SAN FRANCISCO—There’s nothing surprising about flipping the calendar to July and getting bombarded by movie trailers about monsters fighting robots. Pacific Rim, which hits theatres on July 12, takes place on a futuristic Earth where machines dubbed Jaegers battle giant sea monsters called Kaiju (Japanese for strange beast).
However, the fact that the film is directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), is the first indication that this is more than just your typical action-heavy money grabber.
“I wanted to make this a summer movie that’s not operating by the rules of a summer movie,” del Toro insists, speaking to the Georgia Straight in a San Francisco hotel room. “I’m never going to make a normal blockbuster or a summer movie for the box office. For good or bad, I’m going to bring the rules that I believe in. Tonally, this is different; visually, it’s different. Every element has been thought out to be something different than normal…This movie has a more humane heart; it has innocence and a purity that’s almost childlike. Every big scene in the movie has a dramatic point. All of them have a purpose—they’re not just cool action for cool action’s sake.”
Indeed, Pacific Rim has elements that are significantly different from traditional high-budget action-movie fare, including the fact that Jaegers are operated by two people simultaneously, with the pilots having to undergo a “drift” in which they are plunged into each other’s minds and memories, thus having the ability to fight in unison.
Del Toro seems to have stopped at nothing in his quest to make the cockpit scenes as real as possible. This was something his cast probably appreciated—before they had to shoot them.
As Charlie Hunnam—who plays the film’s protagonist, Raleigh Bracket—told a news conference earlier in the day: “I would do anything with Guillermo; I think he’s such a talented filmmaker. He’s got more energy and more passion for the project than anyone I’ve come across in Hollywood. He’s wonderful, but he’s a total slave driver. It’s almost sleight of hand, in a certain way. He convinces you to do it, but then I got into the cockpit and it was horrible. It was like being on an elliptical for 14 hours a day while wearing a suit of armour that weighs 40 pounds while Guillermo sprays fire at you. And I was in there for 27 days.”
Flamethrowers aside, there’s a sense that del Toro really cares about his projects, something that rang true in June when, after two fans posted concerns over the film’s opening-day prospects, the director responded personally. “I just answered saying, ‘We’re working on it,’ ” he says. “We hadn’t even started the budget for marketing. We had an awareness problem, not a problem with anyone rejecting the material. Honestly, I normally don’t get involved in that. But my core fans are my family, and I wanted to squash their fears.”