Hey guys, Denise here with an article I have been way too excited for! My friend Keith Foster, my number one go-to monster guy, has blessed us with an awesome breakdown on all the types of Kaiju from Pacific Rim. He wrote this before he actually saw it which is pretty impressive considering he knew more than I know now after seeing it! Read on, my lovelies, read on!
So if you’re reading this I think it’s safe to say you’re aware of the new Giant Robot vs Giant Monster smackdown ‘Pacific Rim’ – and you’ve also read the thorough article on this site by Aaron Hoffman providing a lot of information on both the film and their main protagonists (The Jaegers). If you haven’t read it, go read it right now – he covers a lot of the basics of the film, some background on Giant Robots and a detailed analysis of the Jaegers!
But what about the bad guys? The true test of heroes are the villains they have to overcome, and that’s why I’m here. I’ve always been a villain guy, from Boba Fett and Darth Vader to King Ghidorah to Those Twin Albino Dudes in The Matrix to David Stern to That Dude in Willow That Wore The Skull Helmet And Was All Badass Then Took It Off and Was Some Old Guy (which kinda sucked). It’s a bit dangerous to analyze a movie before I’ve even seen it, but what the hell right? Let’s tackle the villains – THE KAIJU – in Pacific Rim.
In addition to being a huge Daikaiju fan (with the DVDs, books and toys to prove it) I write a kaiju comic (Kodoja) and am in a band (Big Pimp Jones) with original kaiju soundtracks to our credit. So you’re in good hands. I’m excited that Pacific Rim is bringing the word ‘kaiju’ to a much larger audience – the word has resided in the (sparsely populated) neighborhoods of we Giant Monster fans the past couple decades – but you know what? I think it’s ready for larger-scale consumption.
OVERALL REGARDING THE KAIJU
To get an idea of the Kaiju, take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJh5_Jg-Vuc
In the video, Del Toro stresses the importance of the Kaiju in saying the ‘Big money shot’ for him in kaiju films was the monster. When people remember old kaiju films like Godzilla and Gamera they generally don’t remember the scenes with people in them (which take up the majority of screen time), they remember the Giant Monster smackdowns! Oh, and this is a film that looks to be full of Giant Monster Smackdowns, which is why Del Toro says the film ‘speaks to the kid in me the way no other movie I’ve ever made does’. The Kaiju were carefully selected – for each general body type there was an ‘American Idol process’ where similar types went against each other until one iteration of the monster was left standing. So everyone definitely did their homework for the monsters, even to the point of Del Toro directing the designers to create Kaiju that could accommodate a suit actor if they were to be made in real life. These seemingly little things show the level of detail they were going for and hence authenticity to the Kaiju Film tradition.
I did my best to research the names and profiles of the primary Kaiju in the film, and used this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbTQHgQNOjA) – of all things a HeroClix ad for the Kaiju figures – as well as video clips and image stills to get an opinion on the Kaiju.
(WHO I THINK ARE) THE MAIN KAIJU IN THE FILM
In the video above, Del Toro mentions wanting the kaiju to be based on real animals, referencing knifehead as the shark-based based monster. Er, If sharks were humanoid and had four arms, with glowing exterior veins visible on their skin. And were 200 feet tall. And had a tail. And a backplate. Look, maybe it’s not like a damn shark at all, okay? It’s definitely the villain I’m best acquainted with prior to the film and is part of the First Wave of Pacific Rim action figures (and is therefore sitting on my desk as I type this). Overall, a rather cool design, though it does invoke Kaiju from past films (Guiron from the Gamera series, who legitimately has a knife head).
In one of the trailers, Raiju looks to be the monster on the wrong end of a really sweet attack that I don’t want to spoil for people. Unfortunately this is the only good thing I have to say about Raiju, since it looks like a giant armadillo with a purple flower for a head. Now, with the overall badass-ness of the special effects – nightime battles, glowing electricity, the feeling of weight as titans slug it out – this will probably be an awesome thing; unfortunately I can’t get the image out of my head of Daffy Duck in the cartoon ‘Duck Amuck’ when he gets drawn on all fours with a flower for a head. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not a good sign that a Kaiju makes me think of Duck Amuck.
Full disclosure: despite my love for giant monsters I’m not much of a King Kong fan, so with this kaiju, a gorilla-esque beast with what looks like a different-shaped head, I probably should be more excited than I am. Leatherback’s basis is definitely a gorilla, but with raised shoulder blades and hurtin’ hands. I do acknowledge this Kaiju is pretty cool – also it shows up frequently in the trailers and looks to have a pretty prominent role in things. It’s very nimble-looking and has a cool part where it leaps up out of the ocean to attack a Jaeger.
Ahh, NOW we’re talking! A creepy, insect-like beast with four arms, a huge forked tail and a crazy pointed jaw with massive ears/horns? Now THAT is a cool-looking giant monster. Plus, it looks to have a real (and cool) name as opposed to something that’s generic, descriptive and the kind of thing a member of the attacking military would say to comrades during an attack (“You take Knifehead, I’ll handle Leatherback over here!”) Something else about Scunner that applies to Slattern as well – these monsters are unique in the Kaiju landscape as far as I can tell. They don’t make other Kaiju jump to my mind and don’t invoke other monsters; they are rather original designs for Kaiju, all things considering. I am very, very excited for scenes involving Scunner.
Did someone say excited? YYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAH! TWO tails, spikes on its hindquarters and a split head with what looks like four eyes? Plus, its skin is practically black? And it emits some kind fo crazy-awesome blue glow when it does mean stuff? I am SO in for this one – in fact, I’d like to pre-order the toy now. No, really, take my order. And make this in an oversized version too! I’m not sure if Slattern is that final monster but that is one ominous, evil-looking baddie.
While Slattern is my current favorite, Otachi looks really promising – I just can’t find enough information to get a really good picture. Here’s what I know – Otachi has the feel of a super-mutated Rodan, with two massive horns rising from the snout, a long tail and massive bat-wings. If I were to say ‘which image search makes me smile the most?’ the ansswer is Otachi – some of the stills from the film feature Otachi fighting through smoke and devastation, which is really metal. Now THAT is a Kaiju villain, friends. Not only that, but there’s a quick flash in one of the trailers where a flying kaiju (that looks like Otachi) grabs a Jaeger by its feet and SLAMS the Jaeger into a building. Sweet. I get the feeling Otachi will be my favorite by the time I walk out of the theater.
POTENTIAL TROUBLE SPOTS
I’m sure there are a few more Kaiju that show up in Pacific Rim, but that’s all the information I can find on the Kaiju pre-movie. Which brings up a few potential trouble spots that it’s only fair I point out. The first one stems from a discrepancy in information between the good guys and bad guys in the film – there’s plenty of information about the Jaegers, but there is definitely less information about the Kaiju (plus the previously-mentioned generic name thing). This leads to a potential conclusion of the Kaiju having a more ‘background feel’ to them . See, even though many of the classic kaiju films are pretty much B-movies, a few devices from those films have persevered for good reason. First, the ‘Villain Kaiju’ have personalities – King Ghidorah is under the control of sinister aliens, Iris (from the 90s Gamera series) starts out as a cute little beastie that grows to sinister proportions because of misguided decisions, and so on. You have time to develop a relationship with them, or at least have some element of understanding who they are and where they came from.
Second, there’s a bit of moral ambiguity to many of the kaiju films – is Godzilla good or bad? Or is Godzilla just a force of nature? If Gamera’s truly a ‘good guy’, how come cities get devastated every time it shows up? This lack of clear delineation makes for some nice tension throughout the films, and based on what I see in Pacific Rim there is precisely zero ambiguity here. Robots – good guys, kaiju – bad guys. I’m not saying it should have been different, all I’m saying is this lack of moral ambiguity makes for a simpler plot. The second point is definitely more nitpicky, but the larger point is still valid – the Kaiju not only need to be menacing and tough to overcome, but have elements of character that inject SOME sort of personality into them. Hopefully this will surface during the film – even the aliens in independence day had some personality.
So why am I going through the nitpicky stuff, anyway? I mean, I’ll be going to the film multiple times opening weekend, I already own the toys with more toys on the way, and if I could pre-order the Blu-Ray today I would. Well the reason is because the trouble spots aren’t written for me – they’re what apply to casual moviegoers and non-kaiju fans as they make decisions to see the film and/or tell their friends about after they’ve seen it. Special effects can get you but it’s the story and characters that keep you, and it’s the story and characters (even giant-sized monster characters) that take a super-geeky concept to a larger audience successfully. If the potential trouble spots are real trouble spots, people may not walk out of the theater pointing them out specifically, they just may walk out disappointed. Obviously I’m excited as hell, and I’m hoping every potential trouble spot is addressed through what is a wholly awesome movie! And when you go see it, just know that every time the smoke clears and some massive, sinister monster appears someone is smiling.