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Legendary and Warner Bros. kicked off their epic Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International with a first glimpse of director Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, the highly anticipated film that pits giant robots against giant monsters. Basically, the concept sells itself.
As del Toro was ushered onto the stage, widescreen panels portrayed mechanical blueprints and behind-the-scenes footage (with plenty of green-screen backdrops in view). The director proved to be a comedic, crowd-pleasing presence from the very beginning, greeting the crowd with, “Hola. I am shitting in my pants, really!”
He went on to explain that he’s been preparing months to unveil a first look at the film to the Comic-Con audience. And lest anyone fear del Toro’s imaginative vision would be compromised on a big-budget film with this premise, he promised, “A movie like this, it’s easy to forget how unique you can make it. I wanted to make the movie not a war movie but an adventure movie — a movie that has a huge, romantic sense of adventure, grandeur, operatic battles that were not only respectable but have a huge emotional content. Because in a movie like this when you have 25-story monsters and you don’t have a sense of awe and scale, everything is lost.”
Del Toro divulged that only 12 weeks ago they were still shooting the movie, and – as an added bonus for the lucky folks in the Hall H packed crowd – they’d be going into “radio silence for Pacific Rim until the end of the year” after screening the footage.
To share in the glory of witnessing an audience’s first glimpse at the film, Pacific Rim stars Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Antrobus), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori), Charlie Day (Newt Gottlieb) and Ron Perlman (Hannibal Chow) joined their director.
By way of introducing the film, del Toro explained, “The robots – called the Jaegers – they have two pilots in a cockpit in their head. One pilot shares the ability to handle the right hemisphere, the other one handles the left hemisphere.”
The footage opens in an arctic setting, all ice-covered flatlands with blizzard-like snow whipping in front of two small specs, who turn out to be humans – one of whom holds a metal detector. Suddenly, a massive robot (complete with circular orange light in the middle of its breastbone, a fan-like metal element whirring within) emerges from the whiteness, its enormous scale immediately apparent when paired with the ant-sized humans at its feet. Next we see a bridge being destroyed by a huge kaiju monster that’s emerged from the sea, and human soldiers in futuristic-looking Giger-esque settings rush to put on suits in response to the invasion. Idris Elba (Gen. Stacker Pentecost) appears, giving an epic speech that booms over footage of preparation for war, and – eventually – a robot and monster battling in the ocean. It ends emphatically on the line, “Today, we are canceling the apocalypse!” (Note to Bill Pullman: Your “Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!” line has officially been served.)
Ever the jokester, del Toro promised the roaring crowd, “As we say in Mexico, that’s just the tip!” He described the tone of the battles as “astounding” and explained that he wanted to “recreate the sensation you have in an adventure movie of what it was to be there battling with a thing that is the size of a skyscraper – a thing that can actually face a tornado and win. When you get a budget you can do two things: you can get crazy or lazy. And I chose to be as crazy as I could. We used creativity and passion and madness as a fuel to make this movie.”
An audience member who admitted to watching kaiju films and giant robots all his life asked whether we could expect to see iconic robot weapons like drills and rocket punches. Del Toro chuckled and exclaimed, “You know, we have rocket punches!” He went on to describe other military, close-contact weapons and artillery and promised, “Expect absolutely obscene robot porn.”
Another fan wondered if we’d be seeing different types of kaiju, or just one form. “We have approximately nine types, and we have six or seven robots, and each of them has a unique ability,” del Toro responded. He also promised, cryptically, “There are some set pieces in here that I don’t think have ever been seen on film.”
One especially sharp Q&A participant asked del Toro what would happen if only one man was in control of both of a robot’s brain hemispheres, and he was clearly impressed by her query. “That is actually answered in the film!” he divulged. “We wanted to show what happens when it’s a single pilot, so two of the characters drove a Jaeger solo when the partner died. Normally when the kaiju gets a cockpit, he gets both pilots. So when a kaiju leaves one pilot alive and that pilot is able to drive the Jaeger to safety, it’s a big ordeal, and we show it.”
When asked how he incorporated CGI, del Toro explained he’s taking a decidedly realistic bent with his effects, saying, “We approached it like Harryhausen approached stop motion. One of the things we were very clear about is no fucking motion capture. It was because I don’t want the robots moving just like human beings. I needed the robots to really move with a sense of shock absorber, a joint, a gear moving.”
He described the lengths they went to in order to create realism on set, explaining, “When we built the streets, we rigged the streets with hydraulic systems, so when a monster’s walking, the pavement is rigged to bounce. And blocks of pavement bounce and cars bounce and buildings bounce. You may think, ‘Oh – that’s CG!’ It wasn’t. We were shaking the entire set!”
Pacific Rim hits theaters July 12, 2013.