-by Gabrielle Friesen, student staff
Edit additions added on 8/05/13
Pacific Rim is a really great movie about robots punching monsters, and you should really go see it. In the second scene of the movie, it looks like yet another generic Hollywood action film. One white guy growls to another white guy something about muscles while piloting a giant robot suit. This generic opening is brilliant though, in that it shows what the movie could have been: another dumb white-dude centric action movie. But the movie quickly moves away from that, not only injecting soul into what at first glance was a generic action archetype, but reversing almost every stupid Hollywood action movie trend throughout the rest of the film.
The music is beautiful, the cinematography is fantastic and smart, action scenes are constructed so you can actually see what is going on, the monsters and robots have great designs, and the world building is phenomenal. More importantly: People of color are some of the main heroes in the movie – some of the best and brightest the world has to offer, manages to be critical and on the nose about classism in one short scene, the movie doesn’t require all its heroes to be able-bodied in order to be heroes, a woman of color is a central actor in saving the world and has an accent that is not played for laughs or as proof of villainy, a global threat is actually fought by global actors and not just the U.S., friendship and teamwork are more important than (U.S.) individualism, and there are no scenes framed by the Male Gaze but instead a scene shot from the Female Gaze. Additionally, director/writer Guillermo del Toro specifically meant for:
- there to be no central romance and instead a central friendship between a man and a woman (even as movie reviewers read in “sexual tension,” but are objectively wrong and shallow about it)
And, y’know, robots punching monsters.
Parts of the movie are a little iffy: the main Jeager’s name is Gipsy Danger supposedly named after a motor component in WWII, but still being one letter away from a slur for the Roma people, and a lot of toys are just being called Gypsy Danger. And the movie is still fairly white dude heavy, there are no lgbtq characters, and the Bechdel test is not passed. However, the movie still comports itself way better than most stuff coming out of Hollywood, and on the things I am allowed to make calls on, namely the Bechdel test and lack of lesbians, the good far outweighed the bad for me. Basically, this movie is only playing until the 6th, (in Boulder at least) [edit: apparently this isn’t true, the movie is running for longer, giving everyone more time to see it] so seriously think about seeing it before its stops showing.
[I read this very interesting article on the appropriation of kaiju a few days after publishing this post. Its well worth the read.]
The trailers before the movie, though, did think Pacific Rim was just a dumb, offensive action movie, though, and fit that theme accordingly. That being said, trailers are often constructed in a way that isn’t true to the actual film, so maybe I’ll be proven happily wrong about these films, as much as I doubt it.
Captain Philips: Yup, pirates are bad. From the looks of it though, it doesn’t seem like the movie will make any attempts to talk about the political situation in Somalia, or the fact that some pirates have viewed themselves as “coast guards,” protecting against other countries illegally dumping toxic waste off their coastline, or to add any sort of depth or nuance to the pirates. The movie looks like it will just play out as noble white dude saves the day from scary dark foreigners. The trailer makes note that the movie is Based on a True Story. Sure, but there are more than one true stories. Why not have a True Story about the Somali civil war, following several characters navigating the collapse of government? Why is Hollywood invested in this movie specifically, why do they think the American public will want to see yet another movie where black men are scary and evil? (Rhetorical questions, by the way.)
Paranoia: Whatever. Really, just, whatever. Everything about this looks like a million other movies I’ve seen before. Disposable love interest. Brilliant white dude hero rises, white dude hero betrayed, white dude hero gets revenge. The world of corporatism. It looks like any show on the USA Network right now.
Jobs: Its probably fine on its own, and Steve Jobs is an important figure in our world. Call me bitter, but it really just seems like it will be yet another piece of rhetoric in the false cultural narrative of men as innovators, with women completely absent. There were one woman in the opening of the trailer, and she is in bed with Jobs (Ashton Kutcher). Men create, women sleep with creators. The trailer calls him The Original Innovator. Sorry, try Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, wrote the first recognized algorithm, and was ahead of her peers in foreseeing a computer’s abilities beyond simply solving equations:
“Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
What a radical lady. We’ll never get a movie of her life, with a fucking Mackelmore song playing in the trailer, or a scene of her spinning inspirationally in a field of wheat.
Seventh Son: There’s a line in the trailer where the lady love interest tells the main young dude “we’re not all evil, you know” (its at about 1:33 in the trailer). The way the trailer is constructed, with the main villain being a lady who looks like she turns into a dragon, and two dudes out to hunt down her, and the forces of evil, which include witches, makes this line play out hilariously. It sounds more like she’s saying that not all women are evil, than not all witches/dragons/whatever are. The trailer really looks like another bland fantasy “epic,” with your generic young white guy and generic old mentor white guy saving the generic world from generic evil, which just happens to be coded as female. If Hollywood continues to translate fantasy books to movies, why not Dealing with Dragons and its two women protagonists? Princess purposefully goes to live with dragons to avoid marriage, has to deal with evil wizards and dragon monarchy and the search for a new King Dragon. Way more interesting than yet another old grizzled dude and his young dude apprentice stop the “forces of evil.”
Pacific Rim did a lot of things right, but it’s the kind of right that so rarely happens. I’m tired of walking out of movies feeling like I’ve been slapped. Pacific Rim made me genuinely happy to have watched the film. The movie trailers that played before Pacific Rim started, all “similar” movies, look like they’re every bit as one-sided, bland, and offensive as they’ve ever been. Hopefully, someone high up will learn something from Pacific Rim, and mainstream movies will figure out they don’t have to sacrifice action to be meaningful and good, and that they don’t have to shit on anyone who isn’t a straight white man to be watched.