I loved the movie Pacific Rim. I watched it twice, back-to-back in theatres (in 3D, of course).
I loved the action and the spectacle. The battles, despite the one absurdity of giant robots fighting alien invaders had sense of realism that was rather unnerving. Everything but that (minor detail) was eerily plausible. I also liked the other messages found throughout. Mostly, though, I loved how it all came together as a kind of celebration of the value science and technology when coupled with human courage, ingenuity, innovation, self-sacrifice, individualism (when appropriate), and cooperation (when appropriate).
It’s the many minor messages within the movie that made it stand out from mindless summer action movie fare (which are fine, on occasion).
First, what I like the most: I liked abiding theme of science and technology being tools for human salvation. There are literally no scenes without some object of human ingenuity in view. The giant robots are man-machine saviours that aid humanity in fighting against grotesque organic monsters.
(As an aside: I like nature. I was raised in a rural area, and I enjoyed camping. But make no mistake, nature can be brutal, and it is only human scientific, technological, social, and other developments that can keep the monster at bay. If you doubt me, try surviving alone and without man-made equipment for a week in virtually any natural environment. You may not be dead, but you’ll almost wish you were. Where I live (just outside a city of 1 million), you’d be dead in less than 5 hours without winter clothing, six months a year. Nature can be subservient to us, but it must never again be our master. Precambrian humans had an average life expectancy of 31 years. Also, like the monsters in this movie, any number larger wild animals would kill a human without a second thought. A bear will rip a child to shreds. Wolves (prior to their gradual domestication by killing the more violent ones over the centuries), were a particularly large threat in Europe. An elephant will gore a grown man. And so on. **It is solely our scientific, technological, and social advancements made possible by an appropriate mix of individual initiative and group cooperation that keep the nightmare at bay.** The movie Pacific Rim acknowledges this. Unlike the technological luddism of, for example, the Terminator movies or Avatar [which both partially denigrate technology and science], this movie celebrates human achievement and progress. And movies could use more of that.)
I liked that movie (unlike almost all American blockbusters) takes place in several locations, none of which are large American cities. The United States comprises about 5% of the global population, and it’s nice to see that represented in an American blockbuster. And how many times do you really want to see New York destroyed, for instance?
I appreciated the message that both cooperation and individual initiative are prudent and necessary. The fight against (for instance, there are several instances of insubordination and deviations from military procedure, but they mostly involve serving the greater good).
I liked the love story component. The lead man was not a handsome male Brad Pitt lookalike, and the female love interest was not the typical American supermodel of action flicks. Rather, she was an English-speaking Chinese national who models the very best traits of many females from that culture. She is polite and respectful, yet stands up for her beliefs non-confrontationally, and is obviously intelligent. She is fully independent. She is entirely equal to, yet “different” from the main male protagonist.
I appreciated the cursory mention of the cause for the alien invasion: global environmental degradation, the (spoiler) reason for the alien invasion.
Although there is much “apocalyptic porn” (hey, I like it too), the body count is actually quite low. While we see entire skyscrapers destroyed, because civilians are evacuated in shelters, the number of civilian casualties is less than 100. (Contrast that with “Man of Steel”, which had a casualty count of six or seven figures).
It was nice to see scientists portrayed are heroes. The two scientist characters literally risk their lives to test a theory and gain evidence that is crucial to a positive outcome. This world needs more scientists and technologists. Even the characters’ stereotypical eccentricity is endearing: they have their foibles, but they are each aware of it. Sometimes, human foibles are unavoidable, and condemning people for harmless quirks that they cannot change serves no purpose.
If I had one complaint, it’s that the movie is too short. It’s 2 hours and 10 minutes. However, there is less action than I would have liked. It’s not that there is too much “non-action” content. It’s just that another 30 minutes or so of giant robot battles would have been swell.
Did I mention I loved the movie? It’s “Two thousand five hundred tons of awesome”.