Guillermo Del Toro’s robots vs. monsters action sci-fi Pacific Rim plans to drop its audience directly into the middle of a war – one that humanity is losing. The film takes place in the not-too-distant future, after an army of monstrous creatures known only as the Kaiju have risen from a dimensional rift deep in the Pacific ocean, with the apparent intent of taking over Earth and destroying everything in their path. Not a species to go down without a fight, humans create giant robots called Jaegers, capable of battling – and occasionally even beating – the Kaiju in claw-to-mechanical-hand combat.
The film begins a decade or so into this war, with almost all of the Jaegers wiped out, and humanity determined to make one last push back against their invaders. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi play two pilots charged with controlling the same Jaeger and using it to win victory for humanity. For moviegoers who want to know more about the history of the war, however, screenwriter Travis Beacham has penned a graphic novel called Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero, which covers the story of how the Kaiju first came to Earth.
In an interview with IGN, Beacham has gone into fascinating detail about the design of the giant monsters and robots, even dropping hints about where the Kaiju came from and the reasons behind them coming to Earth. One of the reasons, apparently, for the Kaiju’s success in taking out Jaegers is that each one has its own distinguishable trick up its sleeve:
“They each have different abilities. One of them that has a kind of electrical ability, they emit certain toxic fluids, they have surprise appendages that you don’t necessarily know about. Each Kaiju comes with its own set of grizzly abilities and surprises.”
Teaser images for Pacific Rim have raised a number of questions about the blue blood that runs through Kaiju veins. Images of clean-up crews in bunny suits trawling through bloodstained beaches have suggested that the Kaiju are so dangerous that even to cut them open is to take a risk, similar to the acidic blood of the xenomorphs in Alien. Beacham explains that emphasizing the unsafe nature of the Kaiju blood is an attempt to show the part of monster movies’ stories that is usually cut short by the arrival of the credits sequence – what happens to the giant dead monster in the middle of the street?
“The blood is phosphorescent, and it’s also extraordinarily toxic. It has kind of a glowing black light effect when it’s freshly bleeding. It’s a condition that’s called in the movie, Kaiju blue, and at the same time that it’s very sort of pretty looking, it’s also extremely dangerous. When we were first thinking about it, something that these kinds of stories usually just gloss over is you know, the monster comes in, you fight the monster, the monster’s dead – problem solved. Well really that’s kind of the beginning of the problem because now you have however many tons equivalent of rotting flesh in the middle of the city. I mean it’s an enormous public health hazard.”
Beacham says that there are certain aspects of the Kaiju’s origins – including the true reasons for them coming to Earth – that may end up remaining a mystery by the end of Pacific Rim (perhaps to leave a few more stones left unturned for the sequel). But he does drop one major plot hint regarding the dimensional rift that the Kaiju come from, and where it might lead to:
“You will see something that is not Earth in the film, I’ll say that… The Kaiju aren’t necessarily the responsible party. There’s a lot going on in the other universe, some of which you’ll get a glimpse of from the movie, but it is every bit as complex and crazy over there as it is on our side of the breach.”
It’s not yet clear what level of sentience the Kaiju have – whether they’re simply mindless animals, whether they have human-level intelligence, or whether their intelligence actually goes beyond our own. The suggestion that they aren’t invading Earth of their own accord, but are instead being compelled by some other force from their universe, is a very interesting one. Could it be that the Kaiju are simply giant organic bulldozers that have been sent to clear the plains of Earth for recolonization? Or was the rift caused by some kind of trouble in their own dimension that is forcing them to seek out a new habitat?
On the other side of the battle are the Jaegers: giant robots directly controlled by human minds – two pilots acting in perfect synchronization in order to control the movements of the enormous machine. The reason that two pilots are needed was explained in a recent featurette on the neural link between human and computer – known as ‘The Drift’ – which burrows into each pilot’s entire consciousness and memories in order to make them the most efficient fighter possible. The strain of such a link proves to be too great for a single human to survive it, but the Drift succeeds when bolstered by the presence of two human minds working simultaneously. Beacham explains that, as well as theoretically giving the Jaegers a more human feel, this also creates an unusual connection between the human characters:
“The idea that let us realize that this was a human story was the idea that it takes to pilots to drive a Jaeger. That puts human relationships literally at the core of the robot in the battle. Suddenly it matters to the battle, and to the people that they are defending, that the two people are driving this robot get along, and that they trust one another, and that they have a firm relationship between them.”
Despite how intimate this connection might sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean Pacific Rim will have a forced romance subplot. When Screen Rant interviewed Charlie Hunnam at Comic Con, he described the relationship between his character, Raleigh, and Mako Mori (Kikuchi) as being, ”a love story without a love story. It’s about all of the necessary elements of love without arriving at love itself.” This sounds like a fairly unique approach to their relationship, since it’s comparatively rare to have the male and female leads in an action movie exploring a deep but platonic friendship, without romantic or sexual elements to it. Having the two characters fall in love as a result of their Drift connection would have felt like far too obvious a road to go down, so it’s promising to hear suggestions that Beacham and Del Toro didn’t fall into that trap.
With Beacham’s graphic novel coming out later this month, and a tie-in video game already in the works, are you planning to explore the Pacific Rim universe outside of the movie?
Pacific Rim opens in regular and select 3D/IMAX theaters in the U.S. on July 12th, 2013.