Recently I've been reading a book about walking--not an exercise manual but a general collection of thoughts on the literature, science, history, and psychology of walking. At one point the author, Geoff Nicholson, attends a conference of psychogeographers in New York City and talks a bit about the origins of the movement (har har). Before beginning this particular book I was familiar with the tenets of psychogeography, being someone who walks a lot in certain cities, but I haven't read any of Guy Debord's foundational works on the topic. Nicholson quotes from "Theory of the Dérive" the following passage:
One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness, since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions.
Given this, and the fact that "dérive" translates directly into "drift," what else was I to do but conclude that the concepts of the drift and drift-compatibility in Pacific Rim derive from Debord's theory? Of course I have no idea whether this is accurate, whether Guillermo del Toro is familiar with Debord's writing and used it in his own, but the similarities are there. What is drifting in the film if not walking: in another's consciousness and memories, in your own, in the bulk of a jaeger, in tandem with another individual to whom you are closely attuned, or in the case of the Wei triplets, another two individuals?
(the Becket brothers)
The necessary core of drift-compatibility is that the "same level of awareness" has been reached by all parties concerned. A jaeger can't be piloted alone. Debord indicated that it was preferable for groups bent on dérive to change line-up each time, and this is where the two media diverge, as Pacific Rim emphasizes that although a jaeger pilot can be drift-compatible with multiple other pilots (as in the case of Raleigh and Yancy, and then Raleigh and Mako), when you've found a person to drift with, they're your co-pilot until things go belly up. The larger goal of this drifting is different from Debord's--the hip young things of the dérive are interested in viewing the concrete in new patterns and fractured ways, while the jaeger pilots of the drift have to take broken images and tender memories and build them into a cohesive whole. But the ultimate goal of dérive and drifting is to step out, to tread familiar paths made new by trust and heightened awareness.
(Mako and Raleigh)