I NEED TO WATCH THIS ON VIDEO BECAUSE I AM JUST SO THANKFUL FOR ROB AND MAX FOR MAKING THIS SCENE MEAN SOMETHING. In the novelization, this entire scene is written with so much coldness and disdain and that I physically had to put the book down and breathe a little bit and reset myself. Chuck verbalized himself in a way that could cut a jaeger in half—but the way Rob acted it out is scores better.
Chuck isn’t ice cold in Rob’s portrayal of this scene. He’s not stating these words because he’s out to smash his father’s heart, it’s to defend himself and what he was and what he ultimately grew up to be. Herc has never been the perfect dad; there had always been things he had to put aside for the things he had to do, and that included raising Chuck. Chuck had to almost raise himself; with the only guiding pattern he could base himself upon his military man dad—what Chuck is today—stubborn, hot headed, emotionally truncated—is exactly what Herc is.
So Herc comes in and says I want you to become a better person and Chuck stills for a split second because how do you do that when the only person he’d tried to be for the rest of his life is the exact person who wants him to change? He doesn’t understand, the poor, selfish child, how to be a better person, because Herc never had the opportunity to teach him.
So Chuck Hansen, just like he always does, walks away.
And Hercules Hansen, just like he always does, doesn’t stop him.
I think the beauty of this, as Nhix pointed out, is in Rob’s portrayal. The subtle shifts in his expression and his body language, that tells a different story from the cold-cut way the novelisation delivers it.
If you look at his face in the second gif, when Chuck asks Herc, ‘Who I am? What do you mean?’, he’s genuinely confused by his father’s question. Because Chuck knows who he is - he’s the best goddamned jaeger pilot they have. He knows it, everyone knows it and Herc does too, as reflected from his retort.
And when he asks, “What more do you want me to be?”, my heart just breaks. Into tiny, inconsolable pieces.
That is what Chuck believes to be the sum of his entire existence. He is raised in the military, in the middle of an ongoing war where he is nothing more than statistics. He grows up with an older ranger instead of a father, watches one jaeger fall after another and he justifies his survival by his kill count. Something tangible and concrete. Something that adheres to the statistics, the military expectation.
“What more do you want me to be?”
At the end of the day, everything he does is for his father. Seeking for a form of validation, maybe a warped attempt at emulating the heroes before him. Herc is more an older ranger than a father at that point, and from the point of view of someone who was raised without knowing better, Chuck strives to become what he thinks Herc would appreciate - a great ranger, one worthy to serve together with Ranger Hercules Hansen.
Not Dad or Daddy. Not since Scissure.
You can see how taken aback he is when Herc says, “(I want you to be) A better person!" The way his whole demeanour changes, the way he recoils for that half-second before lashing back to be on the offensive. Because his father has just invalidated what Chuck believes whole-heartedly to be his worth. How do you reconcile something like that? What gives Herc the right to expect his son to be ‘a better person' when he's never taught Chuck how?
You can easily see how heartbroken Herc is, but when you look at Chuck, you know that the blade he uses to cut up Herc is one with two sharp edges.
He’s hurting as much as he hurts.
“Catch you in the drift," he pauses, looks Herc in the eyes with all the anger and frustration and grief that blister just underneath the skin. "Dad.”