“Pacific Rim”: The Most Exciting, Monster-Filled Anti-Pollution PSA Ever

Warner Bros. Pictures

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Pacific Rim
Warner Bros. Pictures
131 minutes

“Today we are canceling the apocalypse!” commanding officer Stacker Pentecost (played by the mega-talented Idris Elba) screams, rallying his troops as they prepare for the climactic battle in the war against alien aggressors.

The aliens in Pacific Rim are Kaiju, skyscraper-crushing colonizers from another dimension. The amphibious monsters emerge from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, start flattening cities, kill tens of thousands of civilians, and kick off a world war. Nations set aside their differences in order to fight the new enemy as trusting allies (a common geopolitical theme in alien-invasion flicks) build gargantuan robots called Jaegers to defend humanity against its Godzilla-sized foes. The humanoid robots—whose appearances provoked the inevitable slew of Transformers comparisons—are each operated by two pilots in a cockpit inside their heads. The international Jaeger program trains an elite, ethnically diverse crew of scientists, technicians, and “rock star” fighters.

“Making Pacific Rim was a lot like what you imagined making movies would be like when you were 12,” screenwriter Travis Beacham said. And that it is. Director Guillermo del Toro makes the large-scale battle sequences thunderously exciting, and drenches them in neon and an urban visual poetry. The sci-fi epic is visually stunning in a manner practically made for IMAX 3D consumption. On top of that, it has heart and charm to spare, and it’s populated by likable and funny characters that audiences can genuinely care about (with fine performances all around, particularly from Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Hunnam, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia funnyman Charlie Day).

But here’s the kicker: In the same way that the real enemy in Michael Bay‘s action film The Rock is the US government and not the renegade general, the true culprit in Pacific Rim isn’t actually a sea monster from another dimension. It’s pollution. That’s the root cause of the apocalypse that the Jaeger pilots are charged with canceling.

In a short, yawn-and-you’ll-miss-it monologue toward the beginning of the film, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) explains why the Kaiju suddenly began cropping up. Geiszler has found definitive proof that during prehistoric times, the world-conquering creatures avoided our planet because they couldn’t stand the earth’s oceanic conditions or atmosphere. But as modern civilization pumped more and more pollutants into the Pacific and shredded the ozone layer, the human race made the world a hospitable environment for Kaiju to roam.

So there’s the moral of the story for you: Quit ruining the planet, or else malicious aliens the size of the Vatican will come and eat your hometown.

It’s a decent enough message. But since the film’s release comes in the same week we learned that pollution causes sharknados, I’m starting to sense some potential overkill coming from the entertainment-environmentalist complex. Or I suppose you could just enjoy the damn thing as—in the words of one American entertainer—a dazzling “Robots Punch Monsters” summer blockbuster.

And on that note, here’s a trailer for Pacific Rim:

Pacific Rim gets a wide release on Friday, July 12. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more TV and film coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin’s reviews and culture reporting, click here.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest