Ro­bots and hu­man hero­ism

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOVIES - MAR­GARET GAR­DINER

GUILLERMO Del Toro is a big man – in girth and in per­son­al­ity. While show­ing im­ages of the de­vel­op­ment of two of Pa­cific Rim’s gi­gan­tic mon­sters fight­ing at Lu­cas Film In­dus­trial Light and Magic in San Fran­cisco, he quips – “This looks like a Satur­day night with my wife and me at the Del Toro res­i­dence. But it can hap­pen any day, I’m open all week. I’m a cat­e­gory two in weight and vol­ume.”

His lan­guage is lit­tered with sex­ual ref­er­ences and colour­ful state­ments.

Best known for the Os­car-nom­i­nated Pan’s Labyrinth, and the two Hell­boy films, he is the per­fect di­rec­tor to helm Pa­cific Rim, out in South Africa on Fri­day, a movie in­spired by Ja­panese car­toons about gi­ant mon­sters and the mas­sive, hu­man-pi­loted ro­bots who fight them.

The film stars Sons of An­ar­chy’s Char­lie Hun­nam and Ron Perl­man; Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba. Which movies shaped you as a child? I was a child of the 60s, a golden time for mon­sters: you had the Ham­mer films, and Mex­ico was un­der a huge pop cul­ture in­va­sion from Ja­pan. On TV we had the same TV pro­grammes that a Ja­panese kid would have in Tokyo. I read vo­ra­ciously, a book a day un­til I dis­cov­ered girls. Then I stopped read­ing for a while. I watched as many movies as hu­manly pos­si­ble. A strange up­bring­ing for a child. In Pa­cific Rim, the world unites against a com­mon en­emy – is that what it would take? An alien in­va­sion? A com­mon en­emy makes the world come to­gether and then politi­cians take it apart again. They say: “We’re gonna build a wall”. Politi­cians are re­ally good at build­ing walls, but very bad at build­ing bridges. Ev­ery de­ci­sion we took with this film was try­ing to make it more hu­man­is­tic and show that you don’t win a bat­tle like that with fire­power, but with self-sac­ri­fice, in­ge­nu­ity, and trust in each other. The movie shows that no mat­ter what colour, creed, race, you are; your work is to trust each other and be to­gether. I wanted to go against the reg­u­lar movie of one coun­try sav­ing the world. I wanted an in­ter­na­tional feel. I wanted kids to see an ad­ven­ture movie, with beau­ti­ful ideas. If we ever do a se­quel, the idea will be based on the con­cept that as soon as ev­ery­thing is al­right, the world di­vides again. How did you cre­ate the de­tails of the mon­sters? The cre­ation of the Kaiju, the gi­ant mon­sters, is to cre­ate some­thing so big it’s al­most a force of na­ture, like a hur­ri­cane or a bad tor­nado. The Kaiju are so huge they tar­get pop­u­lated ar­eas. In the face of that im­men­sity, the best of hu­man­ity be­comes true. De­sign­ing the mon­sters and the Jaegers you have to re­design the whole world be­cause af­ter years of war the world would change. I had to de­sign com­puter screens, the con­soles, cars. We de­signed the en­tire world, even the signs on the floor be­cause a mon­ster is like a lit­tle an­i­mal, when you buy a lizard you put it in a box with sand and wa­ter. When you de­sign a mon­ster you have to de­sign a world for the mon­ster to live in and make it real. You ref­er­ence the real tex­tures, never other mon­sters. You ref­er­ence real an­i­mals – sharks, tur­tles. I call it a National Ge­o­graphic ap­proach. Then you can go a lit­tle crazy. The worst thing you can do is say you want them to be like the ro­bots in Star Wars. You cre­ate the ma­chines based on real ma­chines. We ref­er­enced the T-se­ries tanks from Rus­sia to de­sign Ch­i­ron, as well as lo­co­mo­tives. We ref­er­enced real ma­chines be­cause we may be cre­at­ing an out­landish con­cept but we want to make it real. Then you add bi­o­log­i­cal or phys­i­cal de­tails to make them feel used. You break it a lit­tle. The mon­sters leave scars. You chip the tex­tures. When we spoke to Char­lie Hun­nam he men­tioned you pushed

Pa­cific Rim. him, phys­i­cally, be­fore you said “ac­tion”, to get spe­cific re­sponses… I don’t nor­mally push ac­tors be­fore I say, “ac­tion”. But with Char­lie, he’s a phys­i­cal guy. He has been in his share of fights. You get to know your ac­tors and some­times you need them to be off bal­ance. When an emo­tion is not com­ing, I try dif­fer­ent things. I had to get phys­i­cal. You do what­ever you need for the ac­tor. How dif­fi­cult is it to take an au­di­ence into your imag­i­nary world? You cre­ate the rules of your world and take peo­ple through them. Ei­ther they fol­low or not. Some can’t get past, “once upon a time”. They say, “f*** that, when?” And you go, “shut-up”. And they go, “But, where?”, you go, “f*** off ”.

You cre­ate the ge­n­e­sis. The Kaiju were think­ing weapons. They could change their minds and grap­ple with the rules. If you want to check­mate that idea with bunker busters, you win. For me, un­der the rules of science fic­tion and my vis­ual ap­proach to gen­eral story telling is that of a fan­tasy movie. The colours, the way I ap­proach the im­ages, and de­tail, is to have a more hu­man­is­tic, “once- upon- a- time”, feel to it. If you want hard-core scifi, it’s not what I do. Mine is more fairy tale. I’ve never been a hard­ware guy. The only thing I love in sci-fi hard­ware are the ro­bots – since I was a kid. I’m not a guy into the para­doxes of time travel, de­sign of space­ships, ray guns. What peels my ba­nana, is ro­bots. I love them.

That floats my boat. I wanted to ap­proach Pa­cific Rim from a sim­ple tale of hu­man hero­ism. I like to make the movie so­phis­ti­cated and un­com­pli­cated. I come into the theatre to have fun. Af­ter­wards, I say, “that was com­plex, beau­ti­fully done, but I got a charge”. A lot of peo­ple smile when they think of kit­tens and pup­pies. I smile when I think gi­ant ro­bots and gi­ant mon­sters. So I want to make it an ex­er­cise in joy­ful, non-real, world bat­tle, of two forces. The great­est thing about the Kaiju movies is that you can watch a thing take a city and not think about it in the real world. There are no real world reper­cus­sions from this movie. It’s purely beau­ti­ful es­capist, fun film. Idris Elba men­tioned that when he met you, he was left alone in a room filled with mov­ing mon­ster fig­ures. Do you col­lect them? I started col­lect­ing when I was a child. I have ev­ery­thing I bought. I have two houses for me, and one for my fam­ily.

I live in the fam­ily home and work in my two houses. They are or­gan­ised in li­braries, one for hor­ror, his­tory, art. I have about eight or nine thou­sand books, and 50 000 mag­a­zines and comics. I have 580 orig­i­nal pieces of art, acrylics, oils etc. I have 12 life-size fig­ures of mon­ster writ­ers, and au­thors, crea­tures I have com­mis­sioned specif­i­cally for the house. I have thou­sands of toys, stat­ues and col­lecta­bles. I have se­cret pas­sages be­hind book­shelves.

I have a room where it rains all day and night. At the age of 48, I live the life of a well-fi­nanced 12-yearold. I love read­ing there. If my wife and daugh­ters are in Mex­ico I sleep in that house.

MON­STER BASH: Idris Elba, left, Rob Kazin­sky and Guillermo del Toro on the set of

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