One of my twice-a-day internet stops is the A.V. Club. Their television coverage is the best on the web, and they also serve as a handy hub for news items that usually perk my interest throughout the day. What isn't so great is their film coverage because, for whatever reason, it's never as in-depth as their television reviews and is sometimes packed to the brim with too much snark. Take this posting about Pacific Rim, a pretty good popcorn flick, that casually dismisses a reading of the film from Zhang Jeli of China.
He noticed, and quite deservedly, that Pacific Rim has a strong nationalistic tendency toward American power. This was responded to not by reading the film itself, but by pointing to the multinational means of its production and when Del Toro had given an interview stating that the film was meant as a response to that kind of movie. These are all valid things to point out, but fails to take into account how many big budget films are multinational productions (and no element of a production that large is almost ever done by mistake) and how the words of the creative head can only go so far (William Faulkner's own take on The Sound and the Fury seemed to change based on what mood you caught him in). If the reading by Zhang was off the mark, it should have been countered with another reading. I completely agree with it.
The story of Pacific Rim is where the sheer power of American exceptionalism coopts the best of other countries in order to counter a global threat. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the only two other superpowers present in the film serve as different representations of Communism and, by extension, are shallow caricatures of the countries they represent. The Russians and Chinese are both almost devoid of individuality in their characters to the point where even gender lines nearly cease to be. This might be interesting in and of itself, but on the American side we've got a culture clash between the main male and female characters partly because of their national identity. It's hard not to read the hegemonic American influence on Mako when her back story is one giant metaphor for World War II and the devastation visited on the Japanese by Americans. That's also why the most interesting part of the entire film is when she fully assimilates into the American culture in the drift and gains true power, not coincidentally by wielding a gigantic American penis in the process.
At that point Pacific Rim is on the same level of visual subtlety as Top Gun. Both films are still great fun to watch, and both can be nitpicked incessantly for their visual language and the nationalistic messaging underneath. This may be something that I'll tackle in a longer piece later on, but I wish that there would be more people who were willing to read the film instead of just respond with some quick jokes and observations that aren't placed in a larger context. But we all have the time and space to say our piece as it comes and goes, and this is my bit on Pacific Rim for today.
In more important news, I'll have a review of Super Buddies up tomorrow.