Posted by Cassandra T. in Movie Reviews, Pacific Rim on July 13, 2013
I just caught Pacific Rim earlier today with a bunch of friends and I like what I saw! Other than having plenty of action scenes watching machines battle monsters, I realized Pacific Rim is a perfect combination of the East and West culture in so many ways.
Plot in a nutshell: In the early future, the world is being attacked by Godzilla-style monsters called Kaiju in a bid to wipe out humanity and take over Earth. Countries all over the world unite to create Transformer-like robots called Jaegers in a battle to save Earth. The Jaegers are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. In man’s last stand against the Kaiju, they are down to a maverick former pilot Raleigh Becket (played by Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi) to combine forces and defend Earth from the Kaiju’s relentless attacks.
Here, East meets West with Godzilla-style monsters and western-style Transformers robots. Even the name Kaiju Jaeger is a mash of cultures – “Kaiju” is Japanese for “monster”, while “Jaeger” is German for “hunter”. East and West also meet, literally, in the form of the male and female lead Raleigh and Mako, where they develop an inter-cultural relationship.
Firstly, I thought it was awesome that they cast an Asian as the female lead. Yay to Asian power! While inter-racial relationships are uncommonly portrayed in Hollywood films, inter-cultural relationship portrayals are even rarer.
Being in an inter-cultural relationship myself, I can definitely relate to that! I am Singaporean Chinese and my boyfriend is a white American. Perhaps since being in an inter-cultural relationship I have become more sensitive to similar couplings, but I have definitely noticed a significant increase in inter-cultural relationships in Singapore. I guess the general mind set is gradually changing and such relationships are becoming more socially acceptable, not only in Singapore but around the world.
Pacific Rim’s inter-cultural coupling shows that in this new progressive global society, different cultures are not only mingling, they are coming together to combine forces and are more powerful together. The final battle against the Kaiju was in Hong Kong, where the western forces were fighting off the monsters against an Asian backdrop – another sign of East meets West.
One part of the show which I found interesting was how a father-daughter dynamic was portrayed between Stacker Pentecost, the commander of the Jaeger forces (played by Idris Elba), who is African-American, and Mako. Typically in movies, the roles played by minority races are pretty one-dimensional, with the characters usually playing sidekicks and not much of the characters’ background developed or mentioned. Thus, for the writers Guillermo del Toro (also director of the film) and Travis Beacham to develop the relationship between two minority races was surprising, yet touching.
I was also particularly interested in Mako’s character. Del Toro stated: “I was very careful how I built the movie. One of the other things I decided was that I wanted a female lead who has the equal force as the male leads. She’s not going to be a sex kitten, she’s not going to come out in cutoff shorts and a tank top, and it’s going to be a real earnestly drawn character.”
However, Mako seems to be a mix of del Toro’s intention to create a strong female lead, with Hollywood’s stereotype of an Asian female as docile and submissive. While she didn’t dress like Lara Croft or be the sex kitten Mikaela Banes in Transformers, I definitely felt her character could have been more kick-ass. Mako is supposed to be the cream of the crop, holding her own in a physical fight against Raleigh. However, the scenes where she keeps peeking at Raleigh, bashfully slamming the door or running away when he looks at her make her seem childish.
Also, once she gets into the Jaeger, she is not only emotionally incapable of controlling herself; she hardly has any lines and mostly does wheezing and fainting. Not that there were any memorable lines from her even before she got into the Jaeger (my bff Michelle said it was probably because people wouldn’t understand her English!). The only decent line I remember from her was her retort to Raleigh about obeying orders from General Pentecost: “It’s not obedience. It’s called respect.”
So why did del Toro have the female lead engage in teenage, immature behaviour when she could have been a powerful, independent kick-ass character? It is an intentional sexist move, making her less powerful and independent from the male lead. Did Del Toro feel the need to “dumb down” the female lead so as to make her more acceptable to the audience? It is the age-old Hollywood way of screen-play writing, where a powerful minority or a woman cannot be seen as equally powerful to the white male lead.
I would have preferred a more self-confident, outspoken Mako who can hold her own not only in terms of fighting, but also in attitude. We definitely need to get rid of that docile, submissive Asian female Hollywood stereotype!
And finally, I wish we’d got to see more of the other Jaeger pilots in action, especially the Russian Jaeger Cherno Alpha! Love the matching hair colours and super cool we-don’t-take-shit-from-anyone-especially-kaijus vibe. The actress is a dead ringer for Gwen Stefani!