Pacific Rim is like a Dumb XCOM

Posted on July 30, 2013 by richardgoulter
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Pacific Rim is quite a cool movie, in the way that giant robots fighting giant monsters is cool.

But so much of the setting of the movie is just plain stupid, in that your average joe would be able to plan a more intelligent defense from an alien invasion (or a more intelligent alien invasion. ;-) ).
Probably this is because to have a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, the brain has to get left behind at some point; but my brain is allowed to have it’s say too. :-)

Spoiler warning, btw; but on the other hand, it’s not really a movie where plot is important.

For example, the aliens start off sending weaker monsters solo, and progressively lead up to (in an exponential pattern!) sending triplets of huge, powerful monsters.
Why not just send in a trio of super powerful ones at the start?
Another example would be that the monsters all enter the world from the same exact place (a magical portal).
Why not just spawn-camp on top of the portal entrance?

Weaknesses of plot aside,
The whole ‘giant-base as the central command of a special fighting units, saving the earth from progressively stronger monsters’ reminded me quite a bit of XCOM. (Wherein from a central command you send a special fighting unit to save the earth from progressively stronger aliens…). - They even sell alien things on a black market!
I guess XCOM had dumb alien invaders, also; but again the narrative/gameplay to be gained justifies that.

But in many ways, XCOM gets away with the alien-invasion trope which Pacific Rim didn’t.
With aliens flying in with spaceships, it’s somewhat more believable that the aliens can’t be intercepted at the point of origin. (Maybe the alien spaceships have stealth technology?). But from a single portal, the monsters of Pacific Rim could easily be overpowered as they entered Earth.
XCOM involves fighting alien spacecraft in the air with fighter-planes, and fighting aliens on the ground with soldiers. (Maybe a bit of air-support, or gunships a la Transformers - another movie where giant aliens invade earth - would be better; gameplay aside..). Pacific Rim has exclusively giant robots, in fisticuffs; with giant plasma cannons or rockets as an afterthought (like on Saturday morning cartoons. Not necessarily unenjoyable, but not particularly cerebral).
XCOM’s narrative makes much greater use of “scientific” research from killed aliens so as to better equip earth’s defences. Pacific Rim doesn’t say anything so clever as “go for the brains”. (Though the scientists of PR do advance the plot in the style of Lord of the Rings, by peeking into the mind of the enemy).

Pacific Rim is indeed fun, but I couldn’t help but be nagged that by these things.

I should consider, though, whether PR could have improved fairly on these.
As to the single portal; it would be a more dramatic invasion if the monsters were able to close, re-open the portal anyplace, anytime; the worldwide, city-based defensive placements of giant robots makes more sense in that case. As to weaknesses of conventional, less-cool-than-giant-robots weaponry.. I call bull. (Humanity have refined killing shit too damn well). Surely the same mindset which enjoys giant robots also enjoys machine guns and explosions? Monsters where long-distance combat plays a more vital role would help. (In the Starship Troopers movie, those big aliens shoot plasma flak at the dropships, while the smaller aliens prove too much to be mere cannon-fodder for the infantry.. though I guess Starship Troopers was also a dumb-but-fun movie).
And perhaps playing up the “scientific research makes for more powerful stuff” is too gameplay-ish for a short narrative like a film.

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