Designing a Monster Film with our Monster Filmmaker
For his epic sci-fi feature, Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro—owner, director, and founding partner of Mirada—turned to his home base, enlisting studio talent on everything from concept development to the two-minute prologue.
The film chronicles the attacks on civilization by hideous, gargantuan, otherworldly monsters, called Kaiju, and humankind's desperate response – in the form of gigantic robots, called Jaegers, that were created to battle the Kaiju. The Jaegers are dual-piloted machines – two pilots housed side-by-side inside the robots' cockpits, working symbiotically to maximize the efficacy of the Jaegers in battle...and the odds of humanity's survival.
From the very first stages, del Toro worked closely with artists from his studio to bring the picture to the big screen. For the initial presentation to Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers, Mirada created key conceptual art, 3D turntable renderings of a trio of prototype Jaegers, and a high-end two-and-a-half minute teaser animatic illustrating the monumental size and colossal scope of a Jaeger in action.
Central to Mirada’s conceptual and visual contribution to Pacific Rim is the film’s harrowing prologue. Along with del Toro, the Mirada team embarked on designing, creating, shooting, and editing this key sequence.
The prologue—nearly its own stand-alone mini-movie within the epic narrative of Pacific Rim—sets the stage for the story. It’s where the impossible, awesome scale of the film is—piece-by-piece, element-by-element—made familiar by creating a narrative bridge that transports audiences into the world of the film. In working to establish del Toro’s vision, Mirada set out to illuminate a big picture view of a world turned upside down and all the astonishing ripple effects that result. In short order, the audience discovers exactly where humanity stands in our story and how we got here: the human pride of people of all nations coming together; the world racing to harness a global war machine; the impact of the Kaiju; the creation of the Jaeger; the humbling of our entire species in the marauding path of a seemingly unstoppable foe. We see it all.
To create the hellish realism of the sequence, the Mirada team applied a shrewd blend of real-world media iconography and original, created content—including Kaiju and Jaegers that appear exclusively in the context of the prologue—cross-pollinating futuristic events with contemporary/historic authenticity. The team imagined and created large-scale creatures, futuristic machines, and astonishing environments – and then seamlessly threaded them into the fabric of the world of Pacific Rim, deepening their impact by interweaving it all with the history of our own. This juxtaposing of elements—reality and fiction, live-action and VFX—were structured to compel viewers to imagine the spaces between these featured snapshots. The result is a tour-de-force sequence that invites (perhaps even forces) audiences to engage in a sort of emotional interpolation—a connecting of the narrative dots—where each glimpse offers a powerful piece of information that elevates the story and its stakes, so they cannot afford to look away as the broader stage is set for the events of Pacific Rim…and the faint hope they will signal salvation for a world teetering on the edge of apocalypse.
True to his unique tangible-fantastical cinematic aesthetic, del Toro was insistent that the integration of these monsters and robots into the film's live-action environments feel utterly realistic.
Mirada built animatics exploring how Kaiju and Jaegers might make their way through a large city, battle scenes between the two colossal combatants from the oceans into streets, and how the decimation of a city like Tokyo or San Francisco might unfold cinematically. Likewise, Mirada’s art and design teams helped to craft countless iterations of both the Jaegers’ and the Kaijus’ look, feel, and behavior: very subtle but crucial touches and details were required to meet the distinctive brand of realism del Toro was trying to achieve – capturing just the right human-built, “roughed up” look of specific Jaegers, for example, which get damaged, and have to be repaired and maintained.
Over the three years of Pacific Rim’s production, Mirada assembled a unique VFX pipeline to handle some of the most demanding effects to date in a large-scale blockbuster, creating visuals that would stand alongside ILM’s impressive work on the picture. Likewise, throughout the nearly three year process, Mirada vigorously and continuously refined its pipeline to meet the film’s needs – all while forging new ground to meet the challenge of future productions.