Will Pacific Rim be a box office smash hit?
It seems like only yesterday that the summer blockbuster season was months away, but with the release of Iron Man 3 at the beginning of this month, (Loved it? Hated it? Either way, check out our extensive write-up of the narrative decisions of Iron Man 3!) the summer movie season has officially started. Now we train our sights forwards as there are a variety of entertaining new features heading our way – and one of the most interesting is Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro‘s Pacific Rim. Giant robots versus giant monsters is hardly the most high brow of affairs for the busiest auteur in the business, but Del Toro is incredibly excited about this project, which means that you should be to!
The list of prospective undertakings Del Toro has his grubby hands in at the moment is staggering; if someone were to tell me that Del Toro doesn’t sleep, I would believe them. The filmmaker is renowned for getting himself involved in various projects, slowly inching them all to the big screen, but Hollywood thus far has proved mostly resistant to his charms. Ones on his radar include:
* An Incredible Hulk tv show for Marvel.
* A remake of Frankenstein (his favourite film of all time) starring Doug Jones.
* His own rendition of Tarzan. When talking about it a while ago he mentioned that he would want to “truly explore what it would actually be like for a human being raised in the wild to try and take on these huge, fierce creatures of the jungle”.
* An adaptation tv show of Monster, a Japanese manga series, for HBO.
* A stop motion Pinocchio remake, set to hew closer to the source material and truly explore the darkness within.
* Hellboy 3 – Everyone wants this movie, but Del Toro is struggling to find time to commit to it.
* At The Mountains Of Madness – His dream passion project, he was originally working on this after he left The Hobbit, (his version would have been much better) but then had his hopes dashed because he wouldn’t budge on an R rating. It’s a shame because it could have created the first truly iconic horror film monster of the 21st century – which was partly killed by the disappointing Alien prequel, Prometheus.
* A tv show of his novel series with Chuck Hogan, The Strain (which we wrote about here).
* A new production house at Disney, designed to create effective and imaginative horror films for kids. The first effort from this label is a remake of the terrible Haunted Mansion that originally starred Eddie Murphy. Del Toro says “it’s going to be scary, hopefully a fun scary, but not a funny scary. It’s going to be fun but the idea is to make it scary like when you go through the ride as a kid – part of you is charmed and part of you wants to get out of there.”
* A new haunted house film called Crimson Peak starring Emma Stone and Charlie Hunnam. This will be a rose-tinted classic affair, reminiscent of the classic films of the genre and not like the new wave of Paranormal Activity clones.
Those of course are just some of the projects that he has on his buckling slate, and they’re all directly shepherded to the screen via his involvement (writing, directing and/or involved in guiding the project through every conceptual stage), but that doesn’t mention all of the other co-scripting and producing efforts he does to help get young filmmakers first films to the big screen (see: Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Mama, The Orphanage et al.).
Needless to say, Guillermo Del Toro is an unfathomably busy man and the fact that he manages to grace us with any movies at all is a marvel in itself. Pacific Rim isn’t the most high brow affair we’ve ever seen from the Pan’s Labyrinth helmer, but this is clearly a project that he is very invested in all the same. There’s no denying the possibility of mainstream acceptance with Pacific Rim, despite it being one of the riskier big budget properties this summer, it’s still a viable method for Del Toro to break out from his more “cult” following constraints and truly be embraced by mainstream audiences. The benefit of doing this is that if Pacific Rim manages to achieve a large amount of success then it will give Del Toro carte blanche to make some of his more ambitious projects come to life, because Hollywood will finally see him as someone who can make money, as well as art.
Pacific Rim has certainly proved thus far that it will be an entertaining endeavour, the monsters involved, both man-made and alien, are monolithic in size and stature and the short clips of combat we’ve seen are riveting and awe-inspiring.
The visuals look fantastic and are clearly presented in a very, almost “manga” style (referencing of course various major inspirations such as the Evangelion series), which gives the film a lot of flavour and separates it out from the more grey, attempting to be “realistic” fare that is rife in the Transformers franchise. The arresting visuals are important because this film really needs to attract mainstream audiences to it.
There is no denying the geek credibility that Pacific Rim has; it’s a tribute to the classic “kaiju” films of Japanese cinema (monster movies) and a celebration of geek/science fiction culture. The problem with that, and what makes the whole project risky, is that it won’t necessarily go down well with general audiences. When looking over the list of marginalized box office failures you’ll notice that more “cult looking” science fiction pictures (like the excellent Dredd starring Karl Urban) get sidelined in favour of films that seemingly have more “real world presence” i.e. the aforementioned Transformers franchise.
Plus, Pacific Rim is lacking the “hot, young leads” angle; instead grabbing strong actors from television like Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy), Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia). This in itself is risky, as general audiences are often persuaded by being able to recognize the name’s on the top billing.
Saying all of this though, Pacific Rim will undoubtedly do phenomenally overseas, especially in Asian markets, which will love the concept and eat it up. Traditionally, this is the type of film that would have never even got the greenlight five years ago, but now that Hollywood studios are starting to take international box office figures seriously (even going so far as to work with China to ensure that their films pass censorship over there), means that not only are Warner Brothers confident in Pacific Rim‘s performance, but they’re actually investing in a sequel already.
Pacific Rim is an original story written by Travis Beacham, the relatively young scribe behind the terrible Clash Of The Titans remake. Of course, that, for the most part, was a script by numbers and he’s had the steady hands of Del Toro to help him guide this new script to light, so all should be good on those grounds.
The final trailer for Pacific Rim is less narratively focused than the previously released Wondercon trailer, but manages to strike a balance between storytelling and action, including a lot of new and exciting glimpses at combat that we haven’t seen yet. Del Toro has spoken before about this project, describing it as a love story without any of the trite romance, due to the nature of how the Jaegers (the massive robots) are driven. Jaegers require two pilots to operate and their minds are linked, mimicking the conjoined left and right hemispheres of the human brain. Of course, this means both pilot’s brains must meld together, meaning that they also share each other’s pain and memories.
This is an interesting premise and one with a lot of potential for a deeper narrative, although it remains to be seen how much of the film will choose to focus on the relationship between the pilots because if it goes too far, we may end up with a movie inside a movie fixated on the pilots exploring each others’ minds and trying to face old traumas that still lurk there, which is likely to alienate some audiences. It’s a complicated idea, and the trailers so far have only really shown us the surface level concept (monsters versus robots) so we might be in for a pleasant surprise in theatres when we actually end up with a very different, more cerebral movie.
Only time will tell, but right now I am incredibly excited for Pacific Rim as the combat looks to be exciting and uniquely choreographed, not to mention the design of all the creatures are truly impeccable. Del Toro’s speciality is designing original monsters and it looks like he hasn’t disappointed us here.
Pacific Rim is due to crash into theatres on the 12th July.