Under the cut for those who don’t want to scroll through Pacific Rim Feelstm: some fun, old-school fairytale symbolism that struck me: Fisher Kings, dragons, questing princes and sleepers woken… aka the Raleigh is a Pretty Disney Princess discussion:
- Raleigh as a reverse Fisher King (his kingdom being Gypsy Danger) and Mako as the architect of Raleigh’s rebuilt kingdom/life, through the Jaeger rebuild project: I remembered a bit of Serenity trivia the other day, about how the last scene of the Zoe/Mal conversation in the cargo bay was shot, and how Zoe gravely states that Serenity is “tore up plenty, but she’ll fly true” and how reportedly Nathan Fillion didn’t realise the subtext of the dialogue at all until he got to set and suddenly it was ‘OHHhhh, they’re actually talking about HER. It’s ZOE that they’re talking about, not the ship. ” Took me about as long to make the same connection with Gipsy Danger and Raleigh. Woops. I mean you obviously get the injuries to the Jaeger duplicated on Raleigh’s arm, but it’s really after that that the symbolism really gets going. After Alaska, Raleigh leaves Gispy ripped apart and junked on the coastline, and settles in to his own half life of limited function, working on a redundant wall where he used to save the world. When Stacker shows up and offers him to come back to world-saving, instead of jumping at the chance, Raleigh declines. In his mind the wrecked Jaeger is still face down in the Alaskan snow and his life is mirroring that, unable to fully function; he ‘can’t have anyone in [his] head again’, and only agrees to come back out of some desire for a fairly explicit death-wish scenario, preferring dying in a Jaeger to dying on the wall. Despite the cuteness between Raleigh and Mako on the tarmac, he’s still basically in this frame of mind all the way through the following scenes, even telling Stacker flat-out that a bomb run isn’t going to work - and the key character change doesn’t come until, pivotally, Mako shows him the Gipsy Danger rebuild. It’s only at this point he swings back on his heels, sighs an ‘ohmigod – soo beautiful’, and crucially, the discussion that Mako and Raleigh have here is about how Gipsy is better than new. Ohhhh, it’s not Serenity– IT’S ZOE they’re talking about! Everything after this point shows Raleigh to be rebuilt in the same way – instead of ‘may as well die here as on the wall’, he’s actively looking ahead to the pilot trials. Mako has spent 2 years (according to the novelisation) leading the Gipsy rebuild project – so she’s essentially spent 2 years rebuilding Raleigh, and adding improvements. It’s only after he sees Gipsy and learns Mako has rebuilt her that he drops the nihilism and basically starts passing Mako notes in class and weaving friendship bracelets, all “MAKO MAKO HEY MAKO DO YOU WANNA DRIFT WITH ME: Y/N?”. Mako is the literal engineer in rebuilding his kingdom/life – she has redesigned and improved his structure. They look over at Gispy together in the Shatterdome, Raleigh exclaims in shock that she looks like new and she tells him to his face that she’s ‘better than new’. Everything after that for Raleigh is all systems go, engaging in life with renewed goals and enthusiasm.
- Another “Mako as architect of Raleigh’s life and body” moment is the second hangar bay scene (eg so the 2 times Raleigh, Mako and the full Jaeger share the frame). It’s when they go back to this same spot after the aborted drift trial, and they drink juice boxes and braid each other’s hair and have a conversation explicitly about emotional well-being and stability. During this conversation about vulnerability and trust, she then motions to the Jeager, whose core is exposed at that moment, calls it Gipsy’s “heart” and asks when was the last time he saw it? Just between us I THINK THEY MIGHT BE TALKING ABOUT RALEIGH’S HEART. It’s Zoe, it’s not the ship. When’s the last time you trusted someone Raleigh, when’s the last time you were human? This is some straight up Wizard of Oz ticking-heart gift symbolism –she gives him the gift of an actual fusion reactor heart, and shows him he has one of his own. The misanthropic dead man working on the wall is a living, breathing, ass-kicking hero again. (Aside: Even the female-gaze moment where she notices his scars in the hall takes on a meaning in this symbolic context, as she’s spent 2 years in engineering that same left arm on the Jaeger avatar; she’s reconnected it and re-strengthened it, and to see the physical human damage of the scars she spent so long healing is obviously going to hit her where she lives. Also Raleigh is half naked. But the scarring point stands.)
- Mako and Raleigh as The Sleeper Woken: Their dynamic could also be read as a more classic fairytale trope of the enchanted sleeper and the questing prince: after suitable fairytale labours – in this case slaving away 2 years on an engineering project instead of a thicket of enchanted thorn trees – she’s kissed Princess Raleigh and brought him back to life out of the enchanted death-like sleep. Mako occupies the active quest/prince role in her own story, in that her ultimate goal is to be a pilot and kill kaiju, she wants this in her own words “more than anything” and she needs to fix Raleigh to achieve this. She needs to pilot the Jaeger with him in order to fulfil her quest – a version of the ‘young adventurer who fulfils the prophecy of becoming king and saving the kingdom by marrying the Princess’. She even states this flat-out to Stacker: “I should be the one piloting Gipsy Danger with him – I need this, for my family”. To drive home Mako’s ‘questing prince’ role in their fairytale dynamic re: fighting for/working towards/acting on the life of princess in the tower (an actual literal tower if you count Raleigh as trapped 5 years up on the Wall of Life as an image), consider the final scene. Raleigh is asleep in an honest-to-god GLASS COFFIN, WHICH MAKO BREAKS INTO, EMBRACING HIM BACK TO LIFE. Excuse me while I burst into a chorus of Enchanted’s “I’ve been dreaming of a true love’s kiss”. I’m sorry, can I just say again she breaks him out of a glass coffin and un-wakeable sleep, and embraces him until he wakes up. Let’s all just bask in the image for a moment. Take your time. Raleigh is the prettiest Disney Princess in the whole of the PPDC.
- Additional fairytale quest prince trope fun: how do I put this? Umm…..SHE KILLS A DRAGON WITH A SWORD. I honestly can’t add more to that.
Aaand just for extra Pacific Rim Feelstm, the defining feature of the Mako Raleigh dynamic to me is fighting for each other: his fighting for Mako is upfront and overt: he tells her that becoming a pilot is “worth fighting for”, and then spends the next 5 scenes clenching his manly jaw and either yelling at Stacker or punching Chuck’s face all under the heading ‘Fighting for Mako’: each time aimed at promoting, celebrating or defending her choices. Mako’s fighting for Raleigh is less obvious, but of much longer standing: she’s been fighting to bring him back from the dead for 2 years, and she literally shakes him back to life in the closing minutes.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to Missy Higgins’ The Special Two on repeat and curl into a ball on the floor.