I went out to see Pacific Rim with some friends last week, since over time the trailers had convinced me it would be a decent movie. And, actually, it was. But I was talking with one of my friends afterward who is an engineer and, as far as I’m concerned, an expert in the field of science, about just how little of the movie makes any sense – and not just from a scientific standpoint. Here are some highlights:
- There is a very high possibility that the gravity distortions or the sheer volume of energy needed to open an inter-dimensional gateway or wormhole deep below Earth’s surface could cause some serious issues to our planet – like, possibly, tearing it to pieces.
- If you’re going to clone a bunch of fearsome monsters, why would you not engineer out the ability to reproduce? And, as a director, if you’re going to introduce the possibility that these monsters can reproduce, why would you not explore that intriguing nugget further?
- Supposedly the enemy tried to conquer Earth 65 million years ago but the right mix of oxygen wasn’t in place yet – so they waited. For 65 million years. In that time, how likely is it that this alien species would still be around, or still care about Earth? That is societal focus on a scale that we mere humans could learn from!
- How is a wall going to save you from giant monsters, really? What happens if they climb over it? What happens if some of them can fly? Even American politicians aren’t that dumb. Invest more money in the giant robots. Or in a force field. Or to get the hell out of Dodge.
And the list goes on.
If nothing else, Pacific Rim serves as a reminder to me that any speculative fiction story needs to be at least plausible. You can have elements that aren’t 100% realistic, or 100% explained, because that’s partly the nature of the genre. I’ll use Battlestar Galactica as an example. In that show, ships are able to travel faster than light. It’s never explained how the FTL engines work, but just that they do, which is fine: FTL travel is theoretically possible, and we just haven’t figured it out yet. But even though the writers never explained FTL, they still made it realistic, by incorporating the need for fuel and the strain that too many jumps would put on a large, old vessel like the Galactica.
We’re past the era of Star Trek science that doesn’t even attempt to explain how it really works. Many people, and especially readers, are far more discerning today – despite our collective stupidity about many things – and as a result we as speculative fiction writers need to give some serious thought to the science and logic of our stories.
Sorry, Mr. del Toro. You’re a great storyteller, but Pacific Rim doesn’t quite measure up to today’s standards. Even if the robots in it are really tall.