Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Jurassic World

Before we start: just in case you haven't yet...My previous instalment of JP posts: - I'll wait until you're up to speed. ^^

All good? Now then; here's the next in my ongoing Blog-posts on Jurassic Park IV...

Which now has an official title: JURASSIC WORLD. And a snazzy new logo to go with it:

(Full size image here:

"Fabulous!" (As the mother at the beginning of The Lost World remarked!)

The new title was revealed with the logo and I feel that this was a great way to do it. And, to be honest; I rather very much like it!

It gives it what we're familiar with and, by word alone, aims to expand what we already know. And that's always a good sign for a follow up. And by swapping 'Park' for 'World', it also gives us a sense that this is a new step entirely for the series. Almost a reboot (which thank goodness it isn't). Perhaps giving us the potential to have a new sub-series; we've had the 'Parks', so now we're getting the 'Worlds'. Also reflected in the blue hue, instead of the usual red.

Also, by the title alone, we are given the possibility to imagine that the Dinosaurs may not just be restricted to Isla Nublar or Las Cinco Muertes (something I touched on in a previoues post). It also opens up the potential for new human characters...However much we'd love Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum to reunite!

Of course this isn't the first time the term 'World' has appeared on a Jurassic title. In fact, it could be said that the notion of expanding the universe was a key driving force for The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

But it still carried 'Park'. And #IV has basically condensed it down into a nice, snappy title. Hopefully the Dinos will be just as snappy! I'm sure they will be; the director seems to know what he's doing:

Jurassic World has a release date of June 12th, 2015. Actually really looking forward to it, now!

UPDATE: 18th December, 2013 - Phil Tippett, the original Jurassic Park Dinosaur supervisor is returning for Jurassic World! As you can imagine; am VERY pleased about this! ^^ (Announcement here!)


Monday, 2 September 2013

VII Things for Episode VII


I've been in a Force-orientated state of mind recently, so here's a question we've all been wondering for months now:

'What the heck is happening with Star Wars: Episode VII?!'

Last year the news happened; Disney bought Lucasfilm, Lucas himself was retiring and new Star Wars was on its way! And here's my response to that:

So, since that initial excitement (almost a year ago now), we've, many...well...morsels of...well, not even morsels really...more like 'crumbs'...of news...

See, this is the issue; we've heard next to nothing. Big events have happened this year; San Diego Comic-Con, Star Wars Celebration Europe II and Disney Expo 23...Three massive events perfect for Episode VII news, announcents and even panels...

Not a sausage.

It was even said that the majority of Disney Expo 23 attendees turned up for the potential of Episode VII news.

This lack of news, coupled with the shut-down of several pre-existing Lucasfilm projects (including Star Wars: The Clone Wars) has lead to an 'image' of a shady corporation. More disheartening than this have been the constant and tiresome rumours...The latest of which have attached Benedict Cumberbatch and Gene Hackman to the project. Actors from the previous films have constantly expressed interest in returning...Nothing. In fact; anything we have been told; we already knew.

The only real, official morsels of news over the past year have trickled through the internet, feeling like blood drawn from a stone. Is a bit of assurance too much to ask for?

So far, there are seven main things we know about Episode VII:

1. Who's Piloting the Ship

Kathleen Kennedy, new CEO of Lucasfilm, is one of the producers along with Bryan Burk, who is a long-time collaborator of J.J. Abrams, the director. Now then, I do have reservations with hiring such a big name...But then again he has proven himself with most of his film work (Star Trek Into Darkness being the notable exception). George Lucas himself is serving as the consultant, similar to what he did with The Clone Wars.

2. Who's Scoring
John Williams is returning; yay! Nobody more suitable to score, really.

3. Who's Writing
Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt has been penning the band new adventure. Given his proven talent with taking well known and established characters and settings after a relatively long gap (and cramming all the emotion and humour possible)...I have confidence that he can craft a great new journey.

4. Rough Timeline
Of course all the upcoming films will be set after Return of the Jedi. The issue this raises is the conflict with the Expanded Universe. Hopefully they'll be sensible and respect all the work that the authors and creators that have contributed to the saga. As far as we know, the story will be original and it will (most likely) take the events of the EU into account. The focus will (most likely) be on Luke's son; Ben Skywalker.

5. Production
Production (i.e. Principal Photography) will begin early 2014. However as a UK resident, the most exciting point will be that filming will make a most welcome return to the UK! And in Pinewood Studios, no less! Much of the original trilogy was done at Pinewood. This effort to evoke the original trilogy is reflected in the next point...

6. Film
...Which is actually the most exciting aspect, especially from a film-making standpoint; Episode VII will be shot on 35mm FILM! Episode I (1999) started toying with digital recording and then II (2002) & III (2005) were completely digitally shot. Now that digital cinema is more prevalent these days, it does make a bold (and welcome) statement to shoot Star Wars in 35mm again.
   Of course this leads to one of the most exciting possibilities for VII, considering Abrams' last film; we may very well get the first ever Star Wars picture with IMAX.

7. Release
May 2015.

Basically, these are basics...

I'm all for keeping things a surprise as much as possible this day and age, but they're just being silly now!

It's nearly been a year since the revelation of Episode VII and we don't even have a title.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Predator (2) - The Lost Tribe

With the amazing range of NECA action figures of Aliens, Predators and Terminators, people always imagine little stories to go with them, like any toy range. However, the level of detail, attention and love that NECA gives their lines are second to none. Most of the figures look like they will come to life at any second!

Their Predator range is no different. Since starting on characters from Predator 2, NECA did something unprecidented; they released every single Predator seen on screen at the end, inside the ship! It started with the clan leader known as the 'Elder' (which, as of the end of 2014, has been released with upgrades)...Like many other NECA figures, the Elder came with a little bio on the back of the packaging. And, like many others, the bio provides a little touch of backstory. However for the Elder, the bio briefly describes his role and what he does in the film. The following eight members of the tribe all share the same description with each other, which is a brief on the whole tribe itself, 'shrouded in mystery'...

I love mystery. And the staff at NECA respect mystery a great deal...But from the amazing figures, the details cannot be ignored. Each Predator appears to have their own personality traits and distinctive looks...Of course I imagine and speculate who these characters are...
L-R: Boar, Snake, Stalker, Lost, Guardian, Elder, City Hunter, Warrior, Scout, Shaman

So here are my own bios. Hope you enjoy! ^^

(Images of the NECA figures are all mine).


The Leader of the Lost Tribe, this Elder Predator has seen a good few hundreds of years of hunting. He has been hardened by his early decades and subsequently mellowed from his recent reflections on his own longevity.
   The tribe he has command over consists of many close relatives. Even Jungle Hunter (who was an active member of the tribe before venturing off on his own hunts) is rumoured to be one of Elder’s many offspring.
   Due to his familial connections, he can be fairly lenient in terms of enforcing penalties upon the members of the tribe...Especially relative to other clans, the majority of which deliver death or banishment as common punishments. The Lost Tribe’s sentences are known to have various levels, depending on how serious the misdemeanours are. Since the primary weapons of the Lost Predators are connected with their nervous systems, the Elder’s preferred penalty is Gauntlet Removal, severing the bond from the perpetrator’s biology...Often extremely painfully.

  • Direct relative to SCOUT
As the self-proclaimed ‘spiritualist’ and ‘chemist’ of the tribe, Shaman relies more on beliefs than sciences. He has frequently experimented with different substances which he believes to be stimulating and performance enhancing.
   However, recent blends of dangerous toxins have lead to the removal of his gauntlets. Due to his constant experimentations, the Elder forced him into solitary confinement until the effects of his substances wore off...Only after then were his gauntlets torn from his skin.
   Since his punishment he has pursued other interests, including creating his own weapons and tools. His favoured instrument sees his wrist blades set atop his custom-made ‘trophy staff’. Despite his fairly honourable accomplishments other members of the tribe still seem to detect substance odour on him...Occasionally.

  • Direct relative to CITY HUNTER, SNAKE, GUARDIAN & LOST
  • Close relative to SHAMAN & SCOUT
A Predator with a zest for hunting on the edge, Boar frequently visits the Super Predators’ Game Preserve Planet to hone his skills of survival. The variety of animal and plant species dropped onto the planet means that he finds it more exciting than Earth, as he does not know what he’ll encounter next. Should he run into too much trouble on the planet, Boar’s only aid comes from his close ally Stalker, who takes him to the preserve and sometimes even participates in hunting exercises...Not that Boar knows when or how.
   In order to challenge himself further, Boar has become a rare example of a hunter who has willingly ditched his wrist-blades. In order to aid survival and physical combat, he exchanged them for a spare wrist-computer. Despite his preference for hand-to-hand combat, his does keep one weapon and one only; he decided to keep a Smart-Disc as it provides long-range and close-range defensive and offensive capabilities.

  • Direct relative to WARRIOR
As a close ally of Boar, Stalker hones his own skills on the Game Preserve Planet with him. With more patience than Boar, Stalker lives up to his namesake as he prefers to study potential prey for behavioural patterns and weaknesses to exploit. His minimal armour and equipment means that he has developed advanced stealth capabilities. And he only kills when necessary...But when he does, he makes the kill exceptional.
   As he is the one who commandeers the shuttle to and from the preserve, it is Stalker’s responsibility to ensure that the shuttle is not damaged...They often go without informing the other clan members. As a result, their first venture got Stalker and Boar in trouble; however Stalker took full responsibility on his own accord, which resulted in the loss of his gauntlets.
   One day Stalker would like to be able to track one of the Super Predators...Provided they do not follow him first. So far he and Boar have been extremely lucky in not encountering one so far.

  • Direct relative to CITY HUNTER, BOAR, GUARDIAN & LOST
  • Close relative to SHAMAN & SCOUT
With a distinctive and striking colour scheme, Snake is the one who is usually found on his own. He prefers his independence and isolation rather than the company of others. As a result of his preferences, he does frequently cause friction within the tribe...Though he will argue that they cause it. His short temper led to the loss of his gauntlets.
   During past hunts Snake has developed a taste for collecting more than just skulls for trophies. He reasons that since he can’t carry his trophies around with him, he takes skins and fashions them into parts of his armour. But he has had little chance to hunt a great deal...In fact he has often wanted to hunt on his own, like Jungle Hunter. But as long as his temperament is little, so too will be his chances. 

"Viper! You son-of-a-bitch!"
The only time Snake is vaguely approachable is when he sees his brother, Viper. As members of the Serpent Clan, they do what they do when they like and however they like it. Able to talk himself in and out of any situation, Viper convinced Snake to give him his removed wrist-blade gauntlet. As he can negotiate well, it's convenient that Viper's fine with being the one to get them out of trouble. But as brotherly as he is, he will not let Snake near his Blade Fighter.

  • Direct relative to CITY HUNTER, BOAR, SNAKE & LOST
  • Close relative to SHAMAN & SCOUT
As a truly exceptional hunter, Guardian is one of the most trustworthy, reliable and respected members of the tribe. In terms of honour, skill-set and equipment, he is second only to City Hunter; one of the few Predators that Guardian looks up to.
   Guardian’s determination to improve his hunting prowess comes with many reasons; the main one being the Engineers. For a long time, Guardian has studied everything known about the species (history, biology, etc). He even modelled his mask after their bio-suits, proving that he lives for the day he will be able to meet and hunt down an Engineer. Of course there are rules on hunting sentient species, especially those as evolved as Engineers, but Guardian only sees the restrictions on them as a challenge.

  • Direct relative to CITY HUNTER, BOAR, SNAKE & GUARDIAN 
  • Close relative to SHAMAN & SCOUT
As the ‘scientist’ of the clan, Lost has developed many new technologies over the decades, but he has recently blurred the line between technology and biology. At first he started to capture his quarry and keep them alive, rather than kill...He would perform cybernetic experiments on his prey, often killing them in the process. He did not let others know about his tests to begin with, as he needed more successes to do so. Through many failures and improvements, he became so sure with himself that he started his current obsession with testing the cybernetics on himself.
   Replacing the standard armour (and weapons) with his own, he grafted the majority of the armour to his nervous system; just like the average wrist gauntlet...Along with other mysterious developments he believes that the expansion of his senses will make him a better hunter. However his ‘improvements’ have not come without cost. The self-inflicted implants have had a few side-effects to his biology...Most notable being the drastic skin discolouration.
   The surgical skills he has taught himself have proven invaluable to the rest of the tribe, however uneasy they are around him (some even wonder if he's been inhaling Shaman's substances). The skills also add to his combat agility; along with his hand-crafted weapons, they give him a literal edge over his opponents and rivals.
   The most recent technology that Lost has developed includes; a fearsome bio-mask and an extremely powerful shoulder cannon. He has also acquired a custom long-sword and a deadly shuriken (the latter of which other members believe he has stolen from another clan). But it is his short bone-handled cleaver that he uses to deliver the most effective kills...Or worse.

  • Direct relative to SHAMAN
One of the youngest members of the tribe, Scout has just as much inexperience as enthusiasm. Like most first kills, his elder counterparts found his pride amusing after he hunted down a creature no bigger than himself. Since then, Scout has not cleaned his wrist-blades...And according to him, he never will; he believes that leaving the stains makes him look more formidable.
   A lot of Scout’s training and knowledge came from Jungle Hunter, who also suggested that he use as few weapons as possible for speed, efficiency and stealth. The two hunters are close allies and Scout respects Jungle Hunter a great deal...Even to the degree that Scout has kept the basic design of his bio-mask as a respectful reference. However, due to his inexperience, he’s also slightly jealous of Jungle Hunter. 

  • Direct relative to STALKER
Where Lost is one of the most advanced and Snake is one of the most vicious, no member of the tribe is as formidable, brutal and terrifying as Warrior. Regularly going after groups, as well as lone prey, the amount of kills he has under his belt is unmatched by anyone else...Even Elder. And, unlike anyone else, Warrior does not care whether he leaves the skulls of his prey intact. He only cares if they’re dead or alive.
   Warrior’s reputation is feared and respected by both enemy and ally alike. Even Predators of other clans know of him. Perhaps the single act that makes it all worthwhile for Warrior is his pursuit of prey; he makes a point to make sure they notice him before the kill. He truly enjoys their terror and it is represented by the last thing that his prey sees; his fearsome bio-mask.
   Warrior’s reputation has also given him unimaginable self-confidence. So much so that recent hunting trips for marine monsters in dangerous interplanetary oceans have started to corrode his armour and unintentional ingestion of algae has given him a somewhat pale green complexion. Nevertheless, he will always live up to his reputation, hunting bigger and more dangerous game. Most hunters, including Warrior himself, see him as a one-Predator army. As such, he has plans which will aid (and potentially end) the clan wars with the Super Predators...

And there you have it!


(Again, many thanks to the guys at NECA! ^^ A real inspiration as a company and as people! Check 'em out if you haven't already! ^^)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Pacific Rim - Mechas & Monsters

Following on from my previous post reviewing Pacific Rim...I decided to hold back on two aspects that are the most crucial of all; the Jaegers and the Kaiju...For now!

This is more-or-less 'part two', but I will be saying something about each Jaeger and all the live Kaiju featured in the film, so this is more about the love than reviewing!

Overall I found the creation, designs and effects of the Jaegers and Kaiju most incredible...Especially how they interacted with the world around them; Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) handled the VFX work and they have blown themselves out of the water (reference intentional) for Pacific Rim. We've seen films with huge masses of CGI water before (Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, etc), but they have mainly been background elements. They have looked great from a distance, but the lack of interaction between other things can be a clue as to how the effects have evolved today...In Pacific Rim, entire battles take place in raging storms and the skyscraper-sized machines and creatures regularly break and interact with the surface of the ocean. The amount of detail in the CGI waters, even for the larger-scale frames, just go to show how much work has gone into it...And that's just the water.

JAEGER (German for 'Hunter')

As the Jaegers we inspired by the many mechanoids from Japanese culture, it's clear to see why Guillermo del Toro wanted to make his different and recognisable. I believe he has pulled it off wonderfully. Even within the world of Pacific Rim, each Jaeger looks distinct and unique, each with differing capabilities and even personalities (a few things Michael Bay needs to learn...! Haha).

COYOTE TANGO - Japan (Mark 1)
As Coyote Tango feautures heavily in the promo material (as above), you would've expected it to have as much a part to play as the other four Jaegers. Not so, as it would seem. Yes, it does play a vital role in the film, but the appearence of Tango is reduced to nothing more than a cameo...And only within Mako's flashback as well.
   The design of Coyote Tango is distinctive from the other Jaegers in that it's rather indistinctive, compared with the others. As the mech is only a Mark I, this does make some sense in the universe. The only really defining features of Tango are the two massive cannons on its back.
   The downside to Tango's fleeting cameo is that we didn't really get to see it in action. The cannons look like they could've done some serious Kaiju damage, so I would've been happy to see the fllashback show the whole fight between Tango & Onibaba. However I do understand and accept why we didn't see much (it was crucial to stick with Mako and her POV). There's solace in the knowledge that Tango has been retired from active duty; perhaps in a sequel the Jaeger will be revisited and revamped and we'll see the return of Coyote Tango.

CHERNO ALPHA - Russia (Mark 1)
The Jaeger from the Russians is a seriously beefy-looking tank of a mech. The large cylindrical energy cell atop the body (where other Jaegers' heads would be) makes Cherno one of the most recognisable. It was pleasing to see a more hand-to-hand/sparring fighting style than the other Jaegers. Like the others it has a very unique heavy-handed style. If there's one thing I find strange; it's that the legs of Cherno seem disproportionate to the rest of the body...Somehow they look as if they shouldn't be able to support the rest of the Jaeger. There may be an explanation, but it's quite curious! Anyway, according to the backstory that we know of, the Jaeger personally saw off and defeated six Kaiju in Russia before the events of the film. It's easy to see why!

Undoubtedly the 'hero Jaeger' of the film, Gipsy Danger has the most human-looking proportions and features than any other Jaeger. (This was most likely intentional for audiences to connect with, of course.) Del Toro stated that he wanted Gipsy to be akin to a western gunslinger...I can see what he means, but the streamlined and chest-reactor design reminds me more of Iron Man! (Hold that thought; there's something related I'll get to later!)
   For unique attributes, I absolutely loved the blades that emerged from each arm. Initially they look like chainsaw-type weapons, but they're just segmented; the pieces form solid blades. Plus the inclusion of rocket boosters in various parts of the body (torso, elbow, etc) were very clever and creative!

CRIMSON TYPHOON - China (Mark 4)
Straight away, the Crimson Typhoon sets itself apart from other Jaegers with the bold, flag-based colour scheme, the three arms and the cyclopsian-looking head.
   The colour marks a significant move for CGI. Up until recent years, red has been a very problematic colour to 'control'...Especially for CGI. (In fact, the issue with reds lead to the Transformers decision to have the flame deco on Optimus Prime...Later for the sequels, red characters became more common, suggesting that ILM have at least conquered some of the issues). The level of photo-realism in Crimson's red just goes to show how far the reds have come...And good job, too!
   With the three arms of the Typhoon, I believe they're a more physical representation of the three pilots (the only three-member pilot team for any Jaeger). It seems that with the triplets, the extra arm was added to accomodate and make use of extra brain power...It's a shame that we didn't get to see much of all three triplets in action. But at least the capabilities of the Typhoon were portrayed brilliantly!

STRIKER EUREKA - Australia (Mark 5)
In the film, the offering from down under is the most advanced Jaeger to exist. It's easy to see why this design was the original consideration for the 'hero Jaeger'. The design is sleek, the 'wings' on the back a great addition and weapon systems (retractable arm-blades and chest-missile launchers) are the ultimate in Kaiju behind-kicking!
   The only niggle I would say about the design is that, although it's a fantastic design, it's not as strikingly distinct as others and therefore quite similar to Gipsy Danger...In fact, sans the 'wings' on Striker and the nuclear turbine on Gipsy, they are the only two Jaegers that come close to looking alike to the casual viewer. Nevertheless, it's brilliant to see Australia have such an important role in a western blockbuster (something I can't remember since Mission: Impossible II...Back in 2000). I really hope that Australia will play a role just as important in the sequel.

And probably because of Australia in an important role, there's something about this image (and moment in the film) that makes me beam! ^^

In the expanded universe, there are many other Jaegers from many other countries. For the sequel, I hope that we'll get to see more of them. I especially want to see Jaegers from; Canada, Mexico, Chile, New Zealand (a Middle Earth Jaeger! Imagine that! XD). I'd also love to see contributions from countries that don't border the Pacific Ocean such as; Italy, India, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, UK, Portugal...

KAIJU (Japanese for 'Monster')

The term 'Kaiju' is a combination of Japanese terms, it it does have more literal translations, but 'monster' is the simplest. (If you want to go further, the Kaiju featured in Pacific Rim and the classic Toho films are really examples of 'Daikaiju' - 'Giant Monster'!)
   The designs for the Kaiju in Pacific Rim are incredible. Just like the Jaegers, thought and care has been put into them to make sure they are distinguishable, unique (both in the film universe and amongst themselves to a degree) and have the potential to become iconic in the future of western cinema.
   Not to give too much away for those who haven't seen it, but there is a connection between all the Kaiju that means they're all close...Dangerously close...

The one that destroyed the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm actually only presuming that Trespasser is a Category III Kaiju due to his size. Distinctive by the massive Dinosaur-like crest atop its head, the basic body with four arms and clawed hands will make further appearences in other Kaiju, further solidifying their connection.

ONIBABA (Japanese: 'Demon Hag'/'Ogre Grandma') - Category II
The Kaiju that attacked Tokyo in Mako's flashback and the one killed by Coyote Tango. Very crustacean-like in appearance. I do love how some of the Kaiju names are Japanese insults!

In the film, this is the first Kaiju we see tangle with a Jaeger. With a body shared with Trespasser and an appearance akin to a shark, Knifehead proved to be more than a challenge for Gipsy Danger...

Mutavore is the monster that attacked Sydney and, as a result, tangled with Striker Eureka. Officially the first referred to as a female. The final design of Mutavore became simpler than the concept art depicted above.

OTACHI (Japanese: 'Big sword') - Category IV
The translation of 'Otachi' is befitting for this Kaiju as she's one of the most vicious. She's able to project a corrosive acid fom her mouth, her massive tail ends with crushing claws and she can fly...So far the only Kaiju known to. Design-wise she is one of my favourites (next to maybe Trespasser). Perhaps it's because there's something Xenomorph/Dino-esque about her...

Like Otachi, Leatherback is one of the more cunning of the Kaiju. However, his strength lies in his brute force. With a body built like a gorilla and an EMP organ on his back, Leatherback is certainly a formidable opponent for the Jaegers.

RAIJU (Japanese: 'Thunder Beast') - Category IV
A crocodilian look sets Raiju apart from the others and is perhaps the most reminiscant (from the Pacific Rim Kaiju) of the classic Toho monsters. Swift and speedy through water, one other unusual (and creative) feature of Raiju is that his head is encased within a larger, armoured shell. This results in a 'head within a head' appearence...Not too dissimilar from the sandworm in BeetleJuice.

SCUNNER - Category IV
Partnered with Raiju, Scunner is another Kaiju with a similar body to Trespasser & Knifehead, but is also a very distinctive Kaiju due to the masive horns either side of its head. As deadly as Knifehead's blade, the horns can be very formidable when the Kaiju uses itself as a battering ram.

SLATTERN - Category V
Without a doubt the largest and most powerful Kaiju. Slattern is aptly the 'Chernobog' of Pacific Rim; the Devilish monster as you enter Hell. And it's easy to see why; one of the most evil-looking creatures ever! (The notion that even bigger and more powerful Kaiju could emerge is just near-unthinkable!) In fact, I wanted to see much more of it...But I suppose I'll have to see the film again for that!

If you support any of the Jaegers or Kaiju, here's a place where you can do just that...Jaegers are taking the lead so come on, you Kaiju lovers! ^^

With a sequel on the table, Guillermo del Toro and Travis Beacham have so much potential to explore. Personally I'd love to see Jaegers and Kaiju clash in more environments, such as jungles or deserts (of course they'd have to make that make sense). Regardless I can't wait to see what comes next for the mechas and monsters!

The British Film Istitute recently did an article on selected Japanese monsters and their movies, in the wake of Pacific Rim. And they're exactly the monster movies that Guillermo is inspired by...So here's a chance to explore the Kaiju (or Daikaiju) that started it all! ^^ (I'll probably use this to catch up!)

Which brings me briefly to 2014...Logically in the film industry we'd see something that's tried and tested before going about original projects. However, we're seeing a dramatic shift...
   Legendary Pictures may have released Pacific Rim this year...But they, along with Monsters director Gareth Edwards, have been working on something with just as much passion and love that del Toro has for Pacific Rim. Something that I believe will fully restore general public love for monster movies...



Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Pacific Rim - Aftershock

Not many reviews crop up on this Blog, but I feel the need to make a post about the event of the summer:


(The following post contains feelings of excitement and joy, so please excuse the hysterical nature of writing...!)

I think I first became aware of it last year (from Comic-Con images), via a simple poster with the logo. Didn't think much of it of course, but I did muse that it sounded big. Forgetting about it after some time later, another poster emerged...This time it actually showed you how big it would be; two tiny people stood on the shoulder of a giant humanoid machine. After the Transformers films (which I do enjoy to a degree, but accept that they aren't the best examples of film-making), my interest was peaked. Then somewhere along the lines I realised Guillermo del Toro was directing it (interest peaked even higher) and then, after assuming that it was adapted from something...I discovered it was an original piece (interest SHOT THROUGH THE ROOF).

Original? Original CGI-laden blockbuster? These days? What?!

I saw an interview with del Toro last year, where he described his inspirations and his passion for the project. Of course now it's so obvious; monster films and mecha-movies...Both of Japanese origin. In an age of sequels, remakes, adaptations, reboots and spin-offs, I believe we now have a new category; INSPIRED.

Then came the end of 2012...We got our first trailers; first initial reactions (I laughed when I read a comment on the first teaser; "suck it, Michael Bay" XD) and then in February, the first Kaiju attack hit San Francisco (well, in the viral marketing/film universe it did).

Since then I've been getting more excited as more trailers were steadily released (that's steadily, Star Trek Into Darkness!) and more features were released...Kept watching and reading and hearing more about the making of it...Just generally becoming more eager to see the film! For an original project, I did feel that I was putting a lot of faith into something before experiencing it that could be destroyed. But as it was a Guillermo del Toro passion project that features smackdowns between mechs and monsters (and Ron Perlman), I knew there'd be something I would like!
I saw the film on opening day; Friday the 12th. I was not wrong. Far from it...It blew my expectations above and beyond anything that the promo material could portray!

Wow. Just...Wow.

It's now four days later and I am still buzzing from it, eager to see it again! I've read other peoples' thoughts on the spectacle and there are many things I agree with...So I'll try to form coherent sentences!

The Heart
Guillermo del Toro has said that he wanted Pacific Rim to have something that is lacking in big films these days and that is 'heart'. Through his inspirations and his childhood (which he has still thankfully retained), it is clear to see the passion he has put into the film. His inner ten-year-old must have been controlling Toro as if he were a Jaeger himself!

As this very fascinating interview shows, Toro puts his passion into not just genre, but film itself:

The Brains
Now Pacific Rim is not just Guillermo del Toro's vision; the story was conceived by writer Travis Beacham and the script co-written with del Toro. The beauty in the story lies in the simplicity; massive monsters emerge from the ocean...We make equally as massive machines to beat the living daylights out of them. To be honest, as soon as I heard the story, I thought that it would serve as the backdrop whilst there is a personal, character-driven journey that we follow. And yes, I was right, but I didn't realise how related the setting and characters would be...How integral they are to each other (especially compared to other pictures).
   And the master-stroke? The creation of a neural interface that meant at least two characters had to share memories with each other...Now think for a second what that would be like; to have somebody else be able to see and experience every single memory that you have; all the bad things, all the good things, all the things you keep in the box under your bed...Everything that makes you...You. It seems incredibly risky and you may be put off by the idea, until you remember that it works both ways; you will have access to all their memories too...! Now it's a case of trust; being willing to let somebody else see how you tick, which is also why the Jaeger pilot teams work so well together due to familial bonds; siblings, father and son, husband and wife, etc (the latter of which to me seems the most beautiful). As a plus, the interface directly transfers to the body of the Jaeger; whatever happens to the machine, the pilots would feel.
   This Matrix/Inception-level creativity allows for some interesting explorations in terms of mind, body, the self (psychology, philosophy, existentialism, etc) and provides instant character development in terms of emotions, experiences, trust, co-operation, etc.

The Film
One thing that I love about the film's plot is that the bulk of it happens in a setting where Kaiju and Jaegers have already been established. The setting is the basis for the story, rather than vice versa. To start with we have a montage that takes us through the lead-up to the story. Of course exposition needs to happen, so they've gone with the no-nonsense approach, straight from the offset. And, in relation to the rest of the film, it works a treat.
   As I watched the story unfold, there was a moment where I was suddenly reminded of another large-scale alien-invasion film; Independence Day. Then later, when the plan to get rid of the Kaiju was in action, there was a slight reminder again. The first moment (learning the Kaiju plan) may or may not have been an intentional reference, but it certainly did ring a familiar bell! Nevertheless, I certainly prefer Pacific Rim now over Independence Day!
   I may be the only one who sees the aforementioned reference; others may not and may see others. If so, then it goes to show how much Pacific Rim is peppered with inspirations from many forms of media. I love how Guillermo made extra effort to ensure that the elements (especially the visual elements) of the film do not reference anything in particular. He wanted them to be specific to western cinema; he wanted Hollywood to have their own mechs and monsters (and we remember how J.J. Abrams tried with Cloverfield...The monster of which I actually liked). I believe that the Jaegers and Kaiju of Pacific Rim will become rightfully iconic in western cinema (just like the Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or Bruce the shark from Jaws) for years to come.

The Score
2012 appeared to have set a precedent for truly recognisable and iconic film scores for big movies with Marvel's The Avengers (Alan Silvestri) and The Dark Knight Rises (Hans Zimmer). This has carried on into 2013 with Iron Man 3 (Brian Tyler), Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer...Again. Alright, virtually all of Hans Zimmer's scores are iconic/identifiable!) And now composer Ramin Djawadi has blown several Kaiju out of the ocean with the score for Pacific Rim. His eletric-guitar based rhythms and melodies seem to be a staple of his work (see; his brilliant score for Iron Man). As a fan of the spaghetti westerns, I get a feeling that Djawadi may also be an Ennio Morricone fan...! With del Toro directing the film with a western dialect ('Marshall', 'Ranger', etc), the electric guitar touch harkens back to Morricone's epic scores. Who knows; after this, Ramin Djawadi may become one of the hottest and sought-after names in cinema...I certainly hope he does!

The Cliches/Stereotypes
Another thing I definitely love about Pacific Rim is the abolition of several cliches/stereotypes that have dogged films for years! On the slight downside, some still remain, but the ones that majorly influence the story have been banished:

- National & Social Identities - Okay, Pacific Rim has a brilliant sense of multiculturalism...But most of the time it's very on the nose; the Chinese triplets are bald, monk-like and are seen practising their martial arts. The Russian duo consists of blonde hair, beefy builds and very stern demeanours (even the music that accompanies them consists of the classic baritone male choral section)...Although, having said that, I do really like the Russian team; the character we get from them is virtually all visual. The representitive for the UK is a middle-aged-going-on-elderly white fellow with a clear sense of Eton toff-ness about him. As for the scientists, Dr. Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) can be seen as your classic 'science nerd'; introverted, lonely upbringing, dedication to work, cardigan-based attire, etc. And, as with the aforementioned UK character, a very clear Received Pronunciation accent.
- The reckless young hero - Yep, he's here, he doesn't follow the rules, but that's why we like 'im (supposedly)
- Not many female roles - Unfortunately...It's a real shame, considering how brilliant a character Mako is. The only other prominant female is one half of the Kaidonovsky team...Where she lacks in dialogue and screen-time is made up for in her physical performance. Any time the Russians are in the frame, you are always drawn to them. And the only other females I can remember are if you count two of the Kaiju, who are referred to as female...
- The 'Customary Black Guy' - *SPOILER ALERT* Now, I don't mean that he's a sidekick or anything, but what always happens to black guys in big movies? (As Darius McCrary once said; "Man, the brother always gets it!") *SPOILER ALERT*

- Romantic sub-story - No romantic interest! Huzzah! I was extremely pleased that Raleigh and Mako didn't become romantically involved. It was proof that you can have the two leads in a film of opposite gender without them falling for each other (passing the Bechdel test, I believe). It was brilliant. And, if my memory is correct, the fact that they were differing genders didn't become an issue to be raised...Purely because it wasn't necessary (lesson to be learned for Stephen Moffat, there). I loved that they developed a brother-sister relationship and really hope it continues into the sequel.
- 'America is greatest' - Perhaps Pacific Rim's greatest strength is that it isn't just America - one nation - saving the world, it's "the world saving the world" (as del Toro succinctly puts it). It's glorious; Russia, China, USA, Australia and Japan (with a splash of the UK) are the primary nations depicted. I was actually surprised as to how much involvement the Australian aspect got! Especially for their Jaeger (Striker Eureka)! Hopefully this will be something that will happen in other big films in the future. (And for the record, the Australians and the father-son relationship were depicted beautifully; non-stereotyped and rather touching by the end.)
- Perils of technology - Another major recurring theme in Hollywood is that technology is doomed to fail us one way or another. As such, it's a massive relief that Pacific Rim brings forth the simple idea that technology can help us, not hinder us. It's the Japanese sensibility and outlook, which is the basis for their mechs in the first place. And it adds to a sense of hope that Pacific Rim so boldy has.
- Death and destruction - It's a given that with any film these days with large scale destruction, we're to have a sense of loss and a sense of failure and tragedy on the largest scale possible. Which is why it's such a relief that Pacific Rim provides us with a sensible take. Most battles occur away from any city population and when fights do take place in the cities, the city has been evacuated. When any destruction happens as a result of the fighting, we're free from worrying about people in buildings or vehicles caught in the crossfire. We can just enjoy the smackdown between the two goliaths! Brilliant! Guillermo himself stated that he wants to be able to enjoy seeing things thrown and wrecked without having to worry about people...Us too; people get in the way so much! This point adds to the sense of hope, too.
- Revenge - Another thing brought over from Japanese sensibilities is fighting for your cause with honour...Not revenge. I love that they bring forth this ideal of fighting with form; for others, not for yourself (strength in unity, that sort of thing). As Stacker (Idris Elba) puts it; "Vengeance is like an open wound..." Again, this is another point that adds to the overall sense of hope.

I will have to do another post on the Jaegers and Kaiju. But in a general sense; I love them to bits! I actually think I care more about the Kaiju than other people do!


I heartily recommend you go and see Pacific Rim. I've heard many people of influence exclaim their enthusiasm (one of the best was from Edgar Wright; claiming that Toro 'Kaiju'd his eyeballs')! And this is one film that lives up to hype and, in some cases, cannot really be desribed because it needs to be experienced! Lots of people have compared the enjoyment to seeing Jurassic Park...As I cannot sing enough praise, I may just agree...!

And just in case you need further pursuasion, here's Amy Ratcliffe's brilliant review! She basically states that if you like anything awesome; then you should see it! (Go and read! I'll wait here for you! ^^)

Hello again! Still not convinced? Here's another great review; '9 Reasons You Should See Pacific Rim, and a Warning' (by author and blogger Ellie Ann) and she puts it more eloquently than I could ever do! (Go read it anyway! Hehe ^^)

Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro's childhood; heart-filled fan-mail to his favourite media...And I cannot be grateful enough for the epic adventure that he, along with the entire cast and crew, have given us.

Oh, you've already seen it? SEE IT AGAIN! I will! ^^


(NB: If ILM don't win any accolades for their hard and amazing VFX work...There will be words! Oh yes, there will be words! They had to give up Iron Man 3 for this! That's passion and dedication into original material you can't buy! Well...Maybe you could with enough money...)

Monday, 15 July 2013

Update - Jurassic Park IV


You may remember this, my impassioned post on Jurassic Park IV:

Well, here's an update full of feelings:

Relating to the film itself, there's no point in typing 'potential' or 'probable' anymore; they're intent on it for a 2015 release.

So what do we know?

They dropped a human-dino hybrid idea, which included armed 'Raptors...Thank goodness.

And, it seems they're setting it back on Isla Nublar (the island from the first film). And it would be attractive to see what happened after the hurricane. But to be honest, I'd rather they explore some of the other 'Las Cinco Muertes' chain (of which Isla Sorna - Site B - was a part). It was heavily implied in The Lost World: Jurassic Park that all five of them were populated with prehistoric life. (Nick translates the Capitan as they approach Isla Sorna: "He won't stay anywhere near these islands...They call these islands 'Las Cinco Muertes'...The Five Deaths.")
   Exploration of the other islands can lead easily to the marine creatures that they've been wanting to bring into the mix. All well and good, but we've yet to hear of a story...Which is still a big concern. Looking at the two sequels, the stories involve a rescue in some shape or form. In general terms, Malcolm says it best; "'Ooh', 'aah'...That's how it always starts; then there's running...And screaming...!"

So I'm very much hoping that it takes a different slant for IV. It's been 20 years since 'the Isla Nublar incident' (Jurassic Park). People all over the world will be well aware of prehistoric life living today. People would be eager to see the animals, even illegally. In fact, that's how Jurassic Park III starts. But do you think they'd be only ones?
   This is where my idea would come in; this is a world where Dinosaurs are alive...Not by nature, but by human...By science. This is the very core of the trilogy; humans playing God and trying to control nature. By Mother Nature's reckoning; it isn't possible.

Anyway, the point of this post; if I had a chance to create my own Jurassic Park story (well, officially), I'd create something that expands on the beliefs created from the beginning. The views that whether or not the dinosaurs should even be alive...And also whether or not it's fair to refer to them as 'real Dinosaurs'. (Dr. Grant stated in Jurassic Park III; "Dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago; what is left of them is fossilized in the rocks and it is in the rock that real scientists make real discoveries. Now, what John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park is create genetically engineered theme-park monsters..." Making it clear that he distinguishes the two.)
   So the story I'd have for the fourth instalment would centre around activists; with Dinos living today for so long, people would form groups banded by their ethics. And the majority are so dead-cert that Dinosaurs should not be around today, who believe so much that man has tampered with Mother Nature enough, that they train themselves into a militia force and makes journeys to Las Cinco Muertes (and Isla Nublar) to destroy the animals.
   As a plus note; in the two sequels, several similar things occur, such as; tough guys with automatic weapons and long-range rifles and such...And they either run away and/or fire wildly into the air as soon as the big carnivore appears (I'd have them actually take time to use them properly, no matter how full of crap their pants become). So as the characters main objectives in both sequels involve some sort of a rescue (and all three end up with desperate attempts to get off the islands), this is where my idea(s) differentiate; what sort of people would willingly set foot on the island(s), knowing full-well the dangers and potential deaths?
   As well as the 'Mother Nature' extremists, I would also place another group on the island(s) too; an anti-activist group who believe that humans playing God is all wrong, but they respect life with empathy (they recognize them as creatures with feelings, etc) and ensure that the extremists do not harm them....Their main concern is to ensure that humans will not be able to do this again.

Personally I believe that both sides will have seriously valid points and no true hero and villain can be pin-pointed. In media we have come across many cases of 'lazy writing' in regards to this; where a character is established as the antagonist of the piece and their case is an interesting point of view, but at the end of the day, it clashes with the protagonists' point of view so therefore the antagonist is wrong and must be defeated. The 'lazy writing' means that only the protagonists' POV is correct and acceptable. The antagonist is merely shrugged off.

An idea I have with these two activist groups would mean that they are on equal footing; nobody is right or wrong...Both POVs are valid and are worthy to debate. (Of course both sides believe they are right and the other is wrong!) Whether the scientists or Dinosaurs should be targeted is something I like to think of as a 'pet and owner' debate; if the pet is a dangerous animal (and does something horrific), is it the owner's fault or should the pet be held responsible...?

Now of course, just debating it alone wouldn't make for very thrilling viewing; but add some cause and effect and consequences into effect for the characters and the fact that Dinosaurs don't care, then you'll have a film...Hopefully! At this point I'm thinking along the lines of Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars; two conflicting sides and a third party right smack in the middle, who may decide to play them against each other, or set some things up to make them see the others' points of view...Maybe. (Perhaps an example of a potential scene could be; an injured carnivore could be laying helpless and an extremist is about to put it down, but the anti-extremist member holds them at gun-point...Mexican stand-off; both would have to make a decision that goes against their entire cause and reasoning for being there in the first place).

As for the Dinosaurs themselves; I would take them further too. I would give some explanation into the how the creatures have differed slightly (especially the Velociraptors). Mainly, I would give a basic insight that when they were initially created, the crossed genetics with frogs (and perhaps other amphibians and even reptiles & birds) would explain why they were 'inaccurate' (best example; Dilophosaurus) compared with actual Dinosaurs. And that over time, through living years and generations on their own, more of their original Dino characteristics/genes have become more prominant (explaining the sudden 'Raptor feathers starting to sprout in Jurassic Park III, for instance). Plus it could explain how certain Dinos were able to do things far beyond what their prehistoric counterparts could have done (the flexibility of the Stegosaurus' tails, the sizes of some therapods and the 'super-strength' that the Spinosaurus has gained). With this in mind, the Dinosaurs in IV could become the most accurately represented versions yet!

Let's take a moment to go along with the prehistoric marine life they're keen on introducing. I think it'd be interesting if these creatures escaped the confines of Las Cinco Muertes (obviously InGen would have encaged them) and got out into the open Pacific Ocean, interacting (or contaminating, as some may see) with present day marine life.

Whilst we're on Dinosaurs; I have one big gripe (if any) with the existing films and that is Dino-interaction...Not interaction with people, but amongst themselves. I can more-or-less count the number of moments on my two hands where at least two Dinosaurs will directly interact with each other: Brachiosaurs singing, T. Rex chasing down the Gallimimus flock (and eating one), 'Raptors in the kitchen (when  the second one appears), T. Rex vs. the two 'Raptors, T. Rex family (little moments), 'Raptors fighting each other (for a few seconds), T. Rex vs. Spinosaurus (which, despite being the most memorable, was far too quick in my opinion), one moment of contact in the Hadrosaur stampede and the Velociraptor communication peppered throughout.
   Now yes, arguably you need people for reference and audience engagement, but I would personally find it fascinating to devote a few minutes - even entire sequences - to the Dinos themselves. Mainly because the easiest thing to do is portray them as monsters. However, giving them things to do amongst themselves would subtley show them more as creatures; feeling, thinking, living animals. Plus, as an added bonus, the audience would be aware of things about the Dinos that the human characters wouldn't be aware of...It could create some interesting feelings for (or against) the Dinosaurs...Even so far as seeing them as the third party; the ones innocently caught between the crossfire.

Apologies if I drone on for your liking, but it's a love! So of course I'll want Jurassic Park IV
 to be as reasonable as possible and not just another fourth movie cash-in!