Last week I was fortunate enough to experience the hot metal on alien on Charlie Day awesome-orgy that was Pacific Rim. In Pacific Rim, giant exoskeleton suits, Jaegers, protect Earth from pan-dimensional monsters with as many explosions as possible. Surpassing the production value of Robot Jox and eclipsing the emotional spectrum found in Mobile Suit Gundam, director Guillermo del Toro orchestrated a world teetering on the edge of oblivion, and though del Toro has a way with monsters only known to Monster Manual scribes, it was the humanoid Jaegers that stole the majority of my attention.
Considering that I haven’t gotten approval for my “Five Reasons Why Charlie Day Should Appear in Everything” article yet, scope your ocular organs below and lay witness to four reasons why the Jaegers are the coolest blend between man and machine since Robocop.
4. The Drift
Designed to be an alternative to dropping nukes, the Jaegers, or “hunters” of Pacific Rim are a global response project designed to destroy giant monsters with (ideally) little collateral damage. This is nothing particularly new to the mech genre, but the Jaeger Program mixes up the nuclear-powered exosuit norm like a digestif making contact with fine ale.
It is of no coincidence that the pilot’s cockpit is a separate head component for the Jaeger, as each pilot represents one hemisphere of the Jaeger’s brain and body. When the two pilots are fully calibrated, they move together and in perfect unison in a process known as the drift. It may seem complicated at first as you are unsure of how the Jaeger hardware recognizes one individual’s right arm movements versus the other, but in essence the two pilots are simultaneously controlling and being controlled by one another. Trust me, the synchronized movement between the two mech pilots looks nothing like the “It’s morphin’ time” sequence from Power Rangers.
Producing stronger drift connections therefore hinge on the human connection between the pilots, as stronger interpersonal relationships, be they fraternal, patriarchal, or even romantic, produce the clearest, and most stable connection between the two pilots. To compensate for the sky-scraping suits of armor, Pacific Rim doubled up on the knights inside.
The drift is of particular significance because it puts humanity behind the wheel of the Jaeger mechs. While a Jaeger’s ordinance is an explosive factor in any combat situation, the drift factor in piloting ends up separating the mecha wheat from the robot chaff. The makers behind Pacific Rim take particular time to emphasize that these are not robots fighting monsters, and by having each Jaeger function as a duo, it’s impossible for the human factor to be overshadowed.
Am I saying that the Jaegers are powered by love? No. I mean the Jaeger designer does say in the graphic novel prequel Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero that love between the pilots does make a difference in controlling the Jaeger, it’s more about the sharing the load of piloting such a huge form with proper balance that makes the suit function. Love can only power alien technology, as we learned from E.T. What powers the humanoid nukes known as the Jaegers however, is a mini nuclear reactor.
While the compatibility between the pilots is of utmost significance, what the individual brings mentally into the Jaeger is brought into the drift as well. Remember the time you mistrusted that gas in high school and had to pretend you didn’t smell a horrendous odor throughout seventh period pre-calc? Well now your co-pilot does too, and he also knows what you really think about his girlfriend.
The trick to being a good Jaeger pilot therefore lies in having a clear, worry-free mind, one that remains stoic and as clear as glass even in the face of despair or rage. As Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost describes in the prequel, piloting a Jaeger is “like trying to solve a Rubix cube in the middle of a boxing match.” Ironically, in order to pilot a 1,980 ton, twin I-19 Plasma cannon equipped alien-stomping death-machine, one must first find enlightenment.