It's been five years since director/awesome guy Guillermo del Toro unleashed a movie on screens ("Hellboy II: The Golden Army," for the record), but he's back with a vengeance with "Pacific Rim," a sci-fi adventure film that is exactly the movie you wanted to see when you were a ten-year-old with a formidable action figure collection.
It's your basic boy meets girl, robot punches monster-type story about a dimensional rift in the ocean that unleashes a horde of building-size Kaiju (monsters) hellbent on stomping on all of humanity. It's up to the Jaegers (giant robots) to take them out before they take us out. We got the lowdown from the sources, including the stars and del Toro himself.
1. Guillermo del Toro Loves Robot Porn
"Robot porn" is how Guillermo del Toro described the look and feel of "Pacific Rim" during a special presentation at Industrial Light and Magic, and boy was he not kidding. "This is a movie where the hardest thing to do is keep it simple," said the director with a Cheshire Cat grin.
"It doesn't want to be a dystopian, existential summer movie that took a genre that was well-loved and showed you the dark side of mankind," del Toro says. "When people say they like kittens and puppies, I like monsters and robots and I smile when you say those words. Everybody involved in the movie felt the same way."
2. Charlie Hunnam Didn't Like Anarchy On the Set
Between Charlie Day of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman of "Sons of Anarchy," del Toro pretty much raided all of FX's best shows for talent (except "Louie"). Playing the film's star mecha pilot is Hunnam, who had auditioned for del Toro's "Hellboy II" years ago. Unfortunately with great lead roles comes great responsibility, including some not-so-groovy armor.
"The suit created traction on my shoulders, it was like someone pushing down on me for 14 hours a day," said Hunnam, trying his damnedest not to sound whiny. "It's ostensibly a wet suit, each piece would get clipped on. It was about 30 minutes to put on and 15 minutes to take off. The pre-production was quite short on this film, so they never thought to put in a pee flap. When it takes 45 minutes to take on and off you don't want to be taking it on and off all day, but it's hot so you're drinking a lot of water. These are problems, but after a few weeks they gave me a pee flap so all was good." Fortunately the actor was also effusive in his praise for del Toro, who he'll work with again on next year's gothic ghost tale, "Crimson Peak."
3. Rinko Kikuchi is Japan's Monster Ambassador
The Pan Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) is a mixing bowl of cultures: American, British, Australian, Chinese, Russian, Latino, etc., all banding together to save the world from big ol' monsters. Hey, wait, what about Japan? Haven't they held a monopoly on Kaiju since the first "Godzilla" movie in 1954? Not to mention the big f**king robots of "Robotech," "The Big O," "Gundam" and so on? Don't you fret, 'cause there's a big Tokyo set piece, featuring one of the film's prime leads Mako Mori and a giant crab-thing called Onibaba. Mako is played by Academy Award-nominee Rinko Kikuchi, who proves to be the perfect representative for her kick-ass culture.
"I grew up with a lot of robot movies and monster movies since when I was a kid," she told us. "I also like anime, they have 'Evangelion' and 'Ghost in the Shell'. Being a part of this role is a dream come true because Japanese superhero anime always has a little girl who becomes a hero, but I've never seen that in a Japanese movie."
4. Charlie Day is the Rick Moranis of This Movie
Charlie Day has been playing a sub-moron on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" for many years but finally gets the chance to play a smarty-pants in the form of Dr. Newton Geiszler, a.k.a. Newt. He's not your run-of-the-mill science geek, though — more of a Kaiju groupie, fascinated with the creatures to the point of wanting to mind-meld with them.
"He wants to look rock and roll, and occasionally he does look rock and roll and then on other frames he does look like Rick Moranis," laughs Day. "One of the original concepts was that my parents were these scientists who had created the Jaeger technology. I sorta made the assumption that he has a chip on his shoulder about scientists never getting any of the credit or pats on the back for saving the war. He really rebels against Burn Gorman's type of labcoat and bow tie-wearing scientist. He thinks these guys are rock stars, so he wears leather coats, bracelets, combat boots, he has tattoos, yet his intelligence betrays him left and right and he's a bit dorky."
5. A Jaeger is NOT a German Liqueur
A Jaeger is a giant mech suit. There, glad we could get that out of the way. It's piloted from within the head inside a Conn-pod (bridge) by at least two pilots After a brief prologue, the movie starts 20 years in to the Kaiju war and the resistance is down to just four functioning Jaegers.
Gipsy Danger: The hero gunslinger, nuclear powered, driven by Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori.
Striker Eureka: The new kid in town, built like a football player, driven by Australians, with surprise cannons in its chest.
Crimson Typhoon: The Chinese model, with three bladed arms driven by the Wei Tang Triplets using some Tai Chi.
Cherno Alpha: The Russian connection, big and bulky, with a giant cooling tower for a head as a nod to Chernobyl.
BONUS JAEGER! Coyote Tango: A retired Mark 1 model once driven by Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), seen only in flashback.
6. Kaijus Have Names, Learn 'Em
Reckoner: A Kaiju that went down in Hong Kong; his carcass is so big citizens built a whole town inside of it.
Knifehead: Exactly like it sounds.
Axehead: The first Kaiju to make land in San Francisco; destroys Golden Gate Bridge.
Bladehead: Kaiju designed specifically to burst through human defense walls.
Onibaba: Crab monster that goes after 9-year-old Mako in the Tokyo flashback; named after a famous Japanese horror movie.
Leatherback: Gorilla-esque with snapping jaws and weird blue tendrals coming out of its head that emits an EMP to shut down Jaegers.
Otachi: Winged and spits a blue acid that can melt through metal.
Baby Kaiju: Exactly as cute as you would think.
Scunner: Biped with four arms and the biggest horns of all time.
Slattern: The final big baddie, the only category 5 Kaiju; with his hammerhead appearance and multiple whiplash tails he's truly the king of the Monsters.
7. Tokyo Drift
The coolest and most original science fiction concept "Pacific Rim" brings to the table is the Drift, which is the process wherein two pilots merge minds/memories in order to control a Jaeger in unison. Its an amazing avenue through which to explore backstory very quickly and create an instant (and intimate) connection between characters.
"The sexuality is definitely there because you're in somebody else's head!" says screenwriter Travis Beacham. "The Drift makes you really vulnerable within this really hard shell. I liked the idea that in order to control this giant robot you had to make yourself vulnerable to another person." Del Toro reveled in that idea too, although admitted that he didn't explore it too extensively because it could have overwhelmed the whole picture. "The danger with the Drift," del Toro explained, "is that you can make a more adult or profound use of that idea and then it upsets the tone for what you need for a giant robot and a giant monster to live in the same terrarium. I wanted to keep the tone balanced so you had a certain hyper-ness to the movie."
8. Even the Studio Head is a Nerd
Reading the list of movies made by Legendary Pictures is proof positive that its Founder and CEO Thomas Tull is a true blue geek: "The Dark Knight Trilogy," "Man of Steel," "Watchmen," "300," "Clash of the Titans." If you still think Tull is your garden variety bean counter exec then listen to what he told us about using "Pacific Rim" as his own personal dweeb playground.
"I'm a huge fan of Godzilla and that whole universe," said Tull, who's also making a "Godzilla" movie for 2014. "When I was a kid the day after Thanksgiving they used to show all day just Godzilla movies, King Kong movies, Mothra, Gidra, everything. Those certainly had an influence, but Guillermo very definitively said to the design team, 'Don't make this derivative. Let's come up with creatures and Jaegers that work.' We also worked with Carnegie Mellon University, which has an outstanding robotics department, on how we could ground some of the robotics. How would these strands actually work? What would these weight ratios be like? We even obsessed about if this really happened how fast could the world's resources be used? Like World War II, how many aircraft carriers could you turn out? We tried to make it science plausible, if not science fiction." NERD!
9. ILM Was in Hog Heaven on 'Pacific Rim'
Industrial Light and Magic has been and continues to be the gold standard of the visual effects industry. With limited resources and an ambitious slate of digital creatures, machines and environments, Guillermo del Toro still wanted to have the CGI equivalent of Tiffany's making his monsters. ILM was eager to work with the director, so they created a well-organized production pipeline to minimize costs spearheaded by CCO John Knoll. Knoll is one of the creators of Photoshop, so every time Britney Spears' face is seamlessly pasted onto a porn star's body you have him to thank.
"This is one of ILM's most joyous experiences," added del Toro, "because the three things you can know about any VFX artist in the world is they love robots, monsters and Cheetos, in that order. They got all three! They got well-fed with the Cheetos and any orange-colored snacks and all of them were fulfilling their dream."
10. Apocalypse Cancelled?
"Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!" You've heard this badass "Braveheart"-style speech given by Idris Elba in trailer after trailer, but is it true? Do the events of this movie leave no door open for a sequel? Without getting too spoilery, we can say "Pacific Rim" is a refreshing tentpole picture that leaves no threads dangling to be resolved in a future installment, with an entirely contained beginning, middle and end. If it tanks at the box office we can assume those cursed Precursors have learned a lesson about sending big brutes to ravage our planet, but if success demands "Pacific Rim 2: Go Bigger or Go Extincter" then there's a whole laundry list of possibilities to explore.
In Hong Kong we see a creepy Kaiju worship cult led by mysterious nuns in red cloaks, which could lead the way to humans assisting the Precursors. There's also the blooming relationship between Raleigh and Mako, and further character backstory to be gleaned from the Drift. "I think it's gonna build up," says Kikuchi of Mako and Raleigh's bond, "and maybe in the Drift she will see [CHARACTER WHO DIES] again." "God willing, if we get to make a second movie I would love to explore the Drift more," insists del Toro with genuine enthusiasm.