Giant monsters have existed in film ever since King Kong fell in love with Fay Wray in 1933. Japanese cinema has been the prime producer of giant monster, or kaiju media, from Godzilla in 1954. The Godzilla franchise has produced a rogues gallery of kaiju, including Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. Godzilla isn’t the only kaiju; Gamera has his own franchise and gallery of fellow kaiju. Other nations have tried making their own kaiju works; the 1961 Danish film Reptilicus is such an example. Giant robots are also a mainstay of Japanese media, through live action sentai works and anime. The mecha can range from large but still human scale, such as in Armored Troopers: VOTOMS and Bubblegum Crisis to towering units such as those from the Gundam franchise.
Naturally, works will inspire creators. Guillermo del Toro was inspired by the various kaiju and mecha productions, including Godzilla and Neon Genesis Evangelion, and HP Lovecraft’s At the Moutnains of Madness, leading to the 2013 film, Pacific Rim. The cast includes Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, Idris Elba as Marshal Stacker Pentecost, Charlie Day as Newt Geiszler, Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, and Burn Gorman as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb.
In the film, the Earth is under assault. Kaiju are coming through a breach in the the Pacific Ocean, wreaking havoc and destroying coastal cities. Conventional weapons are ineffective and the use of nuclear weapons would destroy more than just the kaiju. To combat the kaiju, giant mecha called jaegers were developed, capable of standing toe-to-toe with the monsters. However, the jaegers are too much for one pilot to handle. Two pilots must mesh in the drift, a merging of minds, and each handles one hemisphere. The nature of the drift means that a pair of pilots need to be close. One of the jaegers, a Mk III called Gipsy Danger, is piloted by brothers Yancy and Raleigh Becket and is dispatched to stop a Category-3 kaiju codenamed Knifehead from destroying Anchorage, Alaska. Gipsy Danger‘s victory is Pyrrhic; Knifehead is stopped, but Yancy is pulled out of the cockpit, leaving Raleigh to finish the fight on his own.
Five years later, and the battle isn’t going well. A new defense is in the works, known as the Life Wall. The idea is that with the Life Wall in place to stop the kaiju, the jaegers would no longer be needed. Raleigh, though, is already out of the service, his brother dead and Gipsy Danger too damaged. He’s now one of the labourers working on the Life Wall in Alaska. Before his latest shift begins, a military helicopter arrives with Marshal Pentecost. Pentecost has an offer for Raleigh, a return to action.
In the Shatterdome in Hong Kong, the last four jaegers are waiting for their standdown orders. Three have crews – Crimson Typhoon piloted by Chinese triplets, Cherno Alpha piloted by a husband and wife team, and Striker Eureka, piloted by father and son Herc and Chuck Hansen. The fourth, Gipsy Danger rebuilt, has no pilots but Pentecost is hoping that Raleigh can find a partner. After testing several potential partners, Raliegh chooses Mako Mori, a survivor of a kaiju attack on Tokyo.
The Shatterdome is also the home to kaiju researchers. One, Newt, has figured out a way to drift with the hindbrain of a kaiju. After a somewhat successful first drift, he discovers that the kaiju are planning on moving to Earth en masse, to destroy all life here and then to find a new home to invade. Pentecost is informed of the breakthrough and tells Newt to get in touch with Hannibal Chau, a black marketer dealing in kaiju organs and parts. It’s Chai that realizes the problem with Newt drifting with the kaiju brain; the kaiju have a hive mind. What Newt knows, every kaiju knows, including the plan to use a nuclear bomb to seal the bridge between the kaiju‘s world and Earth.
Two more kaiju attack, the target being Hong Kong. All four jaehers are sent to stop the Category-4s. Both Crimson Typhoon and Cherno Alpha are destroyed in the attack. Herc in Striker Eureka is injured, but the attack is stopped, with one kaiju laying dead in Hong Kong. Newt grabs the opportunity to get more information and, with Hermann as co-pilot, drifts into the the dead kaiju‘s hindbrain.
The plan to seal the bridge between worlds is still a go, though. Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka are repaired and re-armed. Since Herc is out of commission, Pentecost steps up to co-pilot with Chuck Hansen. The Marshall had been a pilot of a Mk I jaeger, having been the one to stop the kaiju stomping through Tokyo. The two jaegers head out to sea, marching underwater to the breach. During the trip, Marshall and Newt return to the Shatterdome to pass along new information – the bridge won’t open unless there’s kaiju DNA.
Fortunately, a third kaiju attacks, a Category-5. Gipsy Danger barely survives, but with damage to oxygen tanks. Raleigh hooks his oxygen supply to Mako’s, then sends her up. He then pilots Gipsy Danger into the breach. Once through the dimensional barrier, Raleigh sets the time on the bomb, then escapes himself.
Pacific Rim delivers on the promise of giant robots fighting giant monsters. The effects show the mass of both, with plenty of collateral damage. Del Toro’s influences are obvious, but don’t get in the way of the story. Pacific Rim remembers that the key in a work featuring giant mecha is the characters. The audience is given a reason to root for the mecha over the kaiju. The worldbuilding is set up in the first fifteen minutes. Everything else is a visual feast with depth that one wouldn’t expect in a movie with giant robots and giant monsters.
Pacific Rim was popular enough to get a sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising, and a mockbuster, Atlantic Rim. There was enough interest that Netflix produced an anime series, Pacific Rim: The Black in conjunction with Polygon Pictures and Legendary Television. The work began in 2018 with the series released in March 2021.
The series begins with Australia under attack by kaiju. The Pan Pacific Defense Corps, or PPDC, orders all coastal cities are evacuated and the inhabitants moved inland away from the Pacific Ocean. The last of the evacuees are students, including Taylor and Hailey Travis. Their parents, Ford and Brina, are jaeger pilots who are covering the evacuation; they also trigger The Black, a way to try to stop the kaiju from going beyond Australia. The bus with the last of the survivors is able to escape to a hidden base. Ford and Brina, though, need to leave to fight kaiju and find more survivors.
Five years later, Ford and Brina have not returned. The base has grown into a community, with farms to feed the inhabitants. Scouts are being sent out to various locations to look for other survivors. Taylor, though, isn’t one of them. He is still waiting for he and his sister’s parents. Hayley is the more adventurous one. She explores and during one of her explorations of the base, she finds a jaeger, Atlas Destroyer that had been left behind when the base was evacuated. Activating Atlas and its AI, Loa, Hayley begins a very quick training. The activation of the jaeger also summons Copperhead, a Category-4 kaiju. Copperhead destroys the settlement, leaving only Taylor and Hailey as the sole survivors. They only survived because they piloted Atlas to fight the kaiju, but the jaeger is set for training and is unarmed. The fight is a draw.
With no home, the siblings decide to look for their parents and begin a journey to Sydney. The trip is dangerous. A stop to get a new energy cell for Atlas leads to finding Boy in a lab in an abandoned PPDC facility. Hayley insists on rescuing him, breaking him out of the glass tube holding him. An encounter with more kaiju leads to meeting a black marketer, Shane, and his right hand woman, Mei. Shane has his own designs on Atlas, but his machinations leads to Mei questioning her own memories. Taylor and Hayley escape and continue on towards Sydney, with the threat of Shane behind them. The final battle against Copperhead reveals more secrets, ones that have no immediate answers. The season ends with a victory, a loss, more questions, and another group of humans watching the siblings. A second season has been announced.
Like the original film, the animated series has several themes. Some it shares with the original; including not letting the past hold you back. The series also introduces the idea that humanity can be more dangerous than the kaiju. The story in the series is also personal, like the original. While there are battles between Atlas Destroyer and kaiju, the characters are the ones driving the story.
Taylor and Hayley are young, and their inexperience does lead them to make rash decisions. Loa provides a sober second thought, sometimes through snark. The supporting cast is three-dimensional; their motives dictating their actions. Even Boy, whose secret is foreshadowed through the series, has an arc.
Overall, the series adds to Pacific Rim, expanding the world laid out in the film. Animation allows for a lighter budget, especially on a streaming service, which then provides for more time spent on exploring the world. Pacific Rim: The Black builds on what came before, leading to a fuller experience of Pacific Rim and the dangers of the kaiju.
Pacific Rim: The Black expands the setting, showing more of the world introduced in Pacific Rim and the effects of the kaiju invasion on people. The core characters are young, venturing out from their safe home into the wilds of Australia, already a dangerous place to wander in even before giant monsters are added. The series adds to the overall setting of the film, expanding it, adding another layer of worldbuilding on top of what the movie provided. The animation style may not work for everyone, but that’s true of all animation. The result is a series that is worth watching for Pacific Rim fans.
Stargate still being rebooted.
Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin are returning to the Stargate helm with a reboot trilogy, as was reported back in September here. Details have still not been announced beyond the trilogy being a reboot instead of a continuation.
Spinward Traveller TV pilot on Kickstarter.
d20 Entertainment is working to put together a pilot episode of Spinward Traveller. The show, based on the Traveller RPG, follows the exploits of the free trader Beowulf in the Spinward Marches of the Third Imperium. The Beowulf‘s fame in the game comes from the distress call on the back of the box of the classic edition of Traveller.
Starship Troopers reboot/remake could be in works.
Still unconfirmed, but Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures had some interesting tweets involving the work.
Magnificent Seven being remade.
Denzel Washington may star in the remake. This leads to the chain of remaking an adaptation; the original Magnificent Seven took The Seven Samurai and placed it into the American frontier.
Speaking of Denzel Washington…
The Equilizer is set to hit theatres in September. The movie is a remake of the CBS TV series starring Edward Woodward that ran from 1985 to 1989 about a semi-retired spy who freelanced as a troubleshooter for people who needed help.
Sonic the adaptation
The speedy hedgehog is getting a combined live-action/CGI animated movie. Little has been released other than Doctor Eggman will be the villain.
Magic School Bus rebooted to Netflix
Miss Frizzle rides again as the series gets rebooted thanks to Netflix. The original Magic School Bus aired on PBS as an educational series where Miss Frizzle took her students in the titular bus to visit various locations, such as Egypt, space, and the human body.
Lion King spin-off Lion Guard
The series will follow Kion, the second born of Simba and Nala, as he leads the Guard. While other characters from the series may appear, new characters will compose the cast.
Grumpy Cat gets Christmas Special
Internet celebrity and meme source Tardar Sauce, also known as Grumpy Cat, will be getting a Christmas special that will air on Lifetime. The cat earned the nickname because of colouration and facial features that made her look like she was perpetually grumpy. When asked about the the special, she said, “Let it – NO.”
You new too, Scooby-Doo?
Warner Bros. to reboot Scooby-Doo, most likely as live-action movies. No cast is attached yet; the reboot of the adaptation movie is still in pre-production.
“Demon With a Glass Hand” to be adapted for the big screen.
Harlan Ellison’s episode for The Outer Limits will the basis for the upcoming movie based on the classic TV series. The episode involved time travel, aliens, and a man with a computerized hand.
Once again, the day will be saved…
… thanks to the Powerpuff Girls! Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup will be returning to Cartoon Network in 2016.
True Blood: The Musical.
With the TV adaptation wrapping up on HBO, Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries may become a stage musical. Nathan Barr, who worked on the TV series, has composed the musical.
Pacific Rim returning hard.
The sequel to the movie has been announced for April 2017. In the meantime, an animated series and a book series based on the movie, the latter having begun with Year Zero, are in the works. The original movie centered on fighting an invasion of kaiju, or giant monsters, with giant mecha and did far better outside the US than in it.
Last Thursday night was an interesting night to watch my Twitter feed. Two movies were standing out from from the stream – Pacific Rim and Sharknado. The former is a big budget movie about giant mecha fighting kaiju. The latter is a SyFy Channel movie of the week made for, according to IMDB, one million dollars, featuring sharks in a tornado. No, really, check out the trailer on io9. If I ran a Hollywood studio, I’d be worried about my future.
We here at MuseHack have been tracking the Hollywood bubble, from superhero similarities to the big names questioning the sustainability. The bubble’s due to pop; how big the gooey mess will be even we can’t predict. Three big-budget movies have failed this summer. A SyFy B-movie managed to grab more attention than The Lone Ranger. The people in charge should be asking, “Why?”
Pacific Rim, while finishing behind Despicable Me 2 in North America, earned $US3.6 million, with another $US3.7 million in Asia. That is one night’s gross, the opening late show Thursday night. People are going out to see it; visually, it is like no other movie this summer and features giant robots punching giant monsters. My Twitter stream showed a positive reaction to the movie, including Canadian TV personality Ed the Sock calling it one of the greatest movies ever. Meanwhile, at the other end of the budget, Sharknado pulled in 1.4 to 2 million viewers, low but the viewers reached 350k tweets during the length of the movie, shy of the number of tweets generated by the “Red Wedding” epsiode of A Game of Thrones, an episode that garnered 5.22 million viewers. Both movies feature elements not normally seen in North American entertainment. The mecha and kaiju of Pacific Rim are staples of anime and Japanese cinema, but are rare to see in Hollywood.* Meanwhile, Sharknado had people fighting and being eaten by sharks in a giant tornado; a combination that it’s safe to say has never crossed through anyone’s rational thoughts**.
There must be committees now going on in Hollywood, sitting down, analyzing both Pacific Rim and Sharknado, trying to figure out what makes the movies tick, why their respective audiences are raving on social media, and how to duplicate that success. What the committees might miss is that both movies deliver on their promise; giant robots punching giant monsters and sharks in a tornado being fought against with chainsaws. The movies aren’t deep; even Ed the Sock says Pacific Rim is a movie, not a film. But they bring something different in a summer where checklists are failing and tentpoles are falling. I just don’t expect the committees to realize where the problem is.***
* Outside dinosaurs, which fill in for the giant and the monster, but not the fear of nuclear power that kaiju also have.
** Like kaiju, Sharknado uses fear as a hook for the audience. Instead of nuclear power, the fear is of climate change, of once-in-a-century storms happening several times a decade. And the fear of sharks, thanks to Jaws.
*** I do expect copycat films. There should be a MechaShark vs the HurriKraken in the next few years.