And so, after all this, we arrive at the thing I really hated about Pacific Rim…not that this is the only offender, because the same damn thing happens at the end of Superman Returns, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness and many more: The hero has a long, agonizing sequence where he sacrifices his life so everybody else will live...and then it turns out he’s just fine.
This is the ultimate slap in the face to the audience: they force us to choose between our heroes, feel sad but proud of our hero’s final sacrifice and noble death, only to then say “oh, nevermind”, which just guarantees that we’ll feel nothing on our way home (nothing but annoyed, that is).
Once again, the audience is left to ask “But how could he survive what he and everybody else clearly understood to be a suicide mission? And why would the movie instantly deaden all those emotions it had briefly created?” Then you have to say, “Oh, I guess because of the sequel”...But there are two problems with that:
- Precisely because the ending squandered its last chance to form an emotional connection with that audience, there’s not going to be good word of mouth and therefore there’s not going to be a sequel.
- It should have been obvious to everybody on set that Hunnam was the movie’s biggest liability and their best hope for having a decent sequel would have been to kill him off while they had the chance.
But let’s go back to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, because that shows the greatest irony here: Presumably, these movies wimp out on killing the hero because the studio insists that their star be around for sequels. But what if Pacific Rim had ended with Hunnam disappearing into the breach, and a blast coming out that seals up the breach, and then all of his colleagues memorializing him as the credits rolled. Would they really have been screwed over if they wanted him back for a sequel?
Couldn’t Pacific Rim 2 begin with his co-pilot getting a twinge of a mind-meld from Hunnam and realizing he’s still alive on the other side of the breach, and he’s warning about a new attack, and they have to go rescue him? That sounds like a pretty interesting movie, right?
Instead, they’ve reset everything back to zero, which is actually a horrible place to leave it. What’s the sequel going to be now? The breach reopens, more monsters come out, and our heroes suit up again to have another fight. Ho-hum. Resetting the status quo at the end of your movie does your movie and your sequel no favors.
But wait, tomorrow we’ll get one final thought, also about this ending…