ANAHEIM – As we inch closer and closer to the summer season there is one movie that is starting to jump up moviegoer’s most anticipated lists, “Pacific Rim.” Warner Bros. and Legendary brought out the film’s director, Guillermo Del Toro, for a special sneak peek of the picture Saturday at WonderCon 2013.
HitFix’s own Drew McWeeny moderated the panel which featured new footage of the giant robots vs. giant monsters movie starring Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba and Ron Perlman. Before starting the reel, Del Toro told the crowd, “The movie is now 85% complete and the effects we are mixing and doing the music and so forth. You are basically going to see a trailer [I cut] for this event only. [It will also be shown at an] event in Vegas and then no one will see this tailer again. I’m going to shut the [expletive] up and show it.”
Like previous trailers, the new footage set up the film’s storyline: In the near future, the planet finds itself invaded by giant alien monsters. The not-so friendly monsters aren’t coming from the sky, but some sort of dimensional portal deep in the ocean. Humanity has determined the best way to fight back is by constructing giant robot “jaegers” which are manned by a two-person team. For the first time, we discover that there was a lot of initial success in this effort, but then something went wrong and the jaegers began to lose. Now, the jaegers have been updated (or there is a new strategy – it’s unclear) as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
The new footage featured some eye-popping shots:
– A jaeger being dragged over a city rooftop by a monster with pterodactyl wings.
– A jaeger fighting a monster in space (or the upper reaches of the atmosphere) and then falling back to earth.
– Two monsters tag-teaming and destroying a jaeger in battle (an example of when things started to go badly).
– A jaeger falling over in the snow and Hunnam walking out with his suit half ripped off.
– And, most impressively, a jaeger dragging an oil tanker through the streets of Tokyo (or Hong Kong?) and then using it like a baseball bat to knock down a monster.
And – surprise – cue a huge roar from the audience after that last iconic image plays.
The director loved the reaction noting, that’s what you get when you have “25 story high mother[expletives] kicking monsters asses.”
Del Toro revealed the head of the jaeger which featured the two actors was actually a four-story set which would roll and move when the “robot” is hit by a monster. “Actors were exhausted by the end of the day and I was sipping my fourth cappuccino.”
“The only one who never complained was Rinko,” Del Toro adds.
As you’d expect after the exceptional production design on Del Toro’s previous films, reaching a final look for each jaeger wasn’t easy. Del Toro reveals, “Every week we would do a robot version [of ‘American Idol.’] Every week those that surivived were refined further. We would polish them to adapt them to that country. In total we designed 12 monsters and nine robots active to some degree.”
The audience was also given their first real look of Charlie Day as a scientist involved in the jaeger program. Del Toro, who filmed a cameo on Day’s FX series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” earlier this year, notes, “What is weird is that throughout the movie Charlie Day looks like Rick Moranis, JJ Abrams and the short brother of Bradley Cooper. You think he’s super hip, but he’s really a super hip geek.”
Del Toro admits this is an unconventional role for the “Horrible Bosses” star. “He came in and he said, ‘Can I play my character straight and have the comedy come from the situation?’ Straight for Charlie Day is still funny.”
Moviegoers might be surprised to discover the robots in the movie are not animated via the now common motion capture technique. For Del Toro, the weight and size of the robots made conventional CG animation the better choice.
“I think motion capture is great for a certain size, but these things are 25-story size,” Del Toro says. “I know something about weight myself,” he laughs. “You had to feel the size of these things.”
It will be at least three months before audiences get to see the finished product, but Del Toro is already over the moon with what he’s seen.
“I’ve seen this movie so many times,” Del Toro says. “Every time I see it I still have a shit-eating grin. Absolutely in heaven.”
“Pacific Rim” opens nationwide in 3D and in IMAX on July 12.