Raleigh Beckett from PACIFIC RIM
Pacific Rim is a film full of surprises. A big silly monsters-vs-robots movie that’s actually about failure, grief, cooperation, and how much we need one another. An action movie with no real villains.
And most of all, a movie with two co-leads who are emotional, vulnerable, and equal.
Raleigh Beckett, one of those two leads, is perhaps the most unconventional male lead in a big studio action movie to date. Why? Check these reasons out for size …
1) He’s vulnerable … and that’s a GOOD thing
Piloting a monster-killing robot requires its two pilots to mindmeld, sharing their darkest memories with each other. And like all movie heroes, Raleigh’s good at it.
But Raleigh’s also devastated by the loss of his brother, his first co-pilot … Unlike the stoic hero clichés, he talks about his feelings.
He listens to Mako, his new co-pilot, and cares about her struggles.
He sees through his superior officer’s excuses to the personal reasons for his decisions.
Raleigh is emotionally open in many ways, and the movie rewards him for it. Unusual! MORE: 5 Reasons Screenwriters Should Watch PACIFIC RIM
2) He evolves out of traits action characters usually evolve into
When we first see Raleigh, co-piloting with his brother Yancy, he’s exactly the guy we expect. He’s highly skilled but arrogant, reckless, thinks himself invulnerable.
But he’s not. Yancy’s killed, and Raleigh goes into an emotional spiral. Most action movies use a setback to show their hero returning to the person they used to be (think John Wick, for example). But Raleigh learns caution, patience, and teamwork, and instead evolves into a better version of himself.
3) Raleigh is a mentor
Raleigh offers the benefit of his advice to Mako while respecting her differing skills and experience. When they screw up, he tries to take responsibility. He recognises that what they do is difficult. And he has absolute faith in her, even when others don’t. MORE: 30 Doses of Inspiration From Fictional Teachers & Mentors
4) He has a surprising lack of ego
Taunted by another pilot, Raleigh ignores him until he criticises Mako. He follows orders instead of breaking them, and that’s presented as a good thing. Though it clearly chafes, he trusts the judgement of his superior officers. He also respects other pilots rather than competing with them.
A lot of movie heroes act like they know they’re the hero, but Raleigh knows it’s not all about him. So it’s hardly surprising that…
5) He’s a team player
Most action movies are about one person saving the world (usually a heterosexual white man!). But the central metaphor of Pacific Rim is that we’re stronger together, so it’s thematically important that the third act is a team effort. In the end, Raleigh takes the final action to save the world, but he couldn’t do it without the others, and he knows it. MORE: 3 Questions For Your Male Action Hero Characters
All in all, Raleigh Beckett is a fantastic example of how inverting clichés can revitalise your story and your plot, and how rethinking masculinity enables us to tell more interesting stories.
BIO: Debbie Moon is a BAFTA-winning screenwriter and the creator of Wolfblood. She has also written for Hinterland, The Sparticle Mystery, and the upcoming Dog Years. Follow her on Twitter as @DebbieBMoon.