It’s his apoc­a­lypse pow

Guillermo del Toro’s just hav­ing fun with ro­bots, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

HEN Guillermo del Toro talks about ro­bots and aliens, his whole de­meanour changes: his smile lights up his face, his eyes crin­kle up and he be­comes highly an­i­mated, mak­ing him look a decade younger than his 48 years.

Thank­fully, there are plenty of them in Pa­cific Rim – which comes five years af­ter the Mex­i­can film-maker’s last movie, the se­quel to Hell­boy – hence his ex­cite­ment.

‘‘When I was do­ing this movie, some­thing hap­pened to me that had never hap­pened to me on a movie – ev­ery week, I would find my­self smil­ing like a moron,’’ says del Toro.

‘‘I have seen it 130 times now, and ev­ery time I en­joy it. That’s tes­ta­ment to loving it very much.’’

Based on the screen­play writ­ten by del Toro and Travis Beacham, Pa­cific Rim fol­lows a group of Jaegers (from the Ger­man word for hunter) as they try to pro­tect earth from a species of aliens known as Kaiju, a Ja­panese word for ‘gi­ant beast’. It’s been a long time com­ing for del Toro, who made his film de­but 20 years ago with 1993’s fan­tasy thriller Cronos.

‘‘It was a pro­ject that en­com­passed ev­ery sin­gle thing on my wish list, vis­ually, at­mo­spher­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. It’s an un­stop­pable, thrilling ad­ven­ture about pi­lots and gi­ant ro­bots up against alien mon­sters, the likes of which we’ve never seen.’’

If the plot sounds fa­mil­iar, that’s be­cause Pa­cific Rim is a cross be­tween Iron Man, Trans­form­ers and Godzilla.

Just don’t men­tion Michael Bay (who di­rected the Trans­form­ers films) or Iron Man di­rec­tor Jon Favreau to del Toro.

‘‘I wish I knew why Jon or Michael did this or that. For me, the era of gi­ant ro­bot movies started when I was eight years old and I’ve been wait­ing pa­tiently to get it made,’’ he says.

As a child grow­ing up in Guadalajara, he was a huge fan of Ja­panese anime and manga, and those in­flu­ences come through on this film.

‘‘I’m not a science fic­tion guy but I love ro­bots with a pas­sion, be­cause I think they rep­re­sent some­thing es­sen­tial about hu­man­ity,’’ he says.

‘‘They are beau­ti­ful, pow­er­ful fig­ures to tell a hu­man story.’’

Del Toro ad­mits he likes de­struc­tive aliens as much as the good­ies.

‘‘As a kid, I was in awe of mon­sters. I like the bad Kaiju some­times more. In the case of Godzilla ver­sus King Ghi­do­rah, I liked Ghi­do­rah more.

‘‘There is no such thing as a good tor­nado or a bad one. You don’t pity it. You can see when a film-maker gets high on his own sup­ply and I did – I get off on Kai­jus!’’

Ro­bots aside, the hu­man story here re­volves around Raleigh Becket (played by Char­lie Hun­nam), his Ja­panese co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and com­man­der Stacker Pen­te­cost (Idris Elba).

‘‘I’m a huge fan of Bri­tish TV and I watch too much for my own good. I watch ac­tors and I make a note, and want to bring them to the movies be­cause I think they’re fan­tas­tic,’’ he says.

Del Toro, who has two daugh­ters with wife Lorenza, de­cided to cast Bri­tish ac­tor Hun­nam af­ter see­ing him as Jax Teller in Sons Of An­ar­chy.

‘‘Char­lie and I al­most worked to­gether in Hell­boy II, but it didn’t work,’’ he says. Ul­ti­mately, he was won over by Hun­nam’s charm. ‘‘I got to meet him and he was such a sweet guy with a pure heart. This is the guy I want my daugh­ters to bring home, for them to say, ‘This is my boyfriend’ and I will cook for them.’’

Del Toro ini­tially ap­proached Hol­ly­wood su­per­star Tom Cruise to play Stacker, be­fore of­fer­ing it to Elba.

‘‘Tom was in­ter­ested, but we couldn’t fit the dates to make it work. He was go­ing to do Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble and this and that, so we moved on im­me­di­ately to Idris,’’ he says.

‘‘I saw him on The Wire first and I thought he was an Amer­i­can ac­tor. I think you can only have the phrase, ‘We’re can­celling the apoc­a­lypse’ de­liv­ered by maybe four ac­tors over­all, and he is one of them.’’

The big-bud­get ac­tion ad­ven­ture fea­tur­ing the bat­tles be­tween ro­bots and aliens is far re­moved from del Toro’s pre­vi­ous work, which in­cludes comic book adap­ta­tions Blade II and Hell­boy and fan­tasy-hor­ror films Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos and The Devil’s Back­bone.

‘‘This is my most un-mod­est film. The scale is enor­mous and I’m just a big kid hav­ing fun,’’ he says.

Pa­cific Rim opens to­day.

Pa­cific Rim,

Idris Elba as Stacker Pen­te­cost in di­rected by Guillermo del Toro (left).

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