It’s his apocalypse pow
Guillermo del Toro’s just having fun with robots, writes
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.
Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost in directed by Guillermo del Toro (left).