I love that Pacific Rim, a movie that as an “action blockbuster” most directors would have lazily decided to market to men, this movie pretty much says “naw son…we gonna do this fair”. There are plenty of monsters and robots punching each other. Fun for everyone. But where a typical action movie would have had a woman in a shower or some low cut outfit or panned over her curves, that never happens in Pacific Rim. Mako is never sexualized. She’s adorable and smart and you understand completely why Raleigh is immediately smitten with her, but the movie never stoops to trying to convince you of her appeal because she’s “sexy”. You like Mako for the same reason Raleigh does…because she’s amazing. You like her as a person, not an object. Raleigh doesn’t objectify her and neither does the audience. She’s not some prize Raleigh gets for being a bad ass.
Meanwhile, the only person the movie really objectifies at any point is Raleigh, (you could argue that they’re showing the scars, but he’s shirtless three separate times including this scene SOOOO…some one liked how Charlie looked sans shirt). It verges on ogling because Charlie Hunnam is built like a brick house. It’s even more glaring because so much of the time Raleigh is covered up. He’s constantly in over sized sweaters and jackets, so his shirtlessness is very noticeable. You could argue that Raleigh might be Mako’s “prize”, but I think it’s deeper than that. Raleigh isn’t an object either. I have to say from my perspective, I liked Mako so much I loved that she got such a full package deal of a guy who adored her. It’s not good enough that Raleigh is just some cardboard cut out good guy that Mako gets in the end. Mako gets the adoration of a guy who is not only a stud, but who is sweet, supportive, kind, encouraging, a bad ass, and a survivor just like her. Raleigh works to be her friend and impress her, not the other way around. Raleigh is ostensibly the main character of the movie, but he spends his time in awe of Mako, not the other way around. His hero’s journey is pretty much done the moment he meets Mako, her’s isn’t done until she deals with the kaiju that haunt her. Raleigh gets back in a jaeger and moves on immediately. Mako’s transformation takes longer and has more focus.
So we LIKE Raleigh, but we’re rooting for Mako because Raleigh is pretty much getting his life back together. So you’ve got a secondary character actually making the hero’s journey and the main character working how a supporting “love interest” does most of the time. What it ends up in is a couple that isn’t official that has a LOT of people invested in them by the end.