Pacific Rim is pulpy, schlocky sci-fi at its best: utterly earnest, sincere in its emotionality, and, of course, cool-arse giant robots and giant monsters smacking each other in the face. But for a movie that is so in your face, one of its most clever and understated visual cues is in its thematically discordant costume design.
The latest episode of critic Gavia Baker-Whitelaw’s YouTube series Behind the Seams takes a closer look at the work of Kate Hawley on making the costumes of Pacific Rim, and why they’re an underappreciated star of the show — even if they are in many ways as cartoonishly exaggerated and as enhanced as the giant Jaeger mech suits themselves.
Baker-Whitelaw’s essay covers everything from costume-as-character to how Pacific Rim largely sidesteps the authoritarian military aesthetic that typically defines these futuristic apocalypses in blockbuster movie storytelling. But its most fascinating point is how Pacific Rim finds symbolic unity in visual disunity: the movie’s costume design is all over the place in the best way.
From Mako’s stylish but prim-and-proper fashion, to Stacker being the sole representative of militaristic chic in the main cast, to Raleigh’s homely knitwear or Newt’s punk-rock nerdcore, characters big and small in Pacific Rim immediately stand out with distinct costume design that reflects the diversity of our heroes, and the power they find in bringing that uniqueness together to face the Kaiju threat, playing off the movie’s other co-operative thematic elements like psychic bond between Jaeger pilots. The full video’s well worth a watch, if only to stoke your memory of why Pacific Rim is so goddamn good in the first place.