Del Toro's 'Pacific Rim' resurrects the Kaiju film
This film publicity image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the Gipsy Danger robot in a scene from "Pacific Rim." "Pacific Rim" fulfills a very basic boyhood fantasy: big ol' robots and giant monsters slugging it out. The concept to Guillermo del Toro's "Godzilla"-sized film is about as simple as it gets, but actually constructing such mammoth creations is a far more arduous undertaking. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
NEW YORK (AP) — The appeal of "Pacific Rim" isn't complicated.
Like the kind of boyhood fantasy that delights in flying men and relishes dreams of dinosaurs, "Pacific Rim," the latest film from director Guillermo Del Toro, is predicated on the simple, childlike thrill of seeing big ol' robots and big ol' monsters slug it out.
But while summer spectacles have grown ever larger in recent years, the monster movie — the original city-smashing genre — has mostly ceded the multiplexes to superheroes and more apocalyptic disaster films. But 14 years after Roland Emmerich's forgettable "Godzilla" remake, Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" constitutes a large-scale attempt to bring Japan's beloved Kaiju movies — their monster films, of which Ishiro Honda's 1954 "Godzilla" is the most famous — to American shores.
"Monsters have always spoken to a part of me that is really, really essential," Del Toro, the Mexican director of the Oscar-nominated "Pan's Labyrinth," said in a recent interview. "All of my life, I felt out of place. The tragedy of every monster in every movie is that they are out of place. That's the essential plight of monsters."
This conceptual art image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows the Knifehead monster from the film, "Pacific Rim." "Pacific Rim" fulfills a very basic boyhood fantasy: big ol' robots and giant monsters slugging it out. The concept to Guillermo del Toro's "Godzilla"-sized film is about as simple as it gets, but actually constructing such mammoth creations is a far more arduous undertaking. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
In the 3-D "Pacific Rim," which Warner Bros. will release on July 12, the 25-story-high Kaiju emanate (as is tradition) from the sea one by one, each uniquely grotesque beasts. To combat these monsters and defend the coastlines of the Pacific, equally giant robots called Jaegers are built, each controlled by two brain-connected pilots.
Since he was a child, Del Toro has compulsively drawn monsters, beginning with sketches of the Creature from "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and the Phantom from "Phantom of the Opera." He's still an obsessive drawer (he has a book of drawings for every movie he makes), but creating the creatures and robots of "Pacific Rim" meant working in an entirely different scale.
While the Kaiju films of Toho studios were a formative influence on Del Toro, he boxed up his DVDs before starting work on "Pacific Rim," intent on making a movie that wasn't a mere homage. Instead, he took inspiration less from Japanese monster films than paintings like Goya's "The Colossus" (which depicts a passing muscular giant, with fists raised, surrounded by clouds) and George Bellows' visceral boxing paintings of hulking combatants.