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...



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