I love Pacific Rim. Like, really love it. Its flaws are as easy to spot as any of the film’s lumbering, gargantuan beasties (Kaiju, to the uninitiated), but that hasn’t stopped it from being my favorite blockbuster released since The Dark Knight. At a time when the summer season means you can expect plenty of remakes, comic book movies, and a nasty undercurrent of cynicism waiting for you in theaters, for Pacific Rim to not just exist, but be as joyously entertaining as it is, is to have a grand blue bolt of awesome strike an otherwise barren big-budget landscape. Here’s a film that offers the same big, loud, dumb spectacle every other summer blockbuster has been trying to sell you, but actually understands the restraint required to make being big feel as such, the cadence of loud that turns noise into Rock & Roll, and that oversized entertainment can be dumb, without being stupid. It took Marvel five movies and two-thirds of an Avengers to get the kind of slack-jawed, silly grin out of me Pacific Rim managed in an hour, and then maintained through multiple viewings.
A lot of fans are trying to compare it to Star Wars, which even I’ll admit is a stretch. For one, Star Wars was the big bang of tentpole filmmaking, a two-hour revolution in how movies were going to be made, and marketed for decades to come. At its best, Pacific Rim is merely aping the lessons taught by Star Wars, paying tribute to the efficacy of simple, direct storytelling, and what it can accomplish when supported by astounding audio-visual imagination. More importantly though, the biggest difference between the two is that Star Wars actually made money on home soil. Pacific Rim has been out for three weeks now in American theatres, but hasn’t even crossed the $100 million domestic marker yet. Seeing as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen managed that feat during its opening weekend, it’s clear that giant robots don’t automatically equal giant revenues.
Despite having personally covered roughly half the film’s shooting budget with multiple trips to see it in IMAX these last weeks, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell we’d ever see a Pacific Rim sequel. But while the film’s American box office debut proved no match for the combined appeal of Adam Sandler and deer piss, its worldwide totals are telling a different story. The film is already off to a very strong start in China, and is expected to make off with a tidy sum once released in Japan later this week. At this rate, a $300+ million final tally doesn’t seem farfetched, and with an estimated production budget of $190 million, Legendary Pictures will have to strongly consider the prospects of a Pacific Rim 2. Even before the recent financial news though, I wasn’t all that convinced we even needed more Pacific Rim than we’ve already gotten. Among the many things that make it so refreshing is that Pacific Rim tells a complete story. By the end of the film, the main conflict has been fully resolved, and all the character arcs have wrapped up in one way or another. The film wears its go-for-broke spirit on its colossal-sized sleeves, because watching it never leaves you with the impression that director Guillermo del Toro was holding something back for the future. Even the after credits stinger -where most franchise-hungry studios will insert a fan-baiting tease that doubles as a middle finger to the actual movie’s sense of closure-, is just a goofy throwaway gag.
But the greatest common factor Pacific Rim does share with Star Wars is that both prove you don’t need sequels, viral marketing, and a TV-spinoff to build an entire cinematic universe -just one lovingly detailed, and well-realized movie will do. When watching either Wars or Rim, it’s easy to imagine the camera suddenly following a random extra in the background, and that leading to an exciting story taking place just on the periphery of the main action. Maybe that’s a sign that, were it to happen, a sequel to Pacific Rim could be just as inspired and exhilarating as the original. For that reason, and just for funzies, I want to start spit-balling ideas for what it could look like if we wind up getting more Pacific Rim than we probably rightly deserve. So, initiate nerd-al handshake, jump back in your Jaegers, and get ready to head once more unto the breach, because the world of Pacific Rim is overflowing with potential places to go next, with or without its director and writer guiding the franchise’s machinery.
Oh, and of course, Spoilers for Pacific Rim ahead.
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