Friday, July 12, 2013

My thoughts on Pacific Rim; or, Why Chuck Hansen should've been a girl

Tuesday night, Batman got passes for us to go to an advanced screening of Pacific Rim. If you're like me and knew nothing about the movie, here's the trailer:

I went in without really caring much about it, which probably worked in its favor. Because I thought it was awesome! Lots of fun, lots of action, an interesting world with a lot of possibilities for future sequels/prequels/spin-offs, etc. The plot was pretty by-the-book (it was exactly - EXACTLY - like Independence Day, but with mechs/Jaegers instead of fighter pilots) and the characters were one-note archetypes, but I really enjoyed it. If I were to see it again, I would not choose IMAX 3D (or at least, not in the front like we were for the screening) because I thought I was going to be sick for the first ten minutes. It took me almost the entire cold open to get used to the effects, and there were a few scenes throughout the movie that were incredibly headache-inducing. On the whole, though, it was one of the best action movies I've seen in a while.

Which brings me to my idea for how to make it even better! As you can tell from the trailer, the Jaegers are piloted by teams of two (and in one case, three). The partners have to "drift" - allow their minds to meld together - in order to successfully pilot the mechs, so it helps if they're related in some way. That's not always a necessity, though.

If you've already seen the movie, my AU/fanfic musings are below. If you haven't seen it and want to remain unspoiled, now's your chance to bail.

Still with me? Okey dokey...

I propose that the star of the movie should've been Chuck Hansen, the hot-headed, brash Australian with daddy issues. And I think he should've been a girl.

In my version (which I will happily act out with action figures, if anyone's game), the movie opens with the fight in Japan. Mako is rescued by Stacker, who has to give up piloting the Jaeger due to health problems. His partner, Herc Hansen, suggests allowing his daughter (still Chuck, because it worked for Pushing Daisies) to replace him. Fem-Chuck still has daddy issues: her mother abandoned them when she was young, so Chuck grew up idolizing her militaristic father and wanting to emulate him, even going so far as to apply for the Jaeger program to follow in his footsteps. She and her father are compatible driftmates (of course) and they go on to become one of the most successful Jaeger teams in the world. Chuck deals with feelings of inadequacy because she's trying to fill the void left by both her mother and Stacker. Plus, she's one of the first female Jaeger pilots and the near-future is about as progressive and female-friendly as our current society. She's constantly fighting for what she feels is her rightful place in society, and it makes her not very pleasant to be around as a result.

Years pass, and the Jaeger program is being shut down in favor of building the walls. Chuck and Herc travel to China, where they learn that Herc's old partner is putting together a team with the goal of blowing up the portal to the Kaiju homeworld. Mako is given the opportunity to partner with Raleigh. Stacker is against this, because he wants to protect his adopted daughter and keep her from turning into Chuck. Chuck is antagonistic to them both because she sees it as favoritism; she's used to being the female prodigy, but Mako is just as adept and has trained just as hard as she did. This is also the first time she's seen Mako since their initial meeting, and as a result Chuck is reliving her old feelings of inadequacy and abandonment. It messes with her concentration during the Hong Kong attack, leading to her father getting injured and their subsequent rescue by Gypsy Danger. When Herc is unable to go on the final strike against the breach, Chuck and Stacker team up. (They're highly compatible driftmates because they have both worked with Herc.) There's no need for Stacker to be snarky to Chuck about her "daddy issues;" if anything, he can relate because of his bond with Mako. When they have to sacrifice themselves to help Gypsy Danger destroy the portal, Chuck realizes that this is something she can do to really make a difference in the world and help save it. She's always wanted to make her father proud, and now she has the chance to do exactly that. Stacker recognizes this and realizes that he's giving his daughter a chance at a life free from the pressure of living up to him. He would much rather die a hero, helping to save the world, than have Mako watch him slowly die a painful death from radiation poisoning.

I realize that my version isn't perfect (Why doesn't Herc have radiation poisoning, too, if he's been piloting a Jaeger even longer than Stacker?), but I don't care. I'd much rather watch a female protagonist with actual characterization and motivation than three nearly identical (seriously, you can't tell these guys apart) men who are all variations on the action-hero trope. Also, I think it would be interesting to explore a father/daughter relationship, especially within the context of the drift.

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