Guillermo del Toro's new movie Pacific Rim doesn't just feature enormous, insane robots — it also features totally massive monsters that trash cities with their terrifying limbs. We just saw the first footage from Pacific Rim in Hall H — and that included some insane glimpses of monster faces and monster limbs.
You're not prepared for this level of hugeness. Spoilers ahead...
There were some big extra screens on either side of the main screen in Hall H, and they kept showing little glimpses of footage and behind-the-scenes clips, plus some diagrams and sketches. The overall impression is one of huge dirty gritty stuff, with sparks flying everywhere and hydraulic joints. We glimpsed actors in their undershirts stick fighting, and Idris Elba grimacing as sparks fly past his head. Also, there are figures in suits walking forward in the rain. There is lots of people running in a scrapyard and Elba being pushed forward by mechanical arms. The over-arching message was one of dirty carnage in the rain and fire.
And then we also saw the actual trailer! It starts with a beautiful snowy landscape —
two figures are walking through the snow with a metal detector, searching for something. They find a tiny figure like a doll, but it's not what they're looking for. But the detector is going insane. One of the men, an old guy, is staring at the detector. And there is a huge loud thud, then another.
A huge robot with a spinning center collider comes out of the snow — towering over the two figures. It falls to its knees, and then topples over on its face.
From there, it's just hugeness and destruction. There's a bridge with what look like futuristic cars on them, and then monster claws crash down and crush a bridge. We don't get a good look at the monster but it's a huge mass of weird monsterness. There are planes flying against the monster, but not doing any good.
"WE CREATED MONSTERS," says the screen. And then we get a good look at the giant robots, which are magnificent and towering, with glowing eye-screens and huge joints... one suit has a woman painted on it, like a World War II bomber. We see the big robots wading through the water — and then we see the people controlling the robots. There's a shot of people walking, on a treadmill, and the robot walks. A person punches, and the robot punches.
A voiceover says: " Today at the edge of hope, the end of our time. We have chosen to believe in each other." Eventually we realize this is Idris Elba speaking to a group of robot pilots. "We are standing against the monsters outside our door," Elba says. And then louder, "TODAY WE ARE CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE." This is intercut with people screaming, and sparks, and Rinko Kikuchi looking scared but resolute.
There is a shark-faced giant monster, facing off against a giant robot, in the water. Shark-faced monster! There are claws, I think. It's foggy and kinetic and terrifying.
Everybody suits up in their special control suits, with a thunk-thunk-thunk. We see a robot raising its fist to smash down against the shark-faced monster, and then the movie's title flashes.
"It's been a long road," said del Toro on the panel. He credited the movie with "essentially saving my life. This movie came to me like a big fat obscene Christmas gift, at a time when I needed time. And as a fat greedy kid I opened the package, disassembled the toy 10, 20 times until it was perfect. I wanted to make — not a war movie, but an adventure movie." He said he wanted a movie with "a great sense of adventure," and there's not just spectacle but a lot of emotion. "If you don't have a sense of awe and scale everything is lost."
Del Toro explained that the giant robots, the Jaegars, have two pilots in their cockpits, inside their head. One pilot handles the left hemisphere of the brain, and the other handles the right hemisphere. If only one pilot handles the robot alone, the neural surge would be too much for any one mind to handle. The two pilots together create a shared memory, between their two minds. But you will absolutely see "what happens when there's a single pilot, and what happens to that pilot," says del Toro. "We have two characters drive a Jaegar solo in the film." Normally when the kaiju gets the cockpit, both pilots die — but in a couple cases, one pilot survives and has to drive the Jaegar home solo, and it's "a big ordeal."
"We wanted to create, not a movie that's an homage to two genres, but something new," says del Toro. "When I was little I dreamt of being an astronaut or a cowboy and ate my twinkies in the meantime... I really wanted to recreate the sensation of being there, fighting a thing that is the size of a skyscraper, riding aboard a thing that can face a tornado and win."
Adds del Toro: "When you get a big budget you can do two things: You can be crazy or lazy. I chose to be as crazy as I could." He said he aimed to "use creativity and passion and madness as our fuel to create this movie."
A fan asks if the movie will feature such giant robot weapons like drills or rocket punches. "We have rocket punches!" Says Guillermo del Toro. "No drills but we have amazing melee weaponry. Expect amazing robot porn and robot-on-kaiju action."
Another fan wants to know how many types of kaiju are in the movie; "We have approximately nine types of kaiju, each with its own ability," said del Toro. "We designed about 40 kaijus and we did an American Idol on them. We would do a pageant and everybody would vote. Punches were thrown. The better kaiju are in the movie, the ones that won. Every time you think you know what a kaiju can do, something else happens."
This movie has a lot of CG — but so did Pan's Labyrinth, says del Toro. "But we don't treat it like any other film." He tried to make the camera as dirty as possible, and sometimes put scratches on the camera. Sometimes the camera can't go high enough to see the whole Jaegar, or the whole kaiju. He spatters the lens with rain, snow and mud, so the creatures become real. He also approaches CG "from the purity of animation," the way Ray Harryhausen would. He felt very strongly that there should be "No fucking motion capture," so the robots don't move like human beings — they move with shock absorbers and gears.
And similarly, the monsters move like monsters, not like people. Del Toro never wanted the monsters to be "posing" or just shaking their limbs without attacking — he wanted them to be attacking every time they show up. The monsters need to have personalities — one is intelligent and evil, another is brutish. "You don't take CG as a thing that will save work. You take it as a thing that will necessitate ten times more work to come alive," he adds.
"That said, we did a shitload of physical stuff in the movie," says del Toro. The streets are rigged with hydraulic systems, so when the monster is walking the pavement bounces and blocks fly off. "We are shaking the entire set. So there is a lot of physical motion."
And del Toro promised another fan, "There will be some set pieces in there that I don't think have ever been done on film."