In many ways, the future as depicted in Pacific Rim movies is President Trump’s nightmare. In the face of annihilation by a nonhuman (Kaiju) threat, the entire globe bonds together to build weaponry with the power to destroy cities. These giant, mechanized “Jaeger” suits are used by the human race to wage a single war against an alien threat. Pacific Rim was a multicultural, globalist-minded film when it premiered in 2013, and its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, appears to double down on those politics in its first trailer, which was released on Friday.
The original film, directed and co-written by Mexican-American filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, follows military operations from San Francisco, San José del Cabo, Sydney, Manila and Hong Kong as leaders pool their resources and strategize as one front. Featuring actors from all over the world, Pacific Rim made history in China and Japan, becoming the rare English-language film to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States while also succeeding abroad. Pacific Rim: Uprising will undoubtedly reach for that same global grasp on the box office. We can deduce from several updates in the trailer, and the film’s promotional website, that its politics will only feel more explicit to Americans under a Trump presidency.
Trump’s “America First” slogan appeals to a large voter base in the United States that believes our nation needs stricter border control, fewer immigrants and nationalistic policies in order to thrive. Studies have found that Americans in states with lower numbers of recent immigrants tend to express more intense fear that immigration has a detrimental effect on their ability to get a job, collect benefits and live comfortably. That militant nationalism, based not in any relationships with actual immigrants, is shared by Trump, who often uses racist rhetoric to suggest that “real Americans” (white, Christian, straight, cis-gendered) are under attack from outsiders of all kinds.
Compare that ideology with Pacific Rim’s; the films are filled with actors hailing from many nations, playing characters who also live and work in those nations. Pacific Rim’s science fiction lore values collaboration and compromise over cultural assimilation. Take, for instance, the bond between the Jaeger pilots, who need to be “drift compatible” in order to drive their giant war robots. Their citizenship is irrelevant; they need to connect their brains on a subconscious level, using the Jaeger tech, and that intimacy happens when the pilots are able to share human, relatable moments. We saw it happen between Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) and Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), and it appears it will happen again between Amara (Cailee Spaeny) and Jake (John Boyega). Pacific Rim controversially avoided making Mako and Raleigh into a romantic couple, though they were the film’s emotional core, and that too is a story choice Trump wouldn’t enjoy. The president, as he tweeted the year Pacific Rim hit theaters, believes introducing women into the military means high rates of sexual assault are to be expected.
Another globalist update to the Pacific Rim franchise: Jaegers built and piloted by non-Western nations were destroyed in the first film, and we didn’t get to see much from their Japanese, Russian, Canadian and Chinese crews before they were killed off. Pacific Rim: Uprising boasts a handful of new Jaegers from different nations, and they’re pictured as being a part of the central action throughout the trailer. Involving the whole world in a science fiction battle against aliens isn’t new, but giving characters from every nation actual storylines and narrative arcs is an innovation in globalist film. Movies from Independence Day to District 9 to Attack the Block to Close Encounters of the Third Kind always include a little cinematic nod to the fact that the whole world is affected by an alien invasion, but they never give characters outside the film’s nation of origin space to develop and take place in the action. Pacific Rim did that, and from the looks of the trailer, Pacific Rim: Uprising will do it again, but louder this time.
Pacific Rim: Uprising hits theaters around the world March 23, 2018.