2013’s ‘Pacific Rim’: Tribute to Japan’s Monster Movies, but Also Perhaps a U.S.-Japan Robotics Battle

America may have already pillaged “Godzilla” from Japan once in a highly maligned film adaptation. But when you have Guillermo del Toro come up with an original homage to Japan’s monster epics, it becomes something else entirely. Include the irony of giant robots fighting off aliens in the Pacific Ocean that have a very Japanese name and you sense that there’s also more than meets the eye.

I’m talking about 2013’s “Pacific Rim”, which is still a bit of a secret despite a revealed movie poster, plus soon being previewed at Comic Con in San Diego by del Toro and others involved in the production. The film is just one part of a huge renaissance of movies arriving that once again deal with robots, this time taking them back to mechanisms under our own control. It’s quite the changeover from the long track we were on where cinematic robots branched off and evolved into much more sophisticated HAL 9000s.

In “Pacific Rim”, the giant robots are used as mind-controlled military fighters and given the oddly European name of Jaegars. However, the aliens we battle against who arrive through a dimensional wormhole in the Pacific Rim are called the Kaiju. The latter is obviously the wink and nod to the Japanese monster flicks that were once syndicated to American local TV stations in the 1970s to Generation X’s enjoyment.

When you see the advancements in Japanese robots, however, we have to wonder why the movie shows America as the premiere center for robotics in warfare. If Japan’s original “Godzilla” was a veiled knock on America’s military reinforcements after World War II, is America now giving a throwback at Japan (or Asia in general) outdoing us in the world of technology? All you need to see is evidence of Japan recently working on lifelike robots that could easily be real-life, smaller versions of the Jaegars.

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As movies start showing the world of robots again, it appears they’ll show America being the dominating force in the technology. While that may be true to some extent in reality, there isn’t any denying Japan has advanced the world of robotics to the point where they could be drinking our milkshakes. That’s especially true in the field of Japanese cyborgs with the stunning ability to run and walk up or down stairs better than a human being can.

Just as Japan didn’t want to outright offend us with the military allegory in “Godzilla”, we have enough sense to place our approaching economic race in allegorical form. And even if we aren’t afraid to place America’s own economic downturn in obvious ways in recent and upcoming movies, we aren’t about to make it obvious that we know we no longer dominate in everything. A film homage to the cinema of our international neighbors is the true veil for convincing our country’s naïve we invented something first.

As in “Battleship”, it probably won’t be a secret that our Jaegars defeat the Kaiju, unless del Toro gives us an interesting twist. The better road may be showing Japan shipping Jaegar parts to us to show who really made them what they are. Nevertheless, that sounds unlikely when a Jaegar sounds like an import from Germany.

Tuck away any thought of a cinematic robot being able to think on its own in finding out its origins.