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Do You Ever Wish You Could Just Turn the Feminism Off and Enjoy Pacific Rim?

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I went to see Pacific Rim last weekend and while the movie isn't without flaws, I can say as a former movie reviewer and lifetime movie enthusiast that it was fucking balls-to-the-wall crazy and I loved it.

It even had cute winks at one of my favorite John Carpenter movies, Big Trouble in Little China. What makes Pacific Rim a real success is that it doesn't shy away from silliness and camp. The post-Nolan Batman era is one that insists on making action films — even the goofy ones (I'm looking at you, Man of Steel) — deadly serious. Nolan's Batman series worked because it was an exception to the generally-accepted rule that superhero movies ought to be goofy. But when you're not Nolan, attempting to make your silly subject serious just makes for a dour and boring movie. Not Pacific Rim, though, which revels in Carpenter-y camp, particularly with the two scientists played by Always Sunny's Charlie Day and The Hour's Burn Gorman.


I normally hate action — especially when it's all CGI, but believe me when I say that the action in this movie is off the motherfuckin chain. At one point I remember sitting there clutching my head because I was overwhelmed by how crazy awesome the fight scene was AND THEN HALFWAY THROUGH A FIGHT WHICH INCLUDED A ROBOT WIELDING A BATTLESHIP LIKE A BASEBALL BAT AT A MONSTER, THE MONSTER GREW WINGS AND FLEW THE FUCK AWAY IT WAS SO NUTS YOU GUYS.



Two things: One, it bothers me that the super-secret mastermind in Hong Kong is a white dude. I won't tell you who it is, because the cameo is hilarious and awesome, but it is a little eye-rolly from a race standpoint.


And the big one, which nagged at me the whole time I was watching, is that there is literally only one woman in the entire movie with any kind of a plotline. I believe there is a second Russian woman. She gets a single line, maybe.

Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), the scrappy young wanna-be Jaeger* pilot, almost has a real story to call her own. But of course when it comes time to fight, it's Charlie Hunnam's slumber-inducing character, Raleigh Becket, who gets all the lines and all the action. Even when a conflict is presented — Mako can't help but slide into her bad memories of a Kaiju** attack when she was a child, which affects her ability to "Drift"*** with her co-pilot (seriously you have to just go with it) — it's not really "solved" and she doesn't get any genuine resolution to... anything.


In a movie crawling with male characters, it wouldn't have killed them to try a little harder with Mako. And in some ways, I would've preferred that it had been 100% male rather than the weak sauce they gave Mako who had to be "perfect at everything" yet totally devoid of any real importance or agency as the token female.


I like being a feminist, but sometimes I wish I could shut off that portion of my brain, because movies don't seem to be getting much more inclusive as time goes on (I'd argue that we've significantly regressed in this respect from the Winona Ryder heyday of the 90s) and I'd like to be able to just go and watch a movie without feeling endlessly frustrated that, once again, there's no real female characters to connect with.


*Robots designed to fight Kaijus, space monsters that have emerged from a time portal crack in the bottom of the ocean. Seriously, you just have to go with it.


** The time crack portal monsters.

*** A psychic bond between two pilots that allows them to operate the Jaegers in sync. You need to have a "close emotional bond" with the other pilot for this to work, so usually they use family members — brothers, husband & wife, etc.

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