Folks might tell you Pacific Rim is about “Monsters and Giant Robots!” 
They’re only half right. 
There’s a lot more going on in this film and I’ll try to convince you that Pacific Rim is really about: 
Growing up, releasing your ego attachment to your past and to your family. 

I can hear your groans of disbelief right now but here’s my argument. 

1. THE UMBILICAL CORD THEME
In the scene where the baby monster bursts from its monster mother, it is choked to death because it is still connected to its umbilical cord. You could say it was still tethered to its past, the previous generation, and could not proceed. That attachment killed it. 
In the model that is continually shown of the breech between our world and the other world, it appears as a ‘tether’ a connection or umbilical cord. 

2. WE NEED TO BREAK ATTACHMENT, NOT FIGHT THE SYMPTOMS 
This movie contains the ‘need to blow up the center of the death star’, ‘kill the queen alien’, ‘destroy the mother ship’ trope. It’s a common one. You’ll often see it as the ‘kill the witch and all her minions and spells will be vanquished.’ 
Here, this is (as I argue) the ‘break the attachment’/Buddhism theme. They need to cut off the umbilical cord connection to the other world, not just keep fighting the things that jump out from it. 
We see the clearest example of this when during a battle scene, the Robot’s arm crashes through an office building and gently clicks one of those desktop ‘Newton’s Cradle’ things–you know, those ‘hanging clicking balls’ things. 
This tap of the Newton’s Cradle is an image of karma…that there will always be an equal pushback and effect. Sure, the robot’s could keep getting stronger but so would the monsters. You need to get to the source. Break the attachment. 
Before you argue that the Newton’s Cradle is ‘just cute!’ consider its placement within the frame I’m presenting.

3. ATTACHMENT IN PACIFIC RIM IS ABOUT GENERATIONAL RELATIONSHIP AND MEMORY. 
The lead character (Raleigh Becket played by Charlie Hunnam) is very connected to his twin. He grieves, and grows from the loss and is able to then find new trust and connection from a new equal/peer/lover. 
The leader of the missions, Pentecost (played by Idris Elba) finally gives up the attachment to his ‘adopted’ daughter Mako (played by Rinko Kikuchi) when he hands her the red shoe he had been holding onto and allows her to go into battle. 
Just as children must let go of their family connection attachment to become fully adult, so adults need to let go of their attachments to their children to allow their children to flourish and allow themselves to continue in their own flourishing. 
To connect effectively with another robot driver, one has to ‘let go’ of thought and memory. At one point Raleigh says that the ‘drift’ is silence. A Jaeger driver may be drift compatible with another, and may have access to the equipment to meld, but they still have to ‘let go’ of their attachments. 

4. NON ATTACHMENT TO THE PAST, AND FAMILY RELATIONS ALLOWS YOU TO FLOURISH AND FIND LOVE AS AN ADULT. 
Note that upon severing the umbilical ‘breach’ to the other world, Miko and Raleigh then rise to the ocean surface in what look like coffins. They emerge from those ‘raft/buoy/coffins’ and connect in a kiss. Their new lives are in a sense resurrected as adults to freely love because of non-attachment. 
This adult love does not need to mean necessarily ‘romantic love’ though here it is pictured as such. 
Of course the ‘subliminal as underwater’ theme is likely throughout the film. 

 

I hope that this brief analysis of what Pacific Rim is really about was helpful to you! 
Surely there are more interpretations of the film and I welcome your suggestions, critiques, and differing viewpoints! 

MindFlowers

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The Coens have made the most plainly and accessibly theological American film in a number of years with A Serious Man.

By theological, I mean to say that it rests in the theological mood, one of pious questioning rather than of dogmaticism or creedalism. Certainly we have seen the rise of the true cinematic powerhouse Tyler Perry whose work is rife with faith, celebration of the Christian tradition, and stirring testifying of the Gospel, but Perry’s work and Christian bookstore oddity Fireproof (starring off-the-deep-end Kirk Cameron) are of the creedal type rather than theological.

The Coens pay homage to their Judaic tradition of ‘wrestling with G-d’, of questioning the One Who Isn’t Obliged To Answer. I for one have always felt more attuned to this stance in life and is in part why I was so attracted to this film.

It is a modern depiction of a ‘Job like trial’ surely, but it also poses the question that arises from the tension in the Tanakh, the Jewish Scriptures. Does the sins of one generation impact the judgment of the next or not?
“…I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,” –Deut. 5:9
or
“…The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”–Ezek. 18:20

We find this tension immediately after the Yiddish ‘Prologue’ where the editing is done so that we are made to believe that the son and the father are one. The camera trains on close ups of their ears–awakening the audience to ‘listen with their spiritual ears’. The Son (Danny) and Father (Larry) are closely aligned in the film: both are facing hardships and are on a spiritual path–one on his way to Bar Mitzvah the other caught in the labrynth of day-to-day life and the conundrums that accompany it.

Many have found similarities between A Serious Man and the Biblical portrayal of Job.
I would say that the Coens have creatively stepped back from the Job story.
Whereas in Job we are told that Job’s problems are indeed the result of a wager between the Accuser and the Lord, in Larry’s case we never know.
The question of Job is “why do bad things happen to good people?” to which God answers essentially “none of your business! I’m in control around here so quit yer yappin’.”
The question we’re presented in this film is “Can we ever know if God is involved in our lives at all?” and the answer is essentially “nope.”

Whether God is involved or not, you are left in a double bind.
This is set-up in the ‘Prologue’ which is made to feel like an ol’ Yiddish tale from the shtetl was in fact written by the Coens and though they have said in interview that the story has no connection to the film, it plainly does.
The double bind as presented in the Prologue is this:
If the man is truly a dybbuk the family will experience hardship because it is a supernatural curse.
If the man is not a dybbuk, the family will be cursed because they just killed a man.
Bottom line: you’re screwed no matter what choice you make and you’ll never know if God or supernatural influence had any part in it.

This is the double bind of Larry, and I would offer of many alive in contemporary society.
Life seems miserable. Is it God’s doing? Is there something we should change? Do our choices matter? Are we reading meaning into common everyday occurrances to find a ‘something more’?
Whether you believe in God or not, you are given no answers and no solace is found.

In fact, there would seem to be a simplicity in not trying to find the answers. In their previous film No Country For Old Men Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is troubled by the seemingly increasing violence of his world. In the opening voiceover he gives what could be the final words of the film:
“…You can say its my job to fight it [the crimes of Anton Shigur and the evils he represents] but I don’t know what it is anymore. More than that, I don’t want to know. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He would have to say: Okay, I’ll be a part of this world.”**

It is perhaps easier to turn away from the darkness, the realities of the human condition but to do so, by Sheriff Bell’s telling, you’re not a part of the world. Another double bind. You must face evil or turn away from it and be lost to yourself in a new type of horror: isolation, solipsism, passivity, vanity.

The film balances on a hinge point of decision: Larry’s changing of Clive Park’s grade at the end.
Earlier, Larry had told Clive that there were consequences to what occurred in his office. ‘Not just academic. Moral!’
He took the moral highground then, but later succumbed. (This is an interesting pattern in human experience where it is when one is through the hardship that they let their moral guard down–things are going good, ‘somebody up there must like me’.)
It is at that moment that we see the tornado threatening the son Danny.
(Job 40:6, “God answered Job from the whirlwind saying…”Do you think you’re as in control as I?”)

Was it a judgment upon Larry? Or was it coincidence?
The answer won’t come to Larry from God. Will we give it?

**No Country For Old Men Adaptation by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy

As an aside, I got a kick out of the three Rabbis we see in the film. The first and youngest is full of zeal and answers. The second is full of words that amount to little. The last and oldest, Marshak who we see in the above clip, wisely intones: “Be a good boy.”

Much has been written about Antonioni’s 1966 Blow-Up, but many analyses miss what I feel he was truly trying to convey in the film: a critique of Western artists’ inability to launch an effective response to the era’s violent upheavals the Vietnam War among them.
Many reviewers note the film’s stark portrayal of the listless Swinging London Town, full of moping faces and sense of ennui but fail to mark how the ‘hero’ of the film (Thomas) and the action are speaking to the zeitgeist.

Thomas is an Artist, a producer of pop culture and implicitly a narrator of the times. As he sees, he aids to inform others how to see themselves, others, the world. Despite all the power that is rightly or wrongly given him, he chooses to be powerless. His true impotence and fragility in the face of life is masked through his bullying, his sadistic treatment of his models, his ‘rockstar’ front complete with top-0f-the-line sportscar.

Thomas speaks of his ‘wife’ and though it is not clear exactly if she is partner, love interest, or wife , we can assume it is perhaps an ‘open marriage’. We see the theme of Thomas’ frustration where he sees her enraptured in making love to another. We see his confusion and his hurt as he exits the room. His energies and pathos we can imagine are poured into his other sexual adventures–famously a trio where full frontal nudity was first shown in England.

There is another hint at Thomas’ theme of potential that is lost to capricious aethesticism: his purchase of an airplane propeller. Just as his art is all the Mod rage and affords him groupies as expendible sexual experiences but does not further London’s society in any tangible way in the sense of values, justice, or artistic depth, so too does he own a symbol of flight without the power (or more appropriately interest) to do so.

The Spirit of the era bookends the film. We open to a band of revellers, a literal truckload of chaos swinging through the (eerily quiet) London streets. The city seems a blank slate with the Young staring at it, dreaming of what to do next. This Merry Band will close out the movie but I’ll get to that later…

The film operates as a suspense or mystery but cleverly undermines both in their conventions. There is no ‘payoff’ to either genre’s expectations, but as in many mysteries the ‘hero’ is explored as much as the crime. In Blow-Up, not only is Thomas searched out, but he is ‘solved’–that is, he comes to a conclusion.

His peers are seen to be as equally irresolute and aimless as Thomas. The antique shop worker wants to go away to Asia where there will be ‘no antiques’ in a quest for the new for the sake of newness. When Thomas goes to seek counsel about his photographs and to search for the mysterious woman in them, he is brought to a joyless music concert and an ornate mansion that has become a hollowed out drug den. The ‘scene’ is exactly that: flat and unconvincing scenery that appears not to fulfill or satisfy. 

At the concert, Thomas receives a piece of the band’s recently smashed guitar. Though he is suddenly mobbed by the crowd as though zombies going after brains and must fight his way just to get out of the concert hall he drops the guitar neck on the ground–what had been priceless and sought after one minute was garbage the next. What of their culture was lasting, worthwhile, truly valuable?

The ‘blow-up’ and the event it chronicled (crime or no?) are really a background to the ‘action’. This is a great trick of mystery films–a red herring to get the audience to look one way while under their noses the story’s hinge points go unnoticed. The park’s events and players whatever they are, can only be a point of conjecture (and I’d love to hear yours!) but we can make some solid statements about Thomas, which is The Who of what the film is about.

He does not call police or any authorities’ help. It is a project of the ego for him and more than that, an artistic endeavor. I see him not trying to ‘solve’ a crime, but seeing the potential ‘artistic’ value to a possible crime. He stares at what might be a new Zapruder film, a story of passion gone wrong. I see him more likely than not selling the pictures to a glossy magazine for the shock factor and whether or not the ‘case is solved’ is of no consequence to him. Surely he could be motivated by a distrust in authority but I venture it is an artistic ego that stands in the way of acting socially responsible. 

The only way Thomas does act upon the filmed event is to use it as leverage to gain sexual adventure. Make no mistake, his blackmailing Jane into sex over the pictures places Thomas low on the moral spectrum and is another hint that the film’s subject is not the ‘Park Event’ or the pictures. It is Thomas as he functions as a critique of culturally inactive and morally bankrupt Artists of the late sixties.

The final ‘conclusion’ of Thomas comes when he is confronted by the MerryMakers, the same truckload of mime-painted clowns we saw in the beginning. They meet in the park and the mimes take to a tennis court ‘playing tennis’ without ball or rackets. They are Chaos personified, the tide that sought to overwhelm the age, with antics that while high in gaiety and art were low in meaning, relevance, prophetic voice to their struggling culture.

He gives in to the chaos and plays by their rules as he ‘picks up’ the tennis ball and throws it. The magic takes over as the imaginary ball makes a noise–the dream has become reality and we the viewers have in a sense also crossed over with Thomas.

Any ideas about the Peace Protesters and the “Go Away!” sign?