By Jake Coyle
AP Entertainment Writer
The appeal of “Pacific Rim” isn’t complicated.
Like the kind of boyhood fantasy that delights in flying men and relishes dreams of dinosaurs, “Pacific Rim,” the latest film from director Guillermo Del Toro, is predicated on the simple, childlike thrill of seeing big ol’ robots and big ol’ monsters slug it out. But while summer spectacles have grown ever larger in recent years, the monster movie — the original city-smashing genre — has mostly ceded the multiplexes to superheroes and more apocalyptic disaster films. But 14 years after Roland Emmerich’s forgettable “Godzilla” remake, Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” constitutes a large-scale attempt to bring Japan’s beloved Kaiju movies — their monster films, of which Ishiro Honda’s 1954 “Godzilla” is the most famous — to American shores.
“Monsters have always spoken to a part of me that is really essential,” Del Toro, the Mexican director of the Oscar-nominated “Pan’s Labyrinth,” said. “All of my life, I felt out of place. The tragedy of every monster in every movie is that they are out of place. That’s the essential plight of monsters.”
In the 3-D “Pacific Rim,” which Warner Bros. will release July 12, the 25-story-high Kaiju emanate (as is tradition) from the sea one by one, each uniquely grotesque beasts. To combat these monsters, giant robots called Jaegers are built, each controlled by two brain-connected pilots.
Since he was a child, Del Toro has compulsively drawn monsters, beginning with sketches of the Creature from “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and the Phantom from “Phantom of the Opera.” He’s still an obsessive drawer, but creating the creatures and robots of “Pacific Rim” meant working in an entirely different scale.
While the Kaiju films of Toho studios were a formative influence on Del Toro, he boxed up his DVDs before starting work on “Pacific Rim,” intent on making a movie that wasn’t a mere homage.
“Guillermo’s approach is to just show his passion,” says visual effects supervisor John Knoll, the chief creative officer of Industrial Light and Magic. “When everyone on the crew sees how much Guillermo loves this stuff, how much it means to him, the enthusiasm is contagious.”