Friday, August 9, 2013

Symbolism and Biology of the Kaiju of 'PACIFIC RIM'

I couldn’t not do this. Normally, like with Marvel’s The Avengers, I wait until the movie is released on DVD so I can do a closer analysis of the creatures in it.

Go back to see if I missed things and double check all the commentary and bonus material that’s available.

But I just can’t wait.

Everyone and their mother has talked about Pacific Rim to one degree or another, and a lot of people talk as if by seeing Gojira, they’re now experts on kaiju. Or they think that making observations regarding the stresses of biological material on giant monsters or things about the square cube law are new and insightful.

We’ve already gone over that sort of thing quite a bit, so we can skip the average stuff and move to the meat. The things those articles skipped over or forgot.

That and I can remind everyone that kaiju is both singular and plural, because the Japanese Language has no plurals. Remember that next time you hear someone way “kaijus” or “ninjas”.


One of the reasons why I love Pacific Rim is that it crafts a single scene (which is very much in del Toro’s overall style) which says with pictures rather than words just what kaiju are.

It takes place in a plot-driven and extremely relevant flashback into Mako’s (Rinko Kikuchi, though played in the flashback by Mana Ashida) childhood. We hear her first, crying out in the midst of grey smoke and rubble. Standing in the midst of the soot filled world in a blue dress and holding a broken shoe, hers.

We got hints about her back story all through nonverbal and subtle things.

Knowing already how she interacts with Stacker Pentacost (Idris Elba) this scene sets all those little pieces between them in place: her parents were killed in this disaster: a kaiju. Through her, we get a personification of everyone who suffered through the kaiju attacks. A million may be a statistic, but through her, the audience can understand what those innumerable people have gone through.

Kaiju are disasters. Powerful forces that are beyond normal means to cope with. They come seemingly from nowhere or with little warning and destroy lives, both literally and figuratively. All of that, and more, is encompassed in that one scene.

Mecha punching Kaiju in the face got me to see it. That scene got me to see it again and again.


The science in Pacific Rim is extremely bad.

 I can suspend my disbelief for it, but there’s no really getting around it. We’re talking exploding nuclear reactors, claiming dinosaurs had two brains, and “solid iron is better than any alloy” bad.

Thankfully, with my method of analysis focusing on what is shown rather than what is said, I get to ignore almost every damn thing the scientists say that’s not directly confirmed on screen. If we don’t see it and it doesn’t sound right, it could be the character talking out of their ass, not knowing any better, or just the writer screwing up.

The interesting thing about these monsters is that they are both clones, and not clones.

The organs and parts are cloned, but the monsters themselves are put together like in an assembly line. This really precludes natural biology as derived from evolution and puts them more in the realm of a machine. These creatures are equipped with terraforming abilities for their masters – their excretions and decomposition process releases chemicals and toxins which they love, but will harm earth life.

This would also explain why these creatures have “skin parasites” when they are assembled. As they do not live for long away from the kaiju, they can act as remote sensors to determine when the environment is ready for full colonization. Well, it is one explanation.

 It’s either that or they really are mutant deep-sea isopods that get that way from feeding on the skin of a kaiju, which falls a bit short underneath Occam’s razor.

As the movie shows, the alien invaders began to put weapons on the kaiju – acid sprays and an organ that can generate an Electro-Magnetic pulse – as a response to the Jaeger program.

The EMP organ has extremely hefty energy requirements, even assuming the minimum needed for these things. With its relatively small size, it would also have to be far more efficient than anything known in nature. The Electric Eel (Electrophorus electricus) has the majority of its body dedicated to electricity, but can only produce shocks around 600 volts. Far below the massive pulse seen in the film.

Outlandish? Certainly. But I’ve seen other kaiju with biologically produced missiles.

This is downright tame.

The corrosive spit of Otachi, the winged Kaiju and my personal favorite, initially brings to mind venomous snakes.

However, the organ that uses it is far more akin to the ink sack of an octopus than a venomous fang of a spitting cobra, and it’s corrosiveness out does even the explosive output of the bombardier beetle. Given the number of materials it is shown dissolving (iron, glass, stone), it is likely a mixture of many different chemicals which, while not reacting with each other, can react with other elements. A hard mix to find and control, certainly.

 Given it does melt glass, a rare ability for an acid, it likely contains hydrofluoric acid (or something similar) amidst its cocktail. That may seem like a stretch, but I brought up cobra venom for a reason. Venom is extremely complex, in its individual molecules and the number of these complex molecules in it.

Having such complexity for this secretion is not out of the ordinary at all, especially with the manufactured nature of the kaiju. The source of the substance is more than likely linked to its digestive tract. Many creatures use specialized variations of existing organs to create these things and its overall cheaper to do construction wise. Why build something new when you can repurpose something else for multiple functions?

It only uses the attack twice in the film, which is rather good from a scientific standpoint. Other animals with caustic sprays and chemical defenses only have a limited amount of ammunition, so getting one to three shots of it is easily within regular biological limits.

One of the things I have not seen commented on is the number of eyes the Kaiju have.

Each one has 6 eyes overall. 2 primary ones usually, and several smaller ones. These eyes, given that they tend to lack pupils. This may indicate that they are just simple light sensors, or allow it to see into a wider spectrum than other beings: heat, ultra-violet, etc. Given they were constructed creatures, this is not outside the realm of possibility. It also could be related to their master’s overall look, as they share a similar eye number and overall size arrangement.

The monsters all have a basic fundamental design which is actually based around the humanoid form.

There are minor caveats to make them look more like their makers, and this may be an intentional terror-preparation aspect of the kaiju’s construction. It says to the victims that they were responsible for the monsters and that any fear associated with the kaiju should be vicariously applied to them. They are as much weapons of war as weapons of terror – replete with extraneous spikes and blades, glowing body parts and so on, which only work to make them fearful rather than any direct function.

In a meta-narrative sense, they are all designed to work as a man-in-suit would.

Though I can’t help but think that Slattern, the Category 5 Kaiju, would end up looking more like Jumbo King from Ultraman Ace or Dodongo from Ultraman if it was brought to film with that technique

One final thing to comment on is the hive minds of the Kaiju. As I’ve mentioned previously, this falls into the realms of not-science as many creatures often described as having hive-minds or hive mentalities just communicate in very obtuse ways (like scents or dances). Here, it’s out and out telepathic mind linking almost like the internet.

It’s an expedient way to share date amongst the kaiju and their masters, but biological Ethernet is very silly.

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