Thursday, December 05, 2013
Rulebook Casefile: The Muddled Metaphor of Pacific Rim
The central conceit of Pacific Rim is that one pilot can’t control a giant robot without getting a nosebleed (heaven forbid!) so they have to have two pilots do a mind-meld in order to share the load. Okay, that’s somewhat interesting, but what’s the metaphor here? I guess you could say that that’s a metaphor for how real world co-pilots learn to work together…but that has nothing to do with the core concept of Monsters vs. Robots. The metaphor, to the extent that it exists, is muddled, inert, and extraneous.
Besides, the filmmakers don’t really care about this plotline: the whole first half is about how hard it is to mind-meld, and sure enough, the first time our heroes try it, they fail catastrophically, almost blowing up the base in the process. Naturally, they get fired...but then in the next big attack all of the other pilots fail and the boss has no choice but to call on our infamously-bad-at-mind-melding heroes. What will our troubled heroes see in each other’s memories this time, and will they be able to deal with it??
Sorry, we never find out, because once the movie finally gets to indulge in robot vs. monster mayhem, mind-melding is never shown or mentioned again! Who cares? We’ve got monsters to punch! We just have to assume the whole problem was dealt with offscreen, I guess.
This exemplifies so many problems we’ve talked about before. Mind-melding is hard to do but it isn’t hard to want to do. (It might have been if each pilot was trying to hide memories from the other, but neither one is.) The whole concept is an abstraction or an abstraction. Worst of all, this premise is neither how life is nor how life feels. You know how, in real life, if you want to defeat monstrous people, you have to reach into the memories of the person next to you? No? You’ve never felt that way? Of course not.
So what should they have done? Just look at the poster. I do freelance copywriting work for a book publisher, and one shocking thing they’ve taught me is that, if the premise for the book you’re selling is confusing or too dumb, you just lie about what it is in order to sell it, creating a tagline for what the book should have been. The buyers will be disappointed, of course, but hey, at least they bought it.
ironic, so he or she created a premise for the poster that was ironic, that did relate the basic concept. Monsters vs. Robots...what could go wrong with that? Well, what’s the most ironic answer? The robots turn out to be worse than the monsters! Then we’d have a movie!
We’ll explore that possibility more next time…