Birth of the Kaiju: Nukes and Fear in the Pacific Rim

Well, I don't think you can draw too many metaconclusions about the Kaiju in Pacific Rim because they actually explain what they are, how they're attacking, and why they're attacking in pretty specific terms.*

The closest I could come to one is punishing the consumerist, decadent, complacent era that we live in, where we take things for granted (after the initial Kaiju attacks, people start treating them like weather phenomena and even make toys and games about them, and this is explained 3 minutes into the movie so I don't feel bad about spoiling it) and we've generally forgotten how to stand up for ourselves and make our voices heard.

Even that's stretching it though.

*Massive spoiler:

deth2munkies:
Well, I don't think you can draw too many metaconclusions about the Kaiju in Pacific Rim because they actually explain what they are, how they're attacking, and why they're attacking in pretty specific terms.*

The closest I could come to one is punishing the consumerist, decadent, complacent era that we live in, where we take things for granted (after the initial Kaiju attacks, people start treating them like weather phenomena and even make toys and games about them, and this is explained 3 minutes into the movie so I don't feel bad about spoiling it) and we've generally forgotten how to stand up for ourselves and make our voices heard.

Even that's stretching it though.

*Massive spoiler:

Perhaps that may be the case but regardless, del Toro is most assuredly emulating Japanese anime and movie tropes. He's not stupid, he knew that a lot of comparisons would be made to Evangelion, Godzilla and Gundam so he probably took one of the major tropes: the use of symbolism and allegory. He himself made a point that the neural bridge is meant to help people coming together into a whole person.

No matter what is going on, Pacific Rim is a rare sight for the American market: A movie that feels more import than homemade but without the parts that make it hard for American audiences to shallow like androgyny.

Awesome article,thanks dude! I always knew the first Godzilla was a metaphor but the others I never drew any of the same comparisons

The whole coming from the waves and deep beneath the ocean bit is pretty much only a reference to one thing, Cthulu and Lovecraft. But I think so far just them calling them Kaiju is a success in and of itself.

The fear of the unknown and massive unthinkable terrors from the bottom of the abyss. It's not just any fear, it is fear itself.

Interesting read.

Would have also liked a mention of Godzilla's Kaiju cousin, Gamera. It's a classic case of film-makers seeing something successful but failing to understand why it's successful.

Well now you just made me want to look for allegories in the big monster/robot beat-em-up i was going to enjoy NOT over-thinking and criticising.....thanks :P

Ishal:
The whole coming from the waves and deep beneath the ocean bit is pretty much only a reference to one thing, Cthulu and Lovecraft. But I think so far just them calling them Kaiju is a success in and of itself.

The fear of the unknown and massive unthinkable terrors from the bottom of the abyss. It's not just any fear, it is fear itself.

It could just be a homage to the original movie, that one as well had godzilla coming up from the depths after being awakened.

Although he's a big deal now, Lovecraft wasn't actually all that popular for some time after his death in the late 30's, so its pretty unlikely a Japanese director in the 50's drew much inspiration from him.

Loved the article. I have been a life long Kaiju fan. I've loved the genre for it's metaphoric dealing of social issues, though often a bit ham handed. But that's the fun of them for me: taking an otherwise difficult or controversial issue, and making it more easily approachable. They are just brainless fun on the surface, which if that's all you see at least your being entertained; but underneath they are time capsules for the issues of the time. Godzilla himself has been a metaphor for nuclear weapons, environmentalism, parenting, a protector from outside aggressors, 1990's Japanese capitolistic expansion, a force of nature, and more. I thank you for the article, and can't wait to see Pacific Rim tonight!!

Well, I have mixed opinions. Personally I agree with deth2monkies in that I don't think you can apply the same kind of logic to "Pacific Rim" as some of the older giant monster movies because everything is presented in a very straightforward fashion.

What's more I would also point out that the old "Godzilla" movies and the various other giant monster films of yore were something that succeeded in spite of the attempt, not because of it. At the end of the day it was fun to watch a giant monster rampage, and really most people didn't get the metacontext of this unless it was explained. Chances are if people did get it more frequently during the heyday of these films they wouldn't have succeeded. Today with the proliferation of modern liberalism these metapoints are far more popular than they were back then.

To put things into perspective, I think the Japanese got off easy. You look at the carnage in Hiroshima and Nagasake and the long term effects of radiation and testing, and it's easy to feel sympathy on a basic human level when viewed on it's own. On the other hand when you put things into context and what Japan was like at the time, which makes their current brand of racism and xenophobia look mild in comparison (because it is). Most people today seem to be aware of the rape of "comfort women" but tend not to realize that the Japanese made the Nazi excesses seem trivial in comparison, Dr. Mengela was a maniac, but every thing he did was largely trivial compared to the crap Japan pulled in things like "Unit 731" (look it up). Not to mention that beyond the war crimes committed in China, you have to look at what they did to Korea. The Korean manga "Island" was largely inspired by Japanese war crimes and the experiments and tortures inflicted on Koreans during World War II given that they were barely acknowleged as being human. Some of the US releases of the Manga included sections after the stories, including photographs, spelling out exactly what inspired elements of those stories.

Today to your average fanboy, Japan is the home of Manga, Anime, video games, and some rather cool Theme Parks they wish they'd have in their own country. The racism that exists within the culture is largely overlooked in favor of their self promotion and marketing, to the point where people (like me) have found it shocking when they have read some translated periodicals never intended for a non-Japanese audience. People don't think about what Japan did during World War II, and the fact that they barely ever acknowledge it (which has the disconcerting effect of making it so as time goes on less people even think about it). Japan is quick to play up the sympathy for having a couple of nukes dropped on them and some bomb testing, but generally prefers to not even acknowledge what went on in Unit 731 in any large scale, meaningful fashion, or how they trivialized people to the point of referring to them as "logs" since 731 was hidden inside a saw mill. Something which is disturbing considering how much racism remains in Japan and how one of the only things that seems to be mitigating it is the fact that they are pretty much conquered with the US occupying it with huge amounts of military forces (no matter what we call it) it representing our most major foothold and base of operations into the Eastern world.

The point being that especially decades ago if you started telling people straight out that "Godzilla is about the horrors of nuclear war" and it caught on in a more public fashion, people who were a lot closer to Japanese atrocities might not have received that well. To be honest even today, I look back at the nukes as being merciful as it forced a group of fanatics to surrender (knowing they had no chance) as an alternative to invasion that would have turned into a borderline Genocide as the Japanese fought to pretty much the last man in keeping with their warrior ethos of the time. To be honest, on a lot of levels the anger over the nukes seems to largely be a ton of butthurt over having been defeated without getting to fight and go down in a glorious fashion. You look at the subtext of even a lot of modern Anime and it makes me wish I could smack the living crap out of some of these people, it might be enjoyable on it's own merits, but pretty much shows an almost total disregard for what Japan has done, and some pretty xenophobic attitudes. The whole "defense of traditional Japanese values" thing is common for example, and might seem great until you consider that those "traditional Japanese values" amount to tons of racism, cultural superiority, and the divinely granted right to do whatever the heck they want to lesser races of humanity. Them getting away from that is actually a good thing, and I find it irritating when I see Anime that metacontextually says the opposite especially seeing as it rarely if ever wants to take any responsibility for what that culture and system of values did.

That said, today I would not support nuking Japan despite the problems, however when I look back at what Japan was like in World War II... as I said, I think they got off easy. Right now though I think that rather than producing Anime that pines for past glories and things like Kaiju monsters, Japan should wind up spending more time deconstructing it's culture, teaching tolerance and racial equality, and making sure that every Japanese student learns about Japanese atrocities in detail to put why they wound up in this position into proper context.

That said, all rambling about Japan aside, I don't think there is much "hidden context" behind "Pacific Rim" it might emulate some of the style of Kaiju movies, but on it's own it's pretty much a "what you see, is what it's about" action flick about humanity fighting off a wonky Alien invasion.

EvilRoy:

Ishal:
The whole coming from the waves and deep beneath the ocean bit is pretty much only a reference to one thing, Cthulu and Lovecraft. But I think so far just them calling them Kaiju is a success in and of itself.

The fear of the unknown and massive unthinkable terrors from the bottom of the abyss. It's not just any fear, it is fear itself.

It could just be a homage to the original movie, that one as well had godzilla coming up from the depths after being awakened.

Although he's a big deal now, Lovecraft wasn't actually all that popular for some time after his death in the late 30's, so its pretty unlikely a Japanese director in the 50's drew much inspiration from him.

I meant in Pacific Rim, not in the old kaiju movies. Del Toro has always loved the imagery of the Cthulu mythos, it shows in Pan's Labarynth and the Hellboy movies. Del Toro has wanted to make The Mountains of Madness for years.

I'm seeing the film tomorrow, so I'll know more then.

Ishal:

EvilRoy:

Ishal:
The whole coming from the waves and deep beneath the ocean bit is pretty much only a reference to one thing, Cthulu and Lovecraft. But I think so far just them calling them Kaiju is a success in and of itself.

The fear of the unknown and massive unthinkable terrors from the bottom of the abyss. It's not just any fear, it is fear itself.

It could just be a homage to the original movie, that one as well had godzilla coming up from the depths after being awakened.

Although he's a big deal now, Lovecraft wasn't actually all that popular for some time after his death in the late 30's, so its pretty unlikely a Japanese director in the 50's drew much inspiration from him.

I meant in Pacific Rim, not in the old kaiju movies. Del Toro has always loved the imagery of the Cthulu mythos, it shows in Pan's Labarynth and the Hellboy movies. Del Toro has wanted to make The Mountains of Madness for years.

I'm seeing the film tomorrow, so I'll know more then.

Ah, ok I misunderstood which film you were speaking about.

"Today we cancel the apocalypse!" - seems to hint at leveraging technology to fight global climate change.

It does? lol, I think you're reaching a bit on thay one.

Interesting read. Wouldn't have thought to look into all that stuff.

On a side note, I enjoyed this movie much more than I thought I would. It's a close second behind This is the End for my favourite movie of the summer so far (Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel were both pretty mediocre -although Man of Steel had probably the best fight scenes ever IMO).

Therumancer:
To put things into perspective, I think the Japanese got off easy. You look at the carnage in Hiroshima and Nagasake and the long term effects of radiation and testing, and it's easy to feel sympathy on a basic human level when viewed on it's own. On the other hand when you put things into context and what Japan was like at the time, which makes their current brand of racism and xenophobia look mild in comparison (because it is). Most people today seem to be aware of the rape of "comfort women" but tend not to realize that the Japanese made the Nazi excesses seem trivial in comparison, Dr. Mengela was a maniac, but every thing he did was largely trivial compared to the crap Japan pulled in things like "Unit 731" (look it up). Not to mention that beyond the war crimes committed in China, you have to look at what they did to Korea.

Oh my, here we go again...

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were one of the biggest crimes to humanity. Unit 731 was as well, but that doesn't diminish the fact, that the first atomic bombings should never had happened. It opened dangerous doors and it changed us and our planet in a way that should never have happened. I can not understand how anyone can defend the instant annihilation of hundrets of thousands of civilians. Do you even know, what that means?
You could eradicate an entire country's population in the blink of an eye. You would eradicate their culture, and no one would be there to mourn them, because there would be no one left to remember. It is unthinkable to ever do that to anyone. Why do you think anyone sane on this planet refrained from using this weapon ever again? No one willing to use this power should ever be allowed anywhere near that power.
Your kind of black/white-thinking is really dangerous. Do you really think, the japanese did what they did because they were "evil(tm)"? Do you think, the USA did, what they did because they were "good(tm)"? They all had their reasons, and maybe even good ones. Some were wrong (horribly wrong) some were right. But that gives no one the right to commit such crimes. This kind of thinking lead to all the worst atrocities committed in the history of mankind, this "They are less worthy than we are". The results were crusades, witch hunts, genocide, slavery.
Do you understand, what I try to say? I don't want to put blame on the USA or anyone else. I just want to try to explain why it is wrong to rationalize or defend the usage of Little Boy and Fat Man. Because it should never have happened and should never ever happen again.

OT: Quite a good article, and I think a valid view on the basic themes of Kaiju movies. I find it really interesting, that the threat in Pacific Rim is on a global scale and several nations have to work together to avert the threat. I like the message in that.

Godzilla wasn't the first nuclear origin-based monster. The Americans themselves drew from this "new deadly threat", The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms in 1953, a year before. However there is was a cautionary product, while Godzilla that has already been said is more heavy handed and damming.

deth2munkies:

The closest I could come to one is punishing the consumerist, decadent, complacent era that we live in, where we take things for granted (after the initial Kaiju attacks, people start treating them like weather phenomena and even make toys and games about them, and this is explained 3 minutes into the movie so I don't feel bad about spoiling it) and we've generally forgotten how to stand up for ourselves and make our voices heard.

Even that's stretching it though.

Actually given today's climate where the scandal of the NSA blanket spying on Americans being taken as acceptable by the mainstream media and the majority of our government, climate change is occurring and yet people still deny it so big business can keep on polluting, and how much a police state the USA has become because of the 'Muslim' hordes, then yes Mr. Del Toro has pretty much hit the nail on the head. Nuff said.

Stabby Joe:
Godzilla wasn't the first nuclear origin-based monster. The Americans themselves drew from this "new deadly threat", The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms in 1953, a year before. However there is was a cautionary product, while Godzilla that has already been said is more heavy handed and damming.

Interesting enough an entire film period called "Atomic Horror" was coined for the films of the fifties.

That article makes my riffing of Godzilla movies a little damning...
I always knew the message of Gojira was very deep and sobering (and from an American viewpoint, albeit 50 years later, guilty) but some of the 70's movies weren't as meaningful. Anybody get the message from Godzilla vs. Megalon?

fractal_butterfly:

Oh my, here we go again...

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were one of the biggest crimes to humanity. Unit 731 was as well, but that doesn't diminish the fact, that the first atomic bombings should never had happened. It opened dangerous doors and it changed us and our planet in a way that should never have happened. I can not understand how anyone can defend the instant annihilation of hundrets of thousands of civilians. Do you even know, what that means?
You could eradicate an entire country's population in the blink of an eye. You would eradicate their culture, and no one would be there to mourn them, because there would be no one left to remember. It is unthinkable to ever do that to anyone. Why do you think anyone sane on this planet refrained from using this weapon ever again? No one willing to use this power should ever be allowed anywhere near that power.
Your kind of black/white-thinking is really dangerous. Do you really think, the japanese did what they did because they were "evil(tm)"? Do you think, the USA did, what they did because they were "good(tm)"? They all had their reasons, and maybe even good ones. Some were wrong (horribly wrong) some were right. But that gives no one the right to commit such crimes. This kind of thinking lead to all the worst atrocities committed in the history of mankind, this "They are less worthy than we are". The results were crusades, witch hunts, genocide, slavery.
Do you understand, what I try to say? I don't want to put blame on the USA or anyone else. I just want to try to explain why it is wrong to rationalize or defend the usage of Little Boy and Fat Man. Because it should never have happened and should never ever happen again.

OT: Quite a good article, and I think a valid view on the basic themes of Kaiju movies. I find it really interesting, that the threat in Pacific Rim is on a global scale and several nations have to work together to avert the threat. I like the message in that.

I disagree with you on a fundamental level, and we are not going to see eye to eye here. The only point where we agree is on good and evil. If you've ever read my posts I am quite blunt in saying that real world conflict comes down to "us vs. them" more than any karmic absolute, but that doesn't make the conflict any less real.

The problem today is that people have forgotten what real warfare is, which is why nothing ever gets resolved. If you leave a people and/or culture intact you allow it to rebuild and come back after you with a vengeance later on down the line. To really win a war you need to decimate the enemy on a fundamental level, which includes eradicating the civilian population until their culture no longer exists, with the survivors eventually blending into the rest of human civilization until who the people once were becomes nothing but a historical footnote. Otherwise your dealing with an endless cycle of warfare, and today's winners are quite probably tomorrow's losers if a defeated culture gains the edge in the future, and truthfully they might not be as nice as you were if you showed mercy, especially if they are seeking revenge.

As far as the bombing of Japan goes, if we had not done that, Japan would never have surrendered. Don't forget this is a culture that would rather load their children into flying bombs and launch them at the enemy than surrender. They were fully prepared to fight down to the smallest child and make a heroic last stand, their entire warrior ethos and belief in racial superiority supported it. On a lot of levels there were no real Japanese civilians at that point as pretty much every one of them would have fought. This is why we dropped the A-bombs, the important thing about them was not how many people they killed, but the demonstration of power, what defeated Japan was more the realization that they would be erased with a whimper, rather than going down with a mighty war. There would be no great last stand, no final battle, and nothing left of them if they persisted. The A-Bombs shattered their culture, and Japan is still reeling from it and having problems adjusting to the death of their old values in light of becoming increasingly more progressive. You look at the deaths caused, I look at the deaths prevented here.

When it comes to what nuclear weapons did after that point, they actually brought about world peace at a time when World War III probably would have begun right after World War II, with the US and Russia fighting it out with conventional weapons if the threat of MAD didn't keep the entire war "cold".

Right now of course we're dealing with modern idealogy which isn't practical. In the USA we're too morally advanced to function in the world we happen to be in, which is why the US is sliding. The big problem with nuclear weapons right now is simply the lack of guts to do what is nessicary to keep them out of the hands of smaller and "rogue" nations and limit who has them. We pretty much talk smack to countries like Iran or North Korea, but at the end of the day we have lost our will, and aren't willing to actually take action when and where nessicary. In this world we're in, it's all about who happens to be the biggest bastard at the end of the day, not who is the good guy. Today we're caught up in doing what's right, not what's in our own interests, and it's arguably because of people like you that the US has slowly been degenerating as our rivals pick us apart piece by piece while we pretty much stand back and let it happen because it would be "wrong" to stop them.

Of course also understand that I believe the world needs to unify under one government/superculture and do it soon, it's the only way to viably get into space exploration, and I agree with Steven Hawking that if we don't start that push within a couple of decades humanity is going to die out (for a lot of reasons I won't go into here). I believe we've already achieved a lot through the spread of ideas, but at the end of the day some people/cultures just aren't going to merge into a planetary collective. I feel if humanity is going to survive we're looking at one last, great, war if we're going to survive, and I think pussyfooting around that is making things worse. Truthfully Western ideals dominating is probably best for everyone since at least in principle they allow everyone to co-exist as equals. Of course if other nations/cultures succeed it will also allow humanity to survive, but it would mean everyone who isn't Chinese being
the slaves of those that are for example due to the fact that the idea of equality is very much a western one that doesn't exist throughout much of the rest of the world no matter what lip service it's given.

Toho actually destroyed the sets they used to make Godzilla after Godzilla - Final Wars and promised at least a 10 year break. Is good to see they are starting up again.

You do not see many Godzilla clips up on Youtube due to Toho being one of the few Asian based movie studios to persue their copyrights.

I think the closest allegory for the Kaiju in Pacific Rim is natural disasters and future projections of climate change.

World leaders make really dumb look-away-and-it-will-stop decisions (the wall) rather than fund important technologically advances in combating it (Jaegers)

The Kaiju are gradually getting more and more frequent and starting to attack faster than we can recover from them.

It doesn't work perfectly, I'm pretty sure the Kaiju aren't affected by sorting our recycling and using energy saving light bulbs but that's the closest I can get.

Therumancer:

fractal_butterfly:

snip

snip

So you are saying, that the only way you think world peace is possible is by rightout war, where one nation annihilates all other nations in the end? This is quite sad...
You know, a whish for peace and all nations getting along is not a sign of weakness, quite the contrary. Try to understand other people and cultures, walk a mile in their shoes. Try to understand their drive, and you will understand, that they are not as much different from you as you think. It is really hard to accomplish, but it is the only way we can get out of this mess alive.
You can not eradicate what is different, because there will always be someone, who is different. In the end, you would be left with one guy left alive on a pile of billions of dead bodies.

I also think, that you didn't understand my point. I didn't argue that "The Bombs" were bad, because of all the death it had caused. One reason this should never have happened are the consequences for the environment. In the end, the radiation set free with the use and before that the testings of the bombs lead to a higher radiation pollution in the global atmoshphere than Tschernobil. The recent reactor disaster in Fukushima is like a fart combined to the global effect of A-Bomb testing in the 1960s. There are still people dying from the aftereffects of the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, still deformed children. These events scarred the ecology of our planet on a global scale. Your view is quite centered on the US (I presume, you are from the US?), without realizing that all actions have a global effect and will in the end affect you. What do you think would happen, if the USA would rule supreme over Europe, Russia and China? Think about the consequences for the global economy, think about where the stuff you use and consume on a daily basis is coming from.
Regardless, the main point I was making is, that the usage of the A-Bomb deformed us as human beings. The Bombs were dropped on civilian cities. Women and children. It was an act of terrorism (wait, bare with me, terrorism is often only a point of view). They didn't even ransom. They didn't drop it first on unpopulated terrain to demonstrate power. What they did was to say: "Look, we have the power to slaughter all your people, women and children included. And we are depraved enough to do it." The USA became themselves the villain, when they dropped the bombs. From then on they were no more than thugs with a bigger cudgel than the rest of the world. Bombing a civilian city is not an act of war. It is just a crime. It can't be rationalized, it will always be what it is. You can't do such a thing for the greater good, it will twist its original purpose.

I really try to understand you. I try to understand your motives. For example, explain me, why the root of the problems in the USA is the fact, that they don't want to take actions against their "enemies"? Why isn't the root of the problem a financial system, that is designed to rip of the poor? Why isn't the problem an educational system that is hardly equipped to teach the basics and drives students into tremendous financial depts? Why isn't the problem a jurisdictional system, that leads to 1% of the adult population being imprisoned? Why isn't the problem a governtment, that doesn't even trust their own population and has to install severe surveillance?
I don't deny that the USA has enemies, and I don't deny that there are outside influences that are negative for the USA. But the problem is not a bunch of terrorists who attack your freedom. The problem is way more complex than that and it cannot just be solved by "having the will to take action and do what's necessary". If you invaded North Korea and the Iran, you wouldn't solve anything, only create a plethora of new problems.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here