Legendary Pictures Previews GODZILLA and PACIFIC RIM at Comic-Con
Author: Gary Teetzel
Source: Legendary Pictures
Every year, attendees of San Diego Comic-Con look forward to viewing previews of upcoming genre films presented by the big studios, often with top-name stars and directors present to answer questions. Many fans camp out overnight in the hopes of being one of the lucky 6,500 to get into the fabled “Hall H”, where the presentations are held. Media outlets from around the world monitor and analyze audience reactions, hoping to be able to predict the next big hit.
This year, much of the focus was on the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. panel held on Saturday, July 14. Zack Snyder’s much-hyped Superman “reboot” MAN OF STEEL and Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT received the bulk of the attention, but for fans of giant monsters, two other films stole the spotlight.
First, there was director Guillermo del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM. A passionate fan of monster movies, del Toro received a warm reception from a crowd familiar with his earlier work on PAN’S LABYRINTH, BLADE II, CRONOS and the HELLBOY movies. Joining him onstage for a Q & A moderated by Chris Hardwick of The Nerdist and THE TALKING DEAD were cast members Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and fan favorite Ron Perlman. In PACIFIC RIM, giant monsters (kaijus) suddenly appear and attack major cities around the globe. When traditional defense measures prove useless, the nations of the world develop a series of giant robots called “Jaegers.” Del Toro explained that the robots are controlled by two pilots, each controlling one hemisphere of the robot. The pilots share a neural link while operating the machines.
Del Toro presented a short “sizzle reel” from PACIFIC RIM, the first time any footage from the film has been screened in public. Lasting about two or three minutes, the footage emphasized the 25-storey high Jaegers and their pilots. The kaijus were only glimpsed in a few shots. In one, a creature is attacking a suspension bridge; another shot featured a kaiju going “mano a mano” against one of the Jaegers. The effects by Industrial Light and Magic were technically flawless, and the images were greatly enhanced by del Toro’s beautiful sense of composition and lighting.
During the Q & A, del Toro elaborated a little on what fans can expect to see. “We have approximately nine kaijus, and we have six of seven robots, and each of them has a unique ability . . . We designed about 40 kaijus and we did an AMERICAN IDOL on them. We would do a pageant and show them and then everybody would vote. We would get into heated discussions, punches were thrown . . . And the better kaijus are the ones that are in the movie, the ones that won, and trust me: One of the things we do is every time you think you saw a kaiju do what it does, something else happens.” Similarly, the robots have a variety of defensive and offensive weaponry. Pressed for more details about the monsters, del Toro would merely say that none are based on existing legends, and that they have all sorts of creatures in the film–sea monsters, flying monsters, etc. Having suffered some severe career disappointments prior to landing the PACIFIC RIM gig, del Toro appeared genuinely moved by the warm reception he and the film received at the convention.
After the conclusion of the PACIFIC RIM panel, it was announced that Legendary had one more “special surprise” in store for the audience. The audience started to cheer in anticipation, because the identity of the “special surprise” film had been rumored online for at least a week and stirred up considerable buzz. The fans were not disappointed by what followed.
The house lights dimmed. On screen, following the Warners and Legendary logos, appeared a devastated urban landscape of shattered and smoldering buildings. There was a shot of a toppled skyscraper . . . a trampled train . . . another skyscraper with a huge, gaping hole in it. In another shot, the camera panned to reveal the supine form of some enormous creature. Over all this, grim narration was heard, ending with the quote from the Bhagavad-Gita made famous by Robert Oppenheimer when discussing the Manhattan Project: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” [Contrary to some online rumors, the narration heard during the teaser was not Raymond Burr dialogue from the original film.] A monstrous roar was heard that provoked a tremendous cheer from the audience. The teaser ended with a shot of an immense storm of dust and debris seeming to enshroud a city. At last a gigantic, dinosaur-like leg could be glimpsed emerging from the swirling debris. The camera tilted up to reveal a familiar set of dorsal fins and then, as the monster turned, a familiar profile. The roar was heard again as the title appeared against black: GODZILLA.
Godzilla’s mighty roar was quickly drowned out by sustained, wildly enthusiastic cheering and applause from the audience. It was perhaps the biggest reaction during the entire Legendry/Warners panel. As director Gareth Edwards (MONSTERS) was brought out, much of the audience got to its feet to applaud again. Having labored on the project for years with multiple screenwriters, the young director seemed tremendously gratified to finally be able to show fans a preview, however brief, of his vision of the King of the Monsters. He later admitted to being close to tears when he heard the audience screaming with excitement.
“I’ve wanted to see this movie, this way, all my life, really” commented Edwards. “The idea is to imagine if this really happened, as crazy as it sounds, what would it really be like? There’s nothing sci-fi about this movie, it’s very grounded, realistic.” He expressed gratitude for the support given him by Legendary to pursue his vision of the film. “These guys have been fantastic. Everyone warns you when you do a movie for Hollywood it’s going to be a certain thing and you’re going to get treated a certain way, and it’s been the polar opposite. [Legendary founder] Thomas [Tull] has been backing us all the way.”
The teaser was shown a second time to another round of applause. Later in the afternoon, Edwards appeared at the Legendary booth with screenwriter Max Borenstein to autograph postcard-sized promotional cards. There was no artwork, just the title GODZILLA in red against a stark black background. The booth also featured a display of two Jaeger pilot suits from PACIFIC RIM.
Legendary Pictures’ PACIFIC RIM is due to open on July 12, 2013. No release date has been named yet for GODZILLA.
For more information on Legendary Pictures’ GODZILLA, please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan: