Pacific Rim (2013)
Warner Bros / Legendary Pictures
From acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del
Toro comes the sci-fi action adventure
“Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary
Pictures Pacific Rim.”
When legions of monstrous creatures, known
as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war
began that would take millions of lives and
consume humanity’s resources for years on
end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special
type of weapon was devised: massive
robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled
simultaneously by two pilots whose minds
are locked in a neural bridge. But even the
Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the
face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of
defeat, the forces defending mankind have
no choice but to turn to two unlikely
heroes—a washed up former pilot (Charlie
Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko
Kikuchi)—who are teamed to drive a
legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger
from the past. Together, they stand as
mankind’s last hope against the mounting
Oscar® nominee Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s
Labyrinth”) directed the epic sci-fi action
adventure from a script by Travis Beacham
(“Clash of the Titans”) and del Toro, story
by Beacham. Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni,
Guillermo del Toro and Mary Parent
produced the film, with Callum Greene
serving as executive producer.
“Pacific Rim” stars Charlie Hunnam (TV’s
“Sons of Anarchy”), Idris Elba (“Thor”),
Oscar® nominee Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”),
Charlie Day (“Horrible Bosses”), Rob
Kazinsky, Max Martini, Clifton Collins, Jr.,
Burn Gorman, and Ron Perlman (the
Del Toro’s behind-the-scenes team included
Academy Award®-winning director of
photography Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s
Labyrinth”), production designers Andrew
Neskoromny and Carol Spier, editors Peter
Amundson and John Gilroy, and costume
designer Kate Hawley. The music is
composed by Ramin Djawadi. The visual
effects supervisors are John Knoll and James
E. Price and the animation supervisor is Hal
Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary
Pictures present a Legendary Pictures/DDY
Production, a Guillermo del
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
KAIJU (kaijū, Japanese) Giant Beast.
JAEGER (yā’gar, German) Hunter.
“When I was a kid, whenever I’d feel small or lonely, I’d look up at the stars and wonder if there was life up there. Turns out, I was looking in the wrong direction.”
The depths of the ocean have always held a fascination for people, but we have always assumed that its wonders—and its dangers—are of our own world.
We were wrong.
That intriguing premise gave rise to “Warner Bros. Pictures & Legendary Pictures Pacific Rim.” As the film begins, a breach in the floor of the Pacific Ocean unleashes
a cataclysmic threat to the human race.
Director Guillermo del Toro, who also co-wrote and served as a producer on the film, relates, “Through that portal come creatures that are larger and more ferocious
and brutal than anything we have ever seen: the Kaiju. In order to grapple with them, mankind pulls together all its resources and invents the largest, most dynamic and
most versatile weapon ever devised. They create the Jaeger Program—towering 25-story-high robots, each operated by two pilots whose minds are neurally linked
Paired together, these pilots are humanity’s last hope of survival.
He continues, “It was a project that encompassed every single thing on my wish list, visually, atmospherically and emotionally…an unstoppable, thrilling adventure
about human pilots and giant robots up against monsters, the likes of which we’ve never seen.”
Producer Thomas Tull offers, “Just that description, ‘giant monsters versus giant robots,’ gives you a sense of the scope and scale, not to mention the action and fun.
And there is also an element of mystery in that we don’t know why the Kaiju are attacking. What do they want and how is humanity going to react? How can we
possibly defend ourselves against them?”
The story originated with screenwriter Travis Beacham, who was on the actual Pacific Rim—on the coast of California—when the central elements of the film began
to take shape. He recounts, “I remember walking along the beach in Santa Monica. It was a particularly foggy morning and there was something about the shape of
the pier in the fog jutting out into the water… An image just kind of popped into my head of a behemoth, a monster, rising from the surf to meet this giant robot waiting
on the shore to do battle.
“However,” Beacham acknowledges, “I knew that by itself was not a story. What really crystallized the plot for me was figuring out who is driving the robot, and
finally determining it had to be two pilots—two people whose minds would have to be intimately connected to control this massive thing. That’s when the pieces
started to fall into place in a very organic way.”
After collaborating with producers Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni as a screenwriter on “Clash of the Titans,” Beacham told them about his original idea for a winner-take-
all war that joins man and machine against monsters, who don’t invade from beyond our galaxy, but rather ascend from the deep.
“I was hooked from the first moment Travis pitched it to us,” Tull recalls. “The film is about humanity being up against something unexpected and utterly
overwhelming, and how they have to come together to combat it. We also thought the notion that we could be invaded from within was a very cool concept.”
“You can’t really run from it because they are coming from a place that’s inescapably on Earth,” Beacham adds. “Part of the allure of the ocean is that it hides its
secrets so well. There are so many myths about sea monsters and giant serpents and all the other things people suppose are down there. I think there is something
elementally terrifying about what can come out of this blackness.”
Given the enormity of the threat, “the stakes are huge for the entire planet,” Jashni says. “But starting with such huge stakes means you also have to find a way to
make it more relatable on a personal level. The ability to reduce everything down to the emotional core is one of Guillermo del Toro’s many gifts…not to mention he is
a master of the genre. He is encyclopedic about the Kaiju and ‘mecha’ cultures, making him uniquely qualified to capture the most accessible and entertaining facets of
both. When we shared with him what we were cooking up with Travis, he was immediately on board.”
As del Toro began crafting the screenplay with Beacham, he became totally immersed in the world they were forming. He attests, “The more we developed the
universe, the more I became personally invested in the story, the characters, the monsters, the robots, and everything it would take to make it all real. I couldn’t wait.”
“Working with Guillermo is incredible,” Beacham remarks. “He bristles with ideas and can come up with the most brilliant strokes of insight at the drop of a hat. He
also loves monster movies, so we were definitely playing in his sandbox,” he laughs. “He came at the project with a genuine passion for the material, which I think was
vital to the soul of the movie.”
Del Toro’s enthusiasm was not only contagious to everyone involved in the film, but is also largely the reason he has become an unequivocal favorite among genre
fans. In fact, he would be the first to count himself among those collectively known as “fanboys.”
Producer Mary Parent says, “Guillermo has a special connection to that audience because he is that audience, and that makes a huge difference. He is just as excited
about creating these amazing worlds as we are to see them. You know, going in, he’s going to deliver a visceral, thrilling rollercoaster.”
Nevertheless, it was essential to the filmmakers that the magnitude of the action be balanced with the human stories that are at the heart of the film. Jashni notes, “A
core theme of the movie is the indomitability of the human spirit, no matter how titanic the threat.”
Charlie Hunnam, who stars as Raleigh Becket, one of the brave Jaeger pilots, says, “The characters in the film are at the eleventh hour, and the only way they can
overcome this colossal danger is by coming together and forgetting all their petty differences, be it nations or creeds or backgrounds. The one thing mankind has
proven time and time again is that we can overcome any obstacle that we set our minds to, and I think that message will resonate with audiences.”
The global nature of the war against the Kaiju is reflected in the design, colors and insignia of the Jaegers, all giving nods to their country of origin. The four main
Jaegers seen battling in the film are: Gipsy Danger, from the USA; the Chinese Crimson Typhoon; Russia’s Cherno Alpha; and Striker Eureka, from Australia.
No less attention was paid to the creation of the dreaded Kaiju, which are destruction incarnate. Del Toro assembled some of the top concept artists in the industry to
design what he calls “the most terrifying but majestic creatures you could ever imagine,” each with its own distinct silhouette and lethal capabilities.
The Jaegers and the Kaiju were brought to life onscreen by the visual effects wizards at the renowned Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), who were collaborating with
del Toro for the first time. Together they executed epic battles that unfold on land and sea and in the air.
The film also features an international cast, led by Hunnam and also starring Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Clifton Collins, Jr.,
Burn Gorman, and Ron Perlman.
“We want people to be taken by the spectacle and the sound and fury,” del Toro says, “but it is all meant to illuminate the courage of the central characters.
Physically, the human beings are the smallest thing in the movie, but their spirit is the largest thing in the movie. They show you the makings of real heroes.”
The expanse of the production took up every soundstage at Toronto’s Pinewood Studios, including two of the largest shooting stages in the world. One set, called the
Conn-pod, was constructed on a large gimbal to make the actors—outfitted in specialized suits created by Legacy Effects—actually feel like they were engaged in
battle. “We wanted to put the audience right there in the pilot seat. It will make you feel what it is to suit up, hook up, and take the robot for a ride.”
JAEGERS VS. KAIJU
“In order to fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.”
Del Toro was largely responsible for shaping what are, literally speaking, the biggest stars of “Pacific Rim”: the Kaiju. “I love monsters,” states the director who
conceived all the various monsters in the film in conjunction with an elite band of concept artists, illustrators, sculptors, and designers. “We had some of the best
creature designers in the world involved in the making of the Kaiju.”
Del Toro began with a group that included artist and illustrator Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Wayne Barlowe, Stephen Schirle, Doug Williams, Hugo Martin, Tyruben
Ellingson, Guy Davis, Oscar Chichoni, David Meng, Simon Lee, Raul Monge, Carlos Salgado, Keith Thompson, Simon Webber, Allen Williams and Rob McCallum.
Members of the team brainstormed for weeks, beginning in a windowless room they appropriately dubbed “the submarine.” Together, they examined everything: from
sizes, shapes and colors to how the immense beings moved and fought. Del Toro says, “We wanted to evoke the sheer awe and terror that one would feel when
coming upon one of these monsters.”
He set down certain parameters: an example being that any animal kingdom inspirations were primarily limited to lizards, crustaceans and insects. For the most part,
however, the think tank could let their imaginations run wild, taking a tag team approach as they pooled ideas. Recalling some of the process, del Toro describes,
“Guy Davis would start a design and then Francisco took a stab at it. Then Simon Webber rendered it and Dave Meng would sculpt it. Seeing all those iterations of
the creatures enabled us to make them all individual.”
The designers gave the Kaiju different nicknames that were indicative of their most prominent physical attributes, like Knifehead, Axehead, Leatherback, etc. Some
are viciously calculated, others are more raw power. “They are living weapons,” del Toro says. “They are blind instinct combined with tactical intelligence, capable of
making instant decisions in battle, so there are definitely a few surprises.”
Making them even more fearsome, every appendage on the Kaiju bodies is part of their arsenal. And, as Thomas Tull points out, “They are quickly evolving. With
every attack, they learn something and continually progress in both size and tactics.”
Many of the same artists who helped bring about the Kaiju also lent their talents to the formation of mankind’s last line of defense: the Jaegers. Beacham says, “The
biggest challenge in the world of ‘Pacific Rim’ is finding a way to beat the Kaiju on their own terms. That was the whole idea behind the invention of the Jaegers.”
Just as every Kaiju is unique, each Jaeger is distinct in both design and function, with its own array of weapons, “so every time you see a Jaeger go up against a Kaiju,
it’s a completely different fight,” says del Toro.
The once mighty Jaeger fleet has been reduced to four surviving robots. The director wanted the huge war machines to appear combat-worn, with markings that
flaunt the number of enemies downed. Their shape, color and insignias reflect their country of origin, as do their fighting styles.
Del Toro equates the look of the U.S. of A.’s Gipsy Danger to “a classic gunslinger heading into a fight. A mixture of a deco skyscraper and John Wayne. Gipsy has
swagger and is made to resemble a WWII fighter jet in paint job and details.” A Mark 3, it is considered an old Jaeger and, although it’s been refurbished, it still
carries the scars of war…as do its pilots.
Russia’s Cherno Alpha is a T-series Jaeger with an oversized nuclear reactor. Its exceptional brawn makes up for its more lumbering gait. It is the oldest, heaviest
Jaeger in the surviving fleet. “Brute force and blunt trauma are its calling cards,” says Thomas Tull.
China’s Crimson Typhoon is a Mark 4, the only Jaeger with three arms, thanks to its three-man pilot team. Its moves are as close as a massive Jaeger can get to
martial arts. Jon Jashni observes, “Some of what they’re able to pull off in the course of the movie is a function of them being able to do more with more.”
The Resistance has one Mark 5: Australia’s Striker Eureka. Being the latest model, it boasts faster speed and better maneuverability. “But it’s an Aussie brawler, so it
has a lot of bravado and a bit of a strut, like a guy who would pick a fight in a bar,” del Toro teases.
Although the Jaegers would exist only on screen, a great deal of planning went into the mechanics of the robots. “From a technical standpoint, we decided to build
them from the inside out in diagrams,” reveals del Toro. “We determined the way the pistons, the relays, the torque, the transmission, the engines, and every other
element worked in detail. Then we pulled back and started figuring out the vents, the thermal insulation, the outer skin and so on.”
With the designs of the Kaiju and Jaegers in place, it was up to the visual effects team at ILM, headed by visual effects supervisor John Knoll, to pit them against each
other using state-of-the-art computer animation. Knoll says, “We knew this was going to be a large and very complex project. Every effects sequence had its own
challenges, not only in bringing to life these characters but in their interaction with the environments: from the large-scale fluid simulation on the ocean; to the solid
surfaces of the cities’ buildings and pavements; and going completely underwater, where we have silt and plankton and hydrothermal vents. Each shot presented an
intricate cocktail of elements that had to be blended just so.”
James E. Price, who also served as a visual effects supervisor, says, “We were excited about working with ILM because they not only have an incredible character
animation team but also the production pipeline needed to accomplish the sophisticated effects for the interaction between the Kaiju and Jaegers, as well as the water
and urban environments where the battles take place.”
Tull remarks, “When you think about the pedigree of ILM, from “Star Wars” on, and then you marry that up with a director like Guillermo del Toro…we felt very
fortunate. The first time we went up to ILM and saw some of the finished shots, it was awe inspiring.”
“Guillermo is the ideal director to work with on something like this. He had a very clear vision of what he wanted to see, could articulate it well, and was consistent in
his pursuit of that vision,” says Knoll, who worked alongside animation supervisor Hal Hickel at ILM.
“I had the best experience working with ILM,” del Toro states. “John and Hal are two people I respect and admire so much—real creative partners. I knew I could
count on them, as well as Jamie, to help us deliver something amazing.”
The sheer size of the combatants posed a major obstacle. Knoll offers, “A big hurdle for us was to try and strike the right balance between speed and scale, because
if you think about how big these things are, the physics would dictate that they would need to move slower. But then if they move too slowly, the action is not as
exciting, so we had to find a way to make them go fast enough without blowing the scale. And that was made harder by the different environments they were in,
whether it’s splashing water or shattering concrete. All of these things had to be simulated in the computer with a believable sense of gravity and scale, so we had to
constantly make adjustments to make it all work well together.”
Price confirms, “How do you frame up a Kaiju or a Jaeger that’s 250 feet high and get the audience to identify with something that large? We needed to convey the
scale, both in water and on land. Having them together in any one arena required very specific effects.”
That was largely due to the juxtaposition of the mechanical Jaegers with the organic Kaiju. Putting the Jaegers in motion proved the more complicated process,
because Hickel’s team had to impart a suggestion of robotic movement while avoiding anything too herky-jerky.
In order to make the warfare look more theatrical, del Toro determined that there should always be something tangible in the atmosphere, whether rain, snow, fog,
smoke or embers. The running lights on the Jaegers would then illuminate the particles in the air, generating a radiant dome.
Del Toro also used the robots’ own perimeter lights to great effect, clarifying, “Throwing too much light on them would actually seem to miniaturize them.” Instead, by
limiting the light source to what was on the Jaegers and brightening the background a bit, they projected a more imposing silhouette.
The VFX team often took cues from what was being accomplished on set, never more so than in the Conn-pod— the Jaeger cockpit located in the head of the
robot, from which the pilots controlled its every move. Price explains, “We watched what the actors were doing in the Conn-pod and, to a certain extent, could
extrapolate that to the movement of the Jaeger. Just as the pilots’ motion informs the Jaegers, the actors’ performances were a springboard for us.”