Here’s the fundamental problem with Pacific Rim: It starts with the concept of “robots vs. monsters”, and then says “gee, how do we make that interesting?” Wait! Stop! There’s your problem: “ROBOTS VS. MONSTERS” IS ALREADY INTERESTING! You don’t have to make it interesting. In fact, you cannot make it any more interesting. It already has its interest level set to maximum.
Instead of trying to make it interesting, you need to do the opposite: you need to make it normal. You need to make it believable. You need to make it make sense. You need to get the audience to say, “Oh yeah, it totally makes sense to fight those monsters with those robots.”
This will take you a long time: You’re not going to have your first monster vs. robot battle until about halfway through. And then, as soon as you’ve had one, you’ve got to start going forward to the ending.
When last I visited this topic, I talked about how both Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day were hopelessly convoluted in their first drafts, but the studio process wisely simplified each one down to the its core idea. Unfortunately, that studio refining process has broken down, and the result is this type of big mess.
With Roger Ebert dead, there’s only one film reviewer that I usually trust, and that’s David Edelstein. Sure enough, his Pacific Rim review brought up many of my same concerns, and he nails this issue on the head:
- I think Del Toro goes wrong from the first line of the voice-over narration, when the hero says he was 15 when the first kaiju (translation: giant f--king alien f---ing monster) emerged from a portal to another world in the middle of the sea. The story he goes on to tell — how Earth’s weapons were ineffectual and cities leveled, how scientists were finally able to design giant robots that had to be operated by mind-melded (pardon my Trekspeak) pilots — sounds as if it would make a fantastic movie. Imagine that first out-of-nowhere kaiju attack, the decisive failure of tanks and missiles, the frantic arms race as millions perish, the tragic mistakes (in which test pilots die horribly) before neuro-connectivity is achieved ... Did I miss that movie? Or did Del Toro for reasons known only to him decide to make the overblown sequel first?