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.

Date: 10 Aug 2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] branchandroot
Okay, I may have just made undignified squeaking sounds when I got to the bit about Hayashibara. Because...

Eeeeeeee! *collapses laughing with glee*

Date: 10 Aug 2013 09:40 pm (UTC)
ratoncito: cheesus (Default)
From: [personal profile] ratoncito
I had expected "Pacific Rim" to be just more rock-em, sock-em robots, but it not only surpassed my expectations but I found myself thinking about various scenes or details weeks later. Excellent movie, I thought, and really unappreciated by most people I know.

Interesting that Margrave wanted a human pilot- I liked Transformers because they DIDN'T have human pilots. In fact, I thought the movie would have been better if the robots had accidentally stepped on the humans.

And while "gypsy" is not a good thing to call Romani people, I think the "Gypsy Danger" was a reference to the de Havilland "Gypsy" aircraft engine, used in the Tiger Moth and still in service today.

Date: 11 Aug 2013 01:54 am (UTC)
margrave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] margrave
Hahaha - I agree in regards to the need to get rid of all humans by the bots in Transformers, what I was trying to say was that I loved Transformers, the cartoon and the first movie, but it wasn't my first love. My first love will always be human pilots in GIANT ROBOTS!!! BECAUSE I COULD PILOT GIANT ROBOTS! I loved Optimus Prime, but he was the one fighting and doing the protecting, not the tiny pilot. Though there was a period of a year when I wanted to be Optimus Prime.

Date: 11 Aug 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
margrave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] margrave
VOLTRON!!!!!! I only ever saw the badly dubbed English version too. But it wasn't really on air play anymore when I moved to an English speaking country.

My first giant robot love was GoShogun, the one with the orphaned boy who finds out his dad was the creator of a flying Fortress and 3 tiny flying fighter planes that joined together to FORM GO SHOGUN!!! And it was AWESOME, AND HILARIOUS, AND FULL OF ANGST! And gods, I loved it to bits. I WANTED TO BE THAT KID, even when it was revealed he was an alien, and his friends turned against him, and I spent weeks sad over it.

I was fully into Transformers, but then Optimus got killed and I just couldn't do it after that. I was heart broken and really traumatising.

The other formative show was a live action show about people piloting dinosaur robots, travelling to the past to fight aliens/dinosaurs, and there was the alien princess, and the robots combined, and at one point one of the pilot died, and everyone was sad, and OMFG! My childhood was basically all about giant robots fighting monsters/aliens, and people dying for the greater good.

That explains so much.

Date: 10 Aug 2013 10:31 pm (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
I watched the movie with a friend who's a military helicopter pilot, and what she loved was that Raleigh didn't act superior, but he did act like the senior officer mentoring a rookie. When Mako chased the RABIT, the first thing he said to Stacker was that it was his fault--it was his memory that started it, and his mistake that set her off; it's just not sensible or fair to blame the junior pilot for not fixing things when the senior one fucks up. Same with giving her his air, or putting her in the escape pod: she's injured and doesn't have the experience to finish piloting and get herself out on limited oxygen but he does, so he'll send her off, finish what needs finishing, and then bail himself.

What I love is that Pacific Rim follows the standard Campbellian hero myth... from a different perspective. Raleigh isn't the hero. He's the Wise Old Mentor, called out of retirement in the hour of need to call the new hero to her quest.

Date: 11 Aug 2013 12:46 am (UTC)
chibidrunksanzo: (The plan)
From: [personal profile] chibidrunksanzo
Pacific Rim was everything I wanted and more. Duo pointed out, and I agree and love, yes, Raleigh does have a bit of the "play by his own rules" thing going on (which is what makes him an excellent fighter against the Kaiju), he asks questions about Stacker's commands, but he's still polite about it. And when Stacker has a good reason or even says, "Drop it, kid"? He backs right down. I need to go see the movie again, this time in 3D IMAX. *nods decisively*

Date: 11 Aug 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
chibidrunksanzo: (The plan)
From: [personal profile] chibidrunksanzo
That's why I used that icon. =D

Also, in terms of genre love letters, Pacific Rim was, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." Transformers was, "Damn, bitch, yo booty's fine!"

Date: 11 Aug 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
margrave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] margrave

It is really hard to convey just how emotional I'm over the film, it was as if the writers and Del Toro reached into my brain and TOOK almost every childhood fantasy I had. And just every scene with little Mako made TEARS UP! And I swear the look on her face as she saw Stacker. Yeah, that's not just I'm thankful to be saved, that's OMFG! I want to be you one day so that I can be awesome, pilot giant robots, and save people.

In regards to the scientists; EXACTLY! OMFG! How awesome would it have been if both Newt and Hermann had been women, AND NOT have changed anything about their characterisation?! I really wanted one of them to been of colour, and in my head all I could think about was replacing Newt with Mindy Kapling. Mindy would have been amazing, especially when she turned up at Hannibal's door after the Kaiju attack. WANTED SO BADLY.

Total agreement in regards to Raleigh and Mako - SIBLING RELATIONSHIP!!!!! I want them to be bros post movie.and everyone being confused about it because they keep on thinking lovers.

Also, seiyuu list, HOLY FUCKING CRAP. I now need to watch the dub. That is a returned LOVE LETTER WITH KISSES AND HUGS!

Date: 11 Aug 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
margrave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] margrave
Financially, the movie is doing bad at the Northern American market (it's under $100 million), I think the talk is that if it can make $400 million globally then there might be a tiny chance for a sequel. It's doing huge business in SE Asia (of course it would, it's a movie that is a love letter to that market), around $200 million. The numbers are huge but I was reading about the budget, the film costs about $190 million to make, and cost about that much to market. So, even if they get $400 million that's still a tiny profit margin, if the DVD/BLURAY does well... Gods I hope it does well.

Date: 12 Aug 2013 02:20 pm (UTC)
petenshis: (Default)
From: [personal profile] petenshis
(I came over from LJ)

I agree with everything you said about Pacific Rim. It was so awesome and I was totally expecting the kiss at the end and preparing myself to be a little disappointed they went there and so I was thrilled when they just touched foreheads. So perfect and appropriate. I'm not sure about recasting the two scientists as women. I understand the desire to have it pass the Bechdel but at the same time, I think there are still a lot of stereotypes and ideas connected with the female role in society that would have bogged down the story. Instead of it just having this weird, crazy, genius scientist pushing the envelope (potentially screwing over the world by accidentally connecting with a Kaiju and offering incite into our side of things) there would have been this undertone of a woman screwing it up because she was a woman and if she'd just stayed in her place...terrible I know. And someday I hope women won't come with all of that extra baggage but for now, I think it's probably a direction Del Toro didn't want the film to go so maybe kept the characters as men for that reason.

Charlie Hunnam recently did a Nerdist Podcast and it was amazing. If you're interested you can hear it here: http://www.nerdist.com/2013/07/nerdist-podcast-charlie-hunnam/

He's incredibly articulate and well spoken, and such a manly dude but also really decent. And his story about facing a burglar with a machete is hilarious. They don't talk about his thoughts too much on Pacific Rim because it hadn't quite it theaters yet but he talks about working with Del Toro and his work with Sons of Anarchy a lot.