I saw Pacific Rim for the fourth time today. Shut up, I don’t have a problem. It’s still just my favorite movie of this year. It’s a love letter to my twelve or sixteen or even twenty-two-year-old self.
And the sword button is still my favorite moment in that movie, among a lot of really wonderful moments that fill me with marzipan-flavored glee.
I noticed that people keep ending up at my other Pacific Rim entries with google searches of things like, “why don’t they use the sword button earlier” and variations thereof. And of course, there is the fun question of how the heck did Raleigh not know about the sword button because even if the sword was something Mako added in during the refurbishment, he was quite literally in her head at that point. (The Punchline is Machismo has the best explanation ever, by the way.) Honestly, you could do a lot of arguing about why the pilots even speak out loud to each other at all while in the Jaegers, and I’m sure we could come up with some good excuses like okay Raleigh is the right hemisphere but maybe he’s got other things on his mind and and and…
But this is the thing about the sword button. This is why the movie is so precious to me as someone who grew up watching anime, sentai shows, and kaiju movies. The sword button has nothing to do with narrative logic and everything to do with the emotional language of the movie and its purposeful use of sentai show tropes. The sword didn’t come out until that moment quite literally because that was when it was most dramatic. Think of how many shounen anime (eg: Bleach, DBZ, Rurouni Kenshin) where there are battles that stretch over episode after episode (or issue after issue in manga) in which the hero and villain take turns being almost defeated and then suddenly oh wait did I forget to mention I have an even cooler power/weapon?
See also: Eleventh Hour Superpower, Heroic Second Wind, and Die or Fly. In this case, the eleventh hour power is I have a motherfucking sword button. Pacific Rim is at its heart a movie about teamwork and tropes. Sometimes it challenges the tropes, such as making Raleigh the most emotionally intelligent and open character in the film, and have Mako as the main character and not in a romance. But there are just as many tropes that the movie gleefully plays to the hilt because they are what defines its aesthetic.
The coolest weapon never shows up until the heroes are at the brink of total defeat. All is lost! They’re being dragged up into space by the most ridiculous kaiju ever invented! Raleigh thinks it’s hopeless! And then the biggest badass who has ever lived says no, we can still win this, we have a sword.
That is why the sword button was used then.