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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The Actual Sequel
Wait: Del Toro has already said he wants to do a Pacific Rim sequel? And he was hired, along with original co-writer Travis Beacham, to make a script back in December of last year? What are we waiting for then? I suppose we should address this most likely of directions first, and then start with the salivating fan fiction. Whatever these two cook up is no doubt going to be a hell of a lot cooler than anything your average viewer can, and Del Toro has already offered a few hints as to what the future might hold for the Rim-verse.
One particularly geeky possibility would involve a crossover with Godzilla, which would make for a nice homage to the world’s most popular Kaiju. Problem is, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense logistically: your average Godzilli ranges in size from about 50 to 100 meters, but a Kaiju can easily double that. King of all monsters or not, big G would find himself at a distinct disadvantage if he were to ever throw down with a Jaeger, let alone some of the breach’s nastier travellers. If Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot scheduled for next year proves a big enough success to wipe away the stain left by 1998 edition, maybe then a crossover would make sense for Pacific Rim 2: Kaiju Boogaloo.
Where the real potential lies is in a pair of closed plot threads that could be wrenched opened without too much finagling. Charlie Day’s Newt, after drifting with a Kaiju brain, is connected to the extraterrestrial hivemind responsible for menacing earth, providing an important link between the two universes, even if the breach between the two is closed by the film’s end. Supposing he caught interdimensional wind of an even greater threat soon coming to earth, it might be all the justification needed for humans to open their own portal, for the Jaeger program to go on the offensive, build a breach of their own, and take the fight to the enemy on their home turf.
But what danger could possibly warrant a motley crew of new Jaeger pilots venturing beyond known time and space? Well, if you’ll recall, the climax of the first film saw Gipsey Danger, the Mark-3 Jaeger with a radioactive heart, go nuclear on the other side of the breach, destroying the alien puppeteers (that we know of) behind the Kaiju invasion. While Del Toro has mentioned the sequel would feature a brand new, 2.0 version of Gipsey, he also teased that the original may have partially survived its kamikaze mission, leaving it in the hands of an enemy eager to see what a Jaeger-Kaiju hybrid might be capable of. Can’t say I disagree.
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The Insane Sequel
So, before bothering with that pesky “research” thing, here’s where my head was at for a direct sequel, the very idea of which possess a number of challenges. Repeating the same conflict by having another breach open somewhere else would be too familiar, and Atlantic Rim sounds like a bad SNL sketch, let alone the actual title for an Asylum knockoff mockbuster (one co-written by Sharknado scribe Thunder Levin). Sequels need to raise the stakes, not recycle them, which is hard to do when the fate of the world is hanging in the balance from the word “go.” Naturally then, there’s only one logical way to move things forward: Solar Rim.
Hear me out. Based on Newt’s drifting experience, the insectoid aliens responsible for unleashing the Kaiju (referred to as Precursors on the film’s wiki page) had originally tried to invade earth during the Triassic period, but decided to wait until the atmosphere was more conducive. Since that period was over 200 million years ago, that perhaps indicates our universe and theirs don’t experience time in unison, meaning it could be well into humanity’s spacefaring future before the Precursors try opening another breach, this time with the intent of exacting revenge on the human race. Instead of just fighting their monsters, a technologically advanced mankind of the distant-ish future would have to confront the Precursors themselves as well.
What, you thought all the aliens died when Gipsey Danger Chernobyled their asses on the other side of the breach? No, humanity’s great victory at the end of the first film simply amounted to little more than blowing up one of the Precursors’ cross-dimensional airports. And they liked that airport. A more dedicated, interplanetary invading force bent on humankind’s obliteration means the Jaeger program would have to be updated with all the advancements this future mankind would have at their disposal. Instead of Jaegers and Kaiju fighting underwater, they’d be duking it out in high orbit, while fleets of smaller craft buzz by, engaging in ship-to-ship battle, trying to tip the balance of combat in favor of each species’ respective champion. It would mean making the influence of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Independence Day on Pacific Rim even more apparent, but hey, it worked out pretty well the first time.
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This is where classification gets a little squiffy, because technically, this would be both a prequel, and a sidequel. The opening 5-minute montage Pacific Rim uses to bring the viewer up to speed on what’s happened since the first Kaiju attack, and the end of the Jaeger program, covers more history than most franchises can handle in a trilogy. The very first Kaiju appearing out of the cosmic ether, tearing its way from San Francisco to Oakland? That’s an entire movie Pacific Rim blows passed in seconds, because it’s got bigger fish to fry. But just because we know how the overarching conflict ends in 2025, doesn’t mean the first days of the Kaiju War aren’t worthy of exploring more thoroughly.
In fact, they already have been in comic book form, in the Beacham-written graphic novel, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero. Told through flashbacks, you get a glimpse at how many of the film’s main characters reacted when the first Kaiju made landfall: most were helpless spectators watching from halfway across the globe, but a few others acted as near-equally helpless participants in the opening salvo to humanity’s first cross-species war. Like the movie though, the real story doesn’t start until after we’ve exhausted all non-nuclear options in fighting one Kaiju, only to realize it was just a 2200-ton appetizer.
Whether sticking to the comics or deviating entirely, the early days of the Kaiju War have plenty of material worth exploring. Imagine a Contagion-style series of vignettes, showing the war effort from all sides: politicians scrambling to form a united front, military scientists developing different anti-Kaiju technology, early Jaeger pilots experiencing drifting for the first time, and coastal civilians struggling to make ends meet, after their insurance provider chooses not to cover Kaiju-related damages. The timespan over which the Kaiju War takes place would have major impacts on everyday life across the globes, and seeing the way people adapt, and grow accustomed to skyscraper-sized monsters rearing their heads every few weeks provides plenty of room for exploration of social and cultural dynamics.
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The Character Study
The most consistent knock viewers and critics have had against Pacific Rim is that the film isn’t as enjoyable as it should be, because the characters are wafer thin. I disagree with that notion (not in terms of how rich the characters are, but in whether that inhibits the story being told), but won’t argue that you can base an entire movie around a character whose most interesting feature is their name. Most will agree, however, that at least one performance stood out from among the rest, and that was the one belonging to Del Toro veteran Ron Perlman, as the greasy Kaiju War-profiteer Hannibal Chau.
From his badly scarred tip, to his gold-plated toes, Hannibal makes for an intriguing presence, particularly for the niche profession he’s carved out for himself in a Kaiju-infested world. How does one come to be the kingpin of an underground market that not only sells the body parts of deceased behemoths, but has the infrastructure to dismantle freshly Jaeger-bombed corpses like militarized vultures? How did he, and Stacker Pentecost first come into one another’s orbit, and what was the foundation of their untrusting, but necessary relationship? And how desperate is the world for “male potency” drugs if Hannibal can charge $500 a pound for Kaiju bone powder?
The drift offers up an interesting alternative to telling Hannibal’s story through a traditional flashback narrative, but it might be more exciting to just continue his story where it leaves off, and see what he does once his black market empire has been shutdown, along with the rift in the Pacific Ocean. Would he actively pursue opening a new portal to the Precursors’ world, or are there other dimensions out there with valuable viscera to plunder? Maybe the spinoff can just go completely off the deep end, and have Hannibal wind up falling through a breach that’s connected to the Hellboy universe. It’d be twice the Perlman, and twice the fun (and, let’s face it, is probably the only way that a Hellboy 3 ever sees the light of day).
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The Genre Bender
The previous options would hue closely to the first film’s style, but what if Del Toro and company tried something smaller, more intimate, and decidedly different in focus? Here’s just one idea: remember Otachi, the flying, acid-spitting Leatherman of a Kaiju that took down two Jaegers before getting a stomach-ectomy at 50,000 feet? Well, suppose there was one extra little quirk about him we weren’t aware of in the original film: as the Precursors continued to weaponize the Kaiju, one interesting omission in their strategy was the absence of a biological weapon (other than, you know, the giant monsters themselves).
Suppose then, that Otachi’s blood came packed with a secret ingredient designed to further incapacitate earth’s defenders, in the event that the vessel for said blood should fall. During the introductory montage, the Gatorade-coloured blood of a Kaiju is suggested to be toxic, something confirmed by the comics. Getting a case of the Kaiju Blue is made out to be something you want to avoid at all cost, but in attempting to slay Otachi, Gipsey Danger wasn’t really prioritizing the containment of arterial spray. There might have been entire blocks of Hong Kong that wound up looking like the aftermath of a pan-species orgy between The Smurfs, and Avatar’s Na’Vi, once all was said and done.
Due to a volatile mutagen contained in this particular Kaiju’s blood, those exposed begin to exhibit uncontrollable, violent behaviour, and before long, the streets are crawling with zombie-like infected. Who knows, maybe the mutagen even starts morphing people into horrible human-Kaiju hybrids. The ultimate point would be to take Pacific Rim’s titanic battles, and shrink them down to a human scale. Imagine a group of P.P.D.C. soldiers working their way through the Bone Slums, battling crazed Kaiju worshippers, rage-infected civilians, and all manner of horrible monstrosities –think Aliens meets The Raid: Redemption. It would mark a pretty big shift in terms of perspective and tone, but one that would allow for further inspection of just one corner of Pacific Rim’s greater world, and all with the added bonus of not having to break the bank.Previous