Why 'Pacific Rim' is a good movie for geek girls

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

There isn’t much entertainment out there for ladies of the geek persuasion — or to be more accurate, geek ladies and geek gentlemen attracted to other gentlemen. Well, at least there isn’t much marketed directly to us. But we all know the dirty little secret of being a geek lady in a predominately geek man’s world — there are a lot of hot guys in sci-fi movies. Pacific Rim, which opened yesterday, is no exception. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!

Pacific Rim is in no way a perfect movie. It’s plagued with corny dialogue, underdeveloped characters, and a predictable, anticlimactic ending. And like most sci-fi movies, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test, named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, requires a movie to include at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something besides a man. There are two named women in Pacific Rim — Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Lt. Sasha Kaidanovsky (Heather Doerksen). However, Doerksen has a small role, says a few lines (most of which are directed toward her husband and copilot), and dies in the middle of the movie. Kikuchi’s Mako is a central character with a dynamic story arc though she’s less active than her male counterparts. Unlike many ladies in sci-fi, she is not objectified or criticized solely on the basis of her gender — a conscious decision made by director Guillermo del Toro.

So what is there for a geeky woman to enjoy in Pacific Rim? Well, there’s plenty of male eye candy. Charlie Hunnam plays Raleigh Becket, who returns from a five-year hiatus to help fight alien kaijus. Without his flesh-toned beard and biker hair from Sons of Anarchy, Hunnam can’t hide his striking features from the audience — or his costars. Mako practically screams “I’m the audience’s surrogate!” as she looks through a peephole at Raleigh’s shirtless torso, marked with tattoo-like scars from his previous battles. The multiple voyeuristic peephole shots recall Psycho, but the fact that a guy is the object of the peeping offers a clever role reversal.

While Mako and Raleigh don’t so much as kiss on screen, their connection is undeniable. Raleigh and Mako’s sparring match is quite sensual, which, of course, discomforts her adoptive father, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Speaking of Elba, he proves that the tailoring of a quality suit can do wonders for the male form. With precise military haircut, expressive eyes, and an authoritative but ultimately loving demeanor, Elba proves to be a no-nonsense leader of the jaeger fighters battling the kaiju. Plus, he gets many of the film’s best lines, all delivered in his smooth, booming British accent.

True Blood‘s new addition Rob Kazinsky, as the inexplicably douchey jaeger fighter Chuck Hansen, might have been unwatchable if he wasn’t so hot. It’s never clear why Chuck is such an egotistical jerk — maybe he’s secretly in love with Raleigh. (If the film isn’t going to show any other reason for his brusque manner, then I’m going to make up my own.) I just wish I could have cared more about his tearful goodbye scene with his father and dog. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that his dad is played by Max Martini — I still miss Martini’s stony, almost too loyal bodyguard Frank Stevens on Revenge.

There’s a guy for just about everyone’s taste in Pacific Rim. For fans of the traditionally handsome, Homeland‘s Diego Klattenhoff briefly pops up as Raleigh’s brother, Yancy (as if to confirm that Morena Baccarin’s Jessica Brody should never have broken things off with good guy Mike). If you go for wise-cracking, goofy hipsters, there’s Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There’s even Burn Gorman if you’re drawn to Type-A, hunchbacked-from-too-many-hours-online scientists.

Regardless of the politics of objectification and gender representation, Pacific Rim is a fun spectacle — giant mechas, grotesque monsters, epic sound design, and attractive men galore. I’m still holding out for a sci-fi movie in which women aren’t mere tokens, but for now I’ll take what I can get.

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