(2013, English, Japanese, Russian, Cantonese) Not as expected from the stars, aliens entered the world from beneath the Pacific Ocean through two tectonic plates, a portal between dimensions, aka the Breach, narrates Raleigh Becket (Chjrlie Hunnam), a ranger copilot with his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff). First to be destroyed, San Francisco and two other coastal cities were attacked by the Kaiju (Japanese for giant beast), second Manila, third Cabo (a city at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula), fourth … The world put aside its petty grievances and jealousies to united against a common existential threat, manufacturing "monsters of our own," the Jaeger (German for hunter) program, to defeat the invaders.
The Becket brothers in the paired-pilot system - "We were Drift compatible," meaning that they became "Two pilots, mind-melding through memories with the body of a giant machine: the deeper the bond, the better you fight" -became rock stars while the monsters were marketed as toys. With Raleigh on the left hemisphere and Yancy on the right, the copilots formed a neural handshake.
In 2020 on the Alaskan coastline off Anchorage another Kaiju emerges. To secure the civilian population, Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) commands the launch of a Gipsy Jaeger with the Becket boys in control, but Raleigh and Yancy disobey orders to ignore a boat in peril with ten men aboard. "No signature, sir," reports Ops Tendo Choi (Clifton Collins Jr): "What do we do now, sir?" A broken Jaeger staggers out of the surf before crashing onto the shore.
The Jaegers look like really big Iron Men, several stories tall, in this sci-fi thriller from director Guillermo del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay with Travis Beacham (his story), with daddy issues, squabbling scientists, and humanity at the brink of catastrophe. Learning how to read the human defenses, in five years the Kaijus quickly adapt and evolve, destroying Jaegers faster than they can be replaced.
Marshall Pentecost makes a request of his superiors for "One final assault with everything we've got," to no avail; the Jaeger project is to be decommissioned in favor of the new Coastal Wall of Life. However, when a Kaiju breaks through the supposedly impenetrable Wall around Sydney, Australia, while other attacks accelerate, Pentecost finds Raleigh on a construction site in Sitka, Alaska, and brings the last surviving Mark-3 pilot to Hong Kong.
When Raleigh declines the opportunity to get back inside a Jaeger, "I can't have anyone else in my head again," Pentecost, who regards himself as a fixed point, deserving neither sympathy nor admiration, reminds him of his limited options: "The world is coming to an end. So where would you rather die? Here, or in a Jaeger?"
Inside the Shatterdome, the restoration program is under the direction of Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who has personally handpicked the copilot candidates. The research team consists of a pair of goofy geeks who grate on each other, Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Hermann Gotlieg (Burn Gorman), with competing concepts.
With only four Jaegers remaining, including the last of the T-90s, Cherno Alpha, a first-generation Mark 1, the heaviest and oldest in service, Raleigh is introduced to Russian brother-sister Lieutenants S. and A. Kaidanovsky and the Australian father-son team of Marshall Hercules (Max Martini) and Chuck Hansen (Rob Kazinsky) in Striker, the first and last of the Mark 5s. "We're gonna strap a 2400-pound thermonuclear warhead to Striker's back," Pentecost explains to Raleigh: "Detonate an equivalent of 1.2 million tons of TNT. And you and two other Jaegers will be running defense for them."
Raleigh counters: "Sir, we've hit the Breach before. It doesn't work. Nothing goes through. What's changed?" "I've got a plan," the marshall replies: "I need you ready. That's all."
From the lab, Gotlieb expatiates on his theory, predicting that double events from the Breach will soon take place, followed by tripling and quadrupling: "Numbers do not lie. Politics and poetry, promises, these are lies. Numbers are as close as we get to the handwriting of God." That's the bad news. "This is where the good news comes." The throat between their universe and the world of people being atomic in nature, Hermann continues: "I predict that the increased traffic will force the Breach to stabilize and remain open long enough to get the device through and collapse its structure."
Dr Deiszler disagrees, pointing out his discovery that Kaijus are not dissimilar: "They have the same exact DNA. They're clones." "And this is the point where he goes completely crazy," remarks Gotlieb. "This is a piece of a Kaiju's brain," Newton resumes: "Now, unfortunately, it's damaged. It's a little bit weak. But it's still alive. Now, I think I can tap into it, using the same technology that allows two Jaeger pilots to share a neural bridge…. I could tell you exactly how to get through the Beach yourself."
After giving Raleigh her candid evaluation of his capabilities as a pilot, fully aware of his last mission off the coast of Alaska - "You're unpredictable. You have a habit of deviating from standard combat techniques. You take risks that endanger yourself and your crew. I don't think you're the right man for the mission" - Mako, having trained to become a ranger, appeals to Pentecost, with whom she has a daughter-like relationship after having been rescued as a child: "I should be the one driving Gipsy with him."
"Vengeance is like an open wound," he replies: "You cannot take that level of emotion into the Drift." The candidate trials are meant to determine who are Drift compatible - it is extremely critical for pilots to avoid "chasing the rabbit," getting "stuck in a memory" - at the end of which Pentecost denies Raleigh his choice of copilot.
In search of another Kaiju brain for his radical experiment, Newton - believing that these aliens are the second wave after the dinosaurs, their ancestors, failed to colonize Earth - seeks out Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), who scavenges from the monster's corpses ("Where's my goddamn shoe!"), selling bones and organs on the black market. Extolling his rangers in a life-or-death final shot with slim chance of success at saving the planet from the Kaijus, Marshall Pentecost exclaims: "Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!"
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