“Pacific Rim” was a delightfully campy, action-packed sci-fi movie that has since spawned a sequel, some comics and novels, and now an anime from Netflix, “Pacific Rim: The Black.” The series has a tone that’s far more bleak than the movies, embracing the human cost of an invasion and long war against kaiju (giant monsters). Its story follows two teenagers, Taylor and Hayley Travis, as they make their way across a largely abandoned Australia. I’ll draw out some of the themes I found in the show from a Christian perspective. There will be some major SPOILERS in this post.
Taylor and Hayley have little reason to hope. Their parents left to fight the kaiju, leaving the kids behind in a secure, hidden community. They’ve not returned. Kaiju have effectively taken over Australia, the greater world seems to have abandoned Australia for lost, and they’re stuck somewhere in the middle of it with few resources.
Then, Hayley falls through into a jaeger storage facility–the jaegers are the giant mechs humans built to fight the kaiju–and the story starts rolling. The accidental revealing of a jaeger attracts a kaiju, and the monster destroys their home, along with everyone they’ve been living with. It’s a huge loss. They’re forced to move on due to the urgency of the kaiju attack, and continue to find hope in unlikely places… and people.
The siblings ought to be hopeless. They’ve lost everything. They even lose their jaeger. But they cling to each other, hoping for a future in which they escape to fight the kaiju, find their parents, and move on. Their tenuous lives continue in such hope, and it brings a refreshing feel to the show. It could have been all darkness and edginess, but it shows people persisting even in the darkest of circumstances.
People will continue to sin, choosing themselves, their ambition, and power even when apocalyptic monsters roam the very land in which they live. This theme shows up abundantly in Shane, whose broken life leads to him seeking self-interest above all else. He’s a fascinating character. He’s evil, and though we see hints of what drives him, we never get it fully explained. Leaving him behind feels like a major moment in the show, setting up a later, final confrontation that can be anticipated in a later season. His character also shows how sinfulness can permeate whatever it touches, corrupting organizations, bringing others into its snare. It’s a nefarious thing, and at times makes you wonder whether the humans or kaiju are a greater threat to the survival of humanity.
Messiah… or not.
The very end of the series finally gives us a look at the “Sisters” who were barely alluded to earlier in the series. One of them sees the Boy/kaiju and says “The Kaiju Messiah…” It’s a striking plot point, certainly a twist in a final episode that was chock-full of them. Certainly the word “Messiah” is immediately something that gets theological antennae raised. What do they mean by “messiah” and why would that be in any way associated with the kaiju?
I wonder, though, if there may be a somewhat nefarious turn here. Given the implications of the term messiah and the questions of theological propriety of that title here, one can wonder about hope again–hope placed in the wrong things. Are the sisters putting their hope in the kaiju and mistaking muscles and mass for what constitutes true power and glory? Misplaced hope in the power of our world–or that of the world of giant monsters (!!!) is a theme in our history, surely. Perhaps the Sisters are another iteration of this same misplaced hope.
I’m probably going a bit deeper than may be warranted here, but “The Black” invites such speculation in a way I didn’t anticipate.
“Pacific Rim”- A Brief Christian Reflection– I draw out a few themes from the original film, focusing on a Christian perspective.
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