This post was written by Ocean Conservancy intern Sage Melcer.
Need an excuse to beat the summer heat at the movies this month? Check out sci-fi thriller “Pacific Rim.” The summer blockbuster, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (director of “Pan’s Labyrinth”), marries science fiction with marine science for cinematic gold.
“Pacific Rim” takes place in 2020 when alien-like monsters, called the Kaiju, start emerging from an undersea volcano, destroying countless cities and millions of people. In order to defeat the Kaiju, global forces come together to create Jaegers, giant robots that are controlled by two neurologically synced pilots who take part in mind-blowing hand-to-hand combat with the invaders.
Seasoned pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is pulled back into the Jaeger program years after the loss of his co-pilot and brother during a Kaiju battle. He teams up with rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to command the Jaeger Gypsy Danger, a nuclear-powered fighting legend. However Kaiju are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, and their occurrences are more frequent.
A scientist studying the Kaiju, Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), discovers a way to connect with a Kaiju brain, stumbling upon a plan of attack that is more horrible than the human race could have possibly imagined.
At face-value, “Pacific Rim” brings you everything you could expect from a summer blockbuster:
- Alien invasion: check
- Cheesy one-liners: check
- Mexican wrestling-inspired fight scenes: definitely check
- Mind boggling special effects: of course, check
- Killer soundtrack: absolutely, check
Yet what I find most impressive about the film is that when you dig a little deeper, you find messages that carry a heavy moral value to the issues of our world today.
When Dr. Newton Geiszler finally connects with a Kaiju brain, he discovers the sobering fact that we’ve brought this destruction upon ourselves. As humans continue to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a large amount of this greenhouse gas dissolves into our ocean. In a process called ocean acidification, dissolved carbon dioxide reacts with water molecules to create carbonic acid, a perfectly stable concoction to create a portal between the alien Kaiju world and ours.
Even though we might not be seeing aliens crawling out of the Pacific Ocean anytime soon, ocean acidification is a very real and serious issue—oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest have already suffered devastating losses to their businesses because of increasingly acidic water.
From a humanitarian perspective, Del Toro shows how what happens in the ocean affects all of us. One of the most compelling pieces of the storyline was the need for all nations to put aside their political, cultural and economic differences to create a global force to combat a threat that is too great for one nation alone.
We are at a crucial tipping point for how humanity will fare in light of the many challenges facing us. In many cases, we may not be able to give a roundhouse kick to the face to with a giant robot to solve pollution, climate change or biodiversity loss, but it is a fight people all over the world must rally behind in order to ensure a future for our species. You may not see the ocean every day, but it is still essential to our quality of life.
Whether you’re looking for philosophical greater meaning out of Hollywood or just like the idea of seeing giant alien monsters fight giant robots to the death, Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” will not disappoint. And, hopefully, it will help you start a deeper conversation at the dinner table about what our actions mean for the planet.