Movies Made Better

Movies Made Better: Pacific Rim

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Dimensional Rift Discovered in Pacific Ocean

By PHILLIP MASON

Scientists are shocked to report that a “portal between worlds” has opened up somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. A research team first became aware of the rift due to the strange sonic readings from the area, but it was quickly discovered that objects, seemingly extra-dimensional in origin, are emerging from the portal.

In a twist that officials some have called “highly ironic” and others “just a regular old coincidence, thank you very much,” the only objects discovered thus far are copies of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim on DVD. The alien nature of these DVDs was first hypothesized based on the professional-style packaging.

“In our world, Pacific Rim was just released in theatres,” said one unnamed expert, “But all these DVDs are too good-looking to be pirated… our immediate conclusion was that they came from a universe where the movie was released roughly four to six months earlier.”

The release date isn’t the only thing that’s different about these alternate Pacific Rims: out of the four that have so far been discovered, none of them follows the same plot as the one from our universe (hereafter referred to as PR Prime).

A crack squad of film critics was called in to analyze the movies, and what they have reported back is shocking. Each of the alternate movies is unique, though there are some broad similarities. None of the alternate Pacific Rims include the five-year jump that follows the prologue in our version, and none of them make any mention of “the wall”, a plot point so nonsensical and inconsequential that readers would be forgiven for forgetting that it ever happened at all.

Pacific Rim Alternate Version #1:

The first alternate Pacific Rim (PR) focuses on the opening years of the Human-Kaiju war, instead of breezing through it in a prologue. The very first scene is from the point of view of a young Asian girl (later revealed to be Mako), visiting San Francisco with her parents at the time of the first attack. We see the monster from her point of view, immediately establishing the sense of scale and giving us a personal investment in the devastation.

Some critics derided this plot as “obvious,” tossing around the term “destruction porn” without care. Still, few can deny that the spectacle is enthralling. With each subsequent attack, the death toll grows, and the governments of the world get more desperate, leading to the development of the Jaeger program. It’s thrilling and even a little uplifting to see so the people of the world put aside petty differences in race and creed and band together to save the planet. In this version of the film, the first Jaeger/Kaiju fight is built up to for nearly an hour, but when it comes, it is satisfying and exciting. The movie treats it as a spectacular event, from a technological standpoint and a humanistic one, as opposed to the “just another day at the office” tone of the first battle from PR Prime.

While the first alternate PR ends after a climactic victory that turns the tide for the humans, it ends before the war is actually won; a blatant sequel hook, according to critics, and widely regarded as this version’s biggest flaw.

Pacific Rim Alternate Version #2:

The second version focuses on humanity’s last-ditch effort to defeat the Kaiju. In many ways, this version is the most similar to ours: the prologue explaining the opening years of the war is still intact, though it omits the confusing and unexplained details about how the humans “got good at winning” and turned the Kaiju into some sort of joke.

In the second alternate PR, Raleigh is still a washed-up pilot, agonizing over the death of his brother years earlier. Instead of leaving the Jaeger program, he continues to work within it as a technician. Mako works alongside Raleigh as a test pilot in this version, but Raleigh gives her little notice until he discovers that she lost her family in a Kaiju attack.

In PR #2, non-familial drifts are considered impossible; Dr. Geiszler is the only person to propose that two unrelated pilots could work together. Raleigh senses that his and Mako’s shared tragedy might give them the bond they need to drift successfully, and he gets a chance to put his plan into action when a surprise attack leaves Chuck Hansen and his father in critical condition.

In the beginning, Raleigh and Mako are terrible partners. Their first drift re-opens old wounds and leaves them both crippled with guilt and fear over their lost family, and they nearly trigger a nuclear meltdown because of it. Only when they accept each other’s companionship and trust are they able to work as a team; their victory over depression is tied directly to their victory over the Kaiju. Critics note that this plot point, while overly sentimental, does create emotional stakes for the characters not present in PR Prime, and allows the audience to better connect with their struggle.

Also in this version, the plan to drop the Jaeger’s core into the rift is a last-minute improvisation by Dr. Geiszler, who returns from his movie-long mission just as the final battle reaches its peak. Up until this point, no one has figured out a way to destroy the rift, thus adding suspense to the climax and not rendering Geiszler’s mission essentially pointless, as it was in PR Prime.

Pacific Rim Alternate Version #3:

The third and final version to be discovered thus far has the most radically different plot from any other PR. Instead of focusing on a single man’s fall and redemption, the plot concerns a group of people that come together from different backgrounds to join the Jaeger program and defend the Earth. Raleigh’s character is completely removed, as is Chuck Hansen’s father. Greater development is given to Sasha and Alexis Kaidanovsky from Russia and the Wei Tang triplets from China.

Chuck takes on most of Raleigh’s role, though he receives less screen time. As in PR Prime, he is presented as arrogant and unlikeable, though the death of his father in the prologue lends him a degree of humanity. He is paired with Mako (a competent if untested pilot in this version, as opposed to the bumbling, simpering character from the original film) for the first half of the movie, but when two Kaiju attack at once, his inability to works with the others leads to his own death and the destruction of much of the base.

In the end, Stacker Pentecost partners with Mako for the final battle, their father/daughter relationship providing emotional depth that isn’t present in PR Rime’s under-developed love story. Stacker sacrifices himself to destroy the rift and protect Mako, while the Russians and the Chinese fight off the Class-5 Kaiju with their Jeagers instead of setting off a bomb.

When the rift-destroying explosion does come, both remaining Jaegers and the Kaiju are caught in the blast. The Kaiju is destroyed, but it’s not clear at first if any of the pilots made it out in time.

Mako’s escape-pod/life-boat surfaces and she looks around. For a moment, she is completely alone in the middle of the ocean. Almost on the verge of tears, she sees an escape pod surface, followed by another… then another… then three more in rapid succession. Mako is thrilled that her fellow pilots survived, but she’s obviously disappointed that Stacker didn’t make it. However, as Tendo Choi reveals, Stacker’s escape pod entered the rift moments before the explosion, leaving his survival doubtful but ultimately ambiguous.

Sociologists have been particularly fascinated by this version of the film, coming as it does from a society so different from ours, one in which the default point of view in popular culture is not that of the heterosexual white man.

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Movies Made Better: Oz, The Great & Powerful

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Glinda the Good Witch was in a lot of trouble.

Her father was dead. That was bad enough by itself—Glinda’s father was a good man and she loved him dearly—but it was especially traumatic because he was murdered. Worse still, the citizens of the Emerald City believed that Glinda was his killer.

Glinda’s father had been the King of Oz, so his death was more than a crime: it was a political upheaval. In the chaos following his death, a cruel and manipulative witch named Evanora took control of the city. Evanora had enough power and cunning to not only murder the King and get away with it, but to pin the blame on his daughter.

But Evanora’s deceptions were constrained to the elite of the Emerald City, a vicious group of people, many of whom were already under Evanora’s sway before her act of regicide. Throughout the rest of Oz, Glinda’s guilt was a subject of much debate, and among a group of her most passionate followers, her innocence was never in doubt. So when Glinda fled from the city to a distant, rural area in the southern realm of Oz, she found a welcoming home.

If her father had been someone else, Glinda would have left it at that. He was an understanding man who wouldn’t have wanted her to risk her life just for the sake of clearing her name in the eyes of a foolish few. But he was the King, and he had no heir–for Glinda had always found the attentions of men less important than the betterment of the kingdom. In a less dramatic scenario, she would have been given temporary, semi-official control of Oz… but Evanora had fixed it so that she and her sister Theodra now ruled over the land. For her part, Theodora was naïve enough to believe that Glinda was guilty and she followed her sister’s lead reluctantly.

It wasn’t right and the people of Oz knew it wasn’t right. Evanora was as cruel of a ruler as anyone would have guessed and then some. The rest of the kingdom withered and died while those inside the Emerald City grew fat and rich. Unrest spread throughout the lands. Those who had been undecided about Glinda’s guilt now had all the proof they needed of Evanora’s treachery. The people began to speak of a revolution.

Glinda would have loved more than anything to lead the people—her people—in battle against Evanora. But she knew this could never be. Her reputation was too tainted by Evanora’s accusations: a revolution lead by her might look like an act of bloodthirsty revenge. Besides, the citizens of Oz would never accept a witch as a general.

Then the rumors began to spread of a prophecy. It had been foretold that a great Wizard would come to the land of Oz and free the people from their tyrannical ruler.

At first, Glinda rolled her eyes at this talk: if such a prophecy did exist, she had never heard it before now. And wasn’t it convenient that it was a man destined to free the kingdom?

But she changed her tune after Finley arrived. Finley, a flying monkey, was a rogue member of Evanora’s army. Sickened by her wicked ways, he had risked life and limb to bring Glinda a single message: the Wizard was real, and he had arrived in the Emerald City just days before.

Glinda was shocked, but she didn’t waste a moment. Accompanied only by Finley, she disguised herself and set off on a dangerous journey through the Dark Forest and across the occupied plains of Oz, where she met the China Girl, a victim of Evanora’s armies. Against all odds, the group of three made it into the Emerald City and attained an audience with the Wizard.

Glinda saw right away that the Wizard was a fraud, his magic nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors illusion that Evanora would gladly exploit to keep her people in line. The Wizard wasn’t without his flashes of intellect—he had already constructed a makeshift projector out of discarded materials—but he was hopelessly out of his element in the world of Oz, swept away by Evanora’s promises of power and riches. He was more than satisfied to spend his days lounging around the palace, being adored by the people and flirting with sweet Theodora.

But the people needed an icon, someone to rally behind. The Wizard was Glinda’s only hope to unite her followers and lead the revolution. Unfortunately, that meant kidnapping him and stealing him away from Evanora. It was a narrow escape, followed by an exciting chase full of near-misses and the threat of death… but they made it.

Once she had the “Wizard”–who was actually a con-man from Kansas named Oscar Diggs–back at her hideout, everything clicked into place. It took a little work to convince him that Glinda wasn’t the evil witch Evanora had made her out to be, but he eventually came around and agreed to help the cause.

Harder trials still lay before them: Theodora had fallen in love with the amorous wizard, and Evanora would manipulate her sister’s sorrow into rage and turn her into a stronger ally. The battle for the Emerald City would be a struggle for the ages, but with strength of her people and some trickery from the Wizard, Glinda would finally confront her adversary, avenging her father’s murder and deposing the usurper from the throne.

Of course, in the end, the Wizard would rule over Oz. He would gladly take Glinda’s council, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to share credit for the people’s salvation.

Glinda wouldn’t mind. While the Wizard grew older and more isolated, hidden behind the walls of the Emerald City, Glinda, accompanied by new friends Finley and the China Girl, could continue her work of helping the people. She was a Good Witch, after all, and she would take real magic over power any day.