By Kyle B. Stiff
There’s some interesting symbolic stuff going on in Pacific Rimjob. Let’s take a look!
Our opening scene shows someone looking up at the stars and imagining other worlds, even potential dangers. This makes sense when you consider that most people are oriented toward looking outwards. Fashion is real to them, whether it’s clothes or changing morality; emulation is the path to learning; they define themselves by their place in the world. When a person gets bushwhacked by their internal psychospiritual drama, it’s always a surprise. The first instinct is to take a pill to make the inner conflict disappear so that they can successfully reorient themselves and continue working, paying the bills, and stifle the urge to have an old fashioned nervous breakdown. In Pacific Rimjob, this is why humanity is shocked when monsters rise up from the depths beneath their feet. The viewer is shown an amazing tableau of crowds protesting, the military blasting shit, and world leaders giving speeches about how the situation is somewhere between okay and totally alright. This dystopian sci-fi world looks kind of like our world, doesn’t it?
So what are “the depths” that these monsters are coming from? In tarot, water symbolizes emotion. Dream-mappers often label water, especially the ocean, as the depths of the subconscious mind – that thing we never take into account, but which defines nearly every human endeavor. If we ignore the philosopher’s maxim to “know thyself”, we can find our rational plans completely supplanted by all kinds of irrational tsunamis. Remember the director of the Kony 2012 project? He tried to raise money to save the world (or some part of it). It makes sense, rationally, but it’s hard to save the outside world when you have a whirlpool of quiet insanity just waiting to submerge your Atlantis and make you do something like this:
So these monsters attack and the modern world is taken by surprise. The monsters from Pacific Rimjob are the same as dragons in ancient literature. Primal forces, hungry and ego-oriented and savage beyond belief. When fighting them proves difficult, people begin building massive walls to keep them out of the rational world. It looked like entire economies were devoted to keeping millions of workers crawling all over these walls. The work of supplanting nature was dangerous, everyone was unhappy, the job sucked a bag of balls – but at least everyone thought they were accomplishing something!
Of course, just like in real life, you can’t build a wall strong enough to keep the monsters out. Those things have to be confronted and dealt with.
Now, Pacific Rimjob doesn’t wholeheartedly embrace the symbol of monsters rising up from a hollow earth. We’re modern, scientific types who find symbols superstitious and distasteful, right? I’m sure anyone who ever felt silly while trying to interpret their own dreams can agree. That’s why Pacific Rimjob goes to the trouble of having a dimensional portal placed right next to a crater leading to a literal underworld. Seems a little confusing, sure, but this is a movie marketed toward hyper-rational nerds; if they had organisms that lived in a subterranean, high-pressure environment come to the surface and somehow not explode, the movie’s creators would be swamped with angry tweets of, “UM, YOU DO REALIZE THAT’S, LIKE, IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE OF SOMETHING CALLED, LIKE, SCIENCE, RIGHT???” Fortunately dimensional portals are a part of the approved sci-fi lexicon, although it is interesting and awkward to see the hollow earth mythos play out alongside dimension-hopping space opera, almost like ancient Greek sci-fi meets George Lucas.
Then there’s drifting, in which we see the subjective inner-world concept taken even further. Pilots for giant mechs aren’t chosen because they’re good pilots; they’re chosen because they can relax while horrifying buried memories are dredged up and thrown before the conscious mind. They have to see these awful, hidden fears and remember that none of it is real. Like Bill Hicks said, “It’s just a ride.” You can get off any time you want.
In the world of Pacific Rimjob, it’s necessary to have a partner if you want to drift and find the sort of enlightenment that allows you to connect with your superconsciousness – that is, your spiritual giant robot, or holy guardian angel, that is capable of fighting the demons of the id. Doing it alone risks death or incredible psychological trauma (or even nose bleeds that can only be kept in check by Altoids…?).
Drifting isn’t just for warriors inclined to spiritual combat with demonic forces. Pacific Rimjob also features sages (sort of like comic book versions of modern-day scientists) who end up drifting (and that’s their natural element, really) as diplomats, spies, information seekers, etc. Note the Rock’n’Roll Scientist who runs through Bladerunner City using only a Jim Woodring illustration for a map, or the Tesla Numbers guy who’s convinced that there’s a rational pattern , expressed by the holy / whole number “three”, behind the otherworldly invasion. Also note that no modern day scientist is anywhere near as interesting as those two guys. Those guys embodied the sages / freethinkers / fringe theorists that ride the wave of paradigm shifts well ahead of the curve of the modern day scientist. No military organization would ever, ever hire someone like them – not even if the fate of the world hanged in the balance!
(SPOILERS, sorry.) But then there’s some more complicated stuff going on with the Robot Crucifixion scene. In the end, the last giant robot (remember, these contraptions represent the superconsciousness, the “holy guardian angel” of our awakened potential, highest form of being, most pure intent, etc) is beaten by an unholy trinity of three demons, then it descends into the underworld while riding on a corpse, the same way the image of god must “descend” by riding on the corpse of a fallen Christ. The two human pilots, in this scene, might represent the two thieves or murderers crucified on either side of Christ. They aren’t strong enough to descend into the underworld – into Hell – and achieve enlightenment on their own, but are instead “forgiven” and allowed to ascend back into the world of the living. In this case, the world of the living is shown as a calm ocean under blue skies – that is, paradise on earth, a world that has dealt with its inner turmoil through cathartic spiritual violence. The promise of the Christ (something along the lines of “you two will sit with me in Paradise after this shit is over”) comes true as they sit on their escape pod and hug and wonder if they can get away with some prime-slime-time while surrounded by helicopters (a “host” of mechanical angels flying overhead).
Meanwhile, down in Hell, the underworld, the crucified Robo-Christ reveals that he always carried the Nuke of the Almighty inside himself. Remember, this mech wasn’t the one carrying “the bomb” – that one was being piloted by Father Figure and Li’l Daddy Issues, and was destroyed with its own weapon. The Robo-Christ that descended into Hell while riding on a cross used his own internal nuclear engine to wipe out the nameless Legion observing him with cold, hateful eyes. He became a sun of nuclear radiance shining light on a world of darkness and wiped it clean with the holy power of sterilizing radiation. That robot, a humanoid-shaped thing which was made in the image of another being (man) that was itself made in the image of God, died so that others could live.
That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, that whole symbolic process could be more of a nerd-oriented spiritual drama in which a completely robotic Christ is necessary. Think about it like this. Waiting for a future “Singularity” – the creation of an artificial intelligence capable of updating its own intelligence – is akin to waiting for a literal God to show up and make the world just or pure or whole or interesting. But crucifying such a figure could also be an attempt to humanize a robot, which we see all the time in sci-fi, and is of course indicative of a nerd secretly wanting the emotionally dead part of himself to “become human”. Either way, you have a ritual in which something powerful and divine descends into places we cannot go and achieves wholeness so that we can see its example and, maybe someday, do so ourselves.
POSTSCRIPT: Good lord, Kyle B. Stiff, is this or is this not a movie review?!
Oops, you wanted a movie review? Here we go!
Good: Pacific Rimjob features some badass CGI fights featuring robots and monsters that seem to have actual weight. How many more CGI movies will we have to see that have rubbery, weightless characters flying around like a damn cartoon?
Bad: Stock, wooden characters give uninteresting performances as they undergo incredibly uninteresting conflicts. Del Toro probably stopped this movie from becoming another terrible Transformers movie, but I wish there were more moments of Del Toro weirdness.
Weird: Personified nationalities. The Chinese are good at teamwork, the Russians are good at looking like stoic hardasses, our Japanese character survives an event akin to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but retains her sense of cuteness despite her emotional suffering, the British guy is stodgy and emotionally uncomfortable with going outside of his comfort zone, the older white dude is too much of a pussy to get his egotistical son in check, etc.
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If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.