kaigou: fangirling so hard right now (3 fangirling so hard)
[personal profile] kaigou
Went to see Pacific Rim (ohmygodholyfuckthatwasawesome). Had been letting lots of it stew and leaving the intelligent conversation to so many better commentaries across the web. Then [personal profile] margrave had some stuff to say about it. What tweaked me into posting was specifically this part:

It was why I loved Transformers; it was part of my childhood, and seeing Optimus Prime in an live action film was amazing. But it still didn't hit the spot because there was NO human pilot. It also lacked the parent-and-child theme that almost every giant robot series had. The need to do better, to be different or the same as their parent, to live up to, or to surpass their legacy, and just, it was such a Western film.

My take:

Bay's Transformers was a love letter... if the person writing had only ever read Letters to Hustler. That kind of lust love letter, complete with "it was SO BIG" and random exclamations of ridiculously physically-impossible feats concerning ridiculously numbers of orgasms. And big boobs.

Del Toro's Pacific Rim is a true love letter, paying homage to what's good and casting a forgiving eye on what's bad, and taking all the everyday things (like cliches) and seeing them as something to celebrate.

For me, though, being in tech and having to deal with the constant sense that if I want half the chance of the guys around me that I have to work twice as hard and prove myself three times more often, I think the point where I felt most despondent (in a "yeah, so not surprised") sense was when Raleigh asked Mako about the simulations and she admitted she'd gotten 51... out of 51. And yet not a pilot! Up to that point there had been only hints about the father/daughter relationship (and throwaway lines about how she'd re-engineered the Gipsy Danger and we'll ignore the quiet racism in that name), and I was all, well of course she's proven herself three times over and still gets no credit or chances. Then things move to the sparring scene and she proceeds to kick Raleigh's ass (without stripping down or getting her clothes ripped, no less) -- and I was totally expecting a sudden jump to the left, where she's the cocky rookie and Raleigh would be all like, no way are you sticking me with a rookie and somehow the story is about him learning to give her a chance and how he grows by leading blah blah blah.

But when they finish and she's won, there's not even a single instant of him being upset at being beaten. Instead he looks thrilled, so when he said (really loudly, too), this is my co-pilot. I was all like FUCK YEAH RECOGNIZE. There was no conflict apparent on his part, no worries about being shown up, but there also wasn't any machismo (the flip side of 'no worries' when Average White Guy Hero isn't intimidated because hey, he's the guy, he's naturally the best and doesn't have to prove himself the way everyone else does). It came across as pure and simple respect for Mako, and nothing to do with being a girl (or not being a girl) or being sexualized or not. She's his match and then some, and he doesn't require any intense soul-searching to want to be partnered with her, nor any agony on his part about not being the best himself. She is, and after that he doesn't waver from wanting to partner with her. Which makes sense -- if you know you're outgunned, why waste time with egos, you want the best chances to survive -- but that kind of common sense rarely enters the Hollywood equation. This time it did.

It was just icing on the cake to see that reaction to someone who is NOT the usual Average White Guy counterpart, the pinup big-boobed blonde leggy supermodel -- but a WoC who's petite, intelligent, a little introverted, self-aware, and ambitious. Let's be honest, the few women who ever get recognition (outside of the extreme outliers like Ripley) are inevitably ones who fit into the slender-and-leggy-and-white mold. Usually with long hair, at that.

I still would've liked to see her be part of the final crisis-moments... but this is one instance where I'll forgive it. Mostly because she's such a complete character in her own right, not just some walking tabula rasa for slacker wet dreams. And because what she's just seen and Raleigh had been there and knows what that does to a person. So he lets her know she's done enough and gets her to safety. I was tensed for the final kiss because hello, Hollywood, and I was absolutely thrilled when they did the forehead-hug instead. I'd never felt chemistry between them in kiss-sense, but I had felt family. It confirmed what I'd felt like, from their first real conversation, that Raleigh was adrift without his brother, and here's Stacker the quasi-father/uncle-figure, and meeting Mako was meeting a new half-sister. That forehead-touch proclaimed their status as siblings, to me.

Also, that young Japanese actress in the flashback? She was riveting. And language wasn't needed for the look on her face when Stacker appears. Hollywood likes to tell us that a woman/girl reaction would be: oh, my hero, I'll spend the rest of my life making sure he can continue saving me. All that enabling crap transitional damsels do, etc. No, I love that the movie/text and the young actress clearly reacted with I want to be that, too. I love that. I cannot say enough times how much I loved finally seeing a girl/woman onscreen have the same reaction I know I and plenty of my peers had to Star Wars and that ilk, where we don't look at the princess at all -- we're too busy looking at the hero not because we want him, but because we want to be the hero, too. It's about time a director/screenwriter got that we can think that, just like the boys.

(Somewhere, yet another reviewer said that it's like young!Mako's first sight of Stacker is as a god, and she said to herself: "I want to be a god, too." Not "I want to worship" but "I want to be." And having seen the film: yes, exactly, that.)

Now if only Del Toro had made the two scientists women, the movie would pass the Bechdel and be truly flawless. I'd be sending the man a love letter myself if he'd made one of them of color while he was at it. In my head, the german scientist is actually an Indian woman educated in Berlin and the american scientist is a short round black woman from Chicago. But if we get a sequel, maybe then he'd get to push things a bit farther, because from what I've seen of him in the past, he's not ignorant of women on-screen (as if Mako doesn't prove that ten times over). He just needs to add more women, and if there's any director who might (and do it well), it might be Del Toro.

ETA: I can't recall now which review mentioned this (I've read so many!) but I noticed it during the movie as well -- that Raleigh is remarkably polite and respectful. There was an essay awhile back on Salon about the beats of movie-writing and the formula, and that in the first 5-8 minutes we should get the theme, delivered to the hero by someone older/wiser/experienced. We get that, or what appears to be that: the timing is right, the dynamics are right, the framing sets off all the bells of Here Is Movie Theme: "don't get cocky, kid." Yet Raleigh is remarkably uncocky, really. He meets Herc and he's all, "yes, sir, no, sir." He meets Mako and his ego doesn't even enter the equation, he's downright obedient with Pentecost and backs down as soon as Pentecost makes it clear that that is enough, son. It feels a little like that theme-message got subverted, such that it's not "don't get cocky, because you're being cocky" but "don't ever become cocky." (iow, "don't ever start thinking you can go it alone".)

For that matter, Mako dresses Raleigh down about being a maverick kind of guy, but he doesn't really come across like one. The arrogant full-of-himself Australian pilot is what I'd expected, given the Average White Guy Hero template. Raleigh doesn't even push back when that other guy is being an outright ass (at least until the guy insults Mako, a scene I took as being less fight-over-the-girl and more you-insulted-my-sister, because the chemistry just wasn't there for the usual possessiveness, but it was totally there for the family vibes).

Also, in the Japanese theatrical dub, the woman voicing Mako Mori is not the actress, Rinko Kikuchi, although she is native Japanese and an experienced seiyuu -- idk, maybe work schedules played a role in her availability? Anyway, the seiyuu selected is, drumroll, Megumi Hayashibara -- who also voiced Rei, from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It's like the recipient of the love letter just wrote back and said, the feeling is mutual.
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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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