicate: his singular leadership, his understanding of himself as a fixed point, his tendency to encourage one person while discouraging the other, doesn't lend to the kind of powerful dynamism you'll find with a pairing, and in fact partakes of the bluntness of a wall. It's as if unlike Raleigh, who one never really understands why he could go solo (something to do with him having such an enlarged feminine as well as a masculine half?) or what was really so distinguishing about his ability to do so (do most Jaegers lose a pilot in a fight?—it wouldn’t seem so), the reason he could commander a Jaeger solo was surely because he was never really built to be on the same standing as other human beings in the first place. The only way he could ride with another, it would seem, is if the other knows he’s mastered—which doesn't really equate to the cooperative and equal, two-hemisphere brain analogy, and more like ego making quick work of id. But he's still effectively protection for individuals to eventually reach the sort of deep bonding you sense they would be happiest and most fruitful effecting. Something akin to very well-matched marriages between remarkable individuals, in fact, and a giant evolution from the pairings we'd heretofore seen, which would work more because of what they already share with one another passively from DNA or shared childhoods rather than what they might eventually learn as adults to contribute to each other.

The scientists—the mathematician, Gottlieb, and the biologist, Dr. Newton Geizsler—know each other's tendencies so well, not just because of their close proximity and because they're otherwise likely friendless, but because each of them has with integrity taken the subject matter they are most interested in to similar climactic heights. When they come together in a mind-bond, you know it’ll be a good one that’ll produce very important results because they’re not just inherently simple people who can come together as readily but by-itself as uselessly as two simple molecules or lego bricks, but very complex but diverse, spirited matter that once finally paired might take on a load beyond what other minds could handle and beget a miraculous breakthrough. You might say that if all the other sorts of pairings were type one to three, theirs was type four—which would of course make what happens between Raleigh and Mako Mori humanity’s type five: our endgame Exterminator.

Previous to Mako’s pairing with Raleigh, memories are shown as if they are all laid together in a neat sequence: all settled, and a bit bland for it—a newsreel you’ve seen a million times that you spin through to get on with fresh material. This is even true with what incurs between the scientists. But it isn’t true with Mako, who interjects into Raleigh a memory sequence where a specific memory resists any such pressing-down, arrogantly piercing any tendency to make a settled story of it with its assertive cry for further attendance. It isn’t at first supposed to be true with any pilot—as Raleigh says, first bonds are rough. It’s a sign of inexperience that a pilot “chases the rabbit”—that is, unruly undealt with memories that draw you to them. But still the film suggests that usually the way towards control is not so much to deal with these memories, tend to them, but rather to as quickly as possible learn to subjugate them—as if the best bonds the program had known had come from people who could be dissuaded from thinking much about what had constituted them. Though he seems to appreciate that something better could be forged, Pentecost fears taking it on, believing there simply isn’t time for it. He is moved ultimately to give her a chance mostly in fidelity to a promise he once made to her, but he should have recognized that he had someone on hand who could finally make it less of an issue. That is, though it turns out that Pentecost sought Raleigh out because he could commandeer a Jaeger solo, the film makes clear that he should have been staking him out for the magic he could forge with another person.

When Raleigh first meets her, we get a quick but clear offering of what will make them develop into such a great team. They’re not afraid to test and challenge: she assesses him immediately as not what she had imagined, and he responds just as quick … in Japanese, as a nod to how the fault, the aberrance, might actually be in her. But there’s humor—agreeability—in the situation, the earned touché, and Raleigh rests with that to make sure the encounter becomes mostly a friendly, even charming, well met. She doesn’t fall back from her assessment that he isn’t really right to pilot the Jaeger, but when, after he requests it, she admirably forthrightly tells him so, he makes sure it doesn’t lead to grievance but for grounds for subsequent consideration on her part. Importantly, when he says she might be right—he means it, and is visibly affected, even hurt, by it, before he regroups, which shows his respect for her ability to assess him and the importance that he let it in. But at the same time he has strong faith in himself, in all the conclusions come from constant testing he’s been through, and begins the very important process for her to think that if you’re too much perfect pattern it’s a perfection that comes from being denied your rightful due acquaintance with life.

If he touches her here, it’s going to cause quite the stir. And with her becoming obsessed with him, with her challenging of him taking on some of the tone of someone who’s lashing out at everybody else is really just an expression of her increased dissatisfaction with herself, and of Pentecost of someone who is quickly sliding away from well-earned love into precarious disrespect, he has unwound her from her over-attachment to what had been virtuous in her long spell of respectful abeyance. Pentecost decides to make her Raleigh’s partner, but his consideration was concurrent with her beginning to insist this must be her role as convincingly as a great daemon new through the rift. It turns out she isn’t ready to be quickly processed into a Jaeger pilot, but also that what Pentecost could only see as a disaster—her early trauma truncating the influence of her bond partner and dominating her while in control of a deadly giant—is viewed by someone she has the capacity to form the deepest bond with, if he can be made to part of even this. Having scared everyone to death, everyone in the base parts from her, but isolation from them but guides the creation of a quiet cocoon where she and Raleigh can reconnect after each one has witnessed and experienced what has mostly constituted their current identities. This disaster developed into a miracle you’ll hardly ever see in crisis times—a profound improvement in understanding and earned trust. And one senses in exultation after a hard-won victory, that here between Raleigh and Mako you’ve got a development, a creation of a mature bond, you’d stake against any engineer’s “fifty diesel muscles per muscle strand” to show that humanity’s fate ultimately lies in its capacity to take on the hardest assignment, even in pressing times. Humanity wasn't ready to take it to the aliens, until all prudence had been shed. 


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