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The attraction of a movie like Pacific Rim is certainly the battles between giant robots and giant monsters. It’s the stuff that blockbuster filmmaking is made of, and makes the Guillermo del Toro film a perfect fit for this year’s schedule of summer spectacle. But as great as it is to see epic battles play out both in the middle of the ocean and in the midst of cityscapes, the truth is that without strong characters and story the action can get old quick. That balancing act was one of the many challenges that screenwriter Travis Beacham faced when writing the script with the director.
A couple weeks back I flew up to San Francisco, California to take part in a press day for Pacific Rim, where I had the opportunity to sit down with the writer and talk about the new film (which is in theaters this Friday). Read on to learn about the initial inspiration that led to the script, working with del Toro through the writing process, and creating a larger world beyond what wes eein the film.
You have to be ecstatic to see this movie come out in the big screen, right?
Oh yeah, I’m blown away.
Does it match with your original vision, for what you saw?
Yeah, it does. I think, you know, a lot of new ideas were brought to the table, but I think what’s really special about it is that, when you have people working towards a common purpose, then the final product is something that you recognize and that’s really what’s happened here and that’s what’s so rare about this experience, because ordinarily, it doesn’t work like that at all. Ordinarily it’s, you know, everybody is picturing something sort of different, but this, from the very beginning, Guillermo, Legendary, myself, they all sort of saw the same movie about the same thing and so every new idea that was brought to it, you know, pushed in that same direction.
What was your initial inspiration for the film?
It was, well, I’ve always really wanted to see... I sort of couldn’t believe that no one had done it before, you know. I really wanted to see kind of a modern, special effects laden blockbuster that was mechs versus kaiju. I was really, really nuts about that, but you know, that’s not a story idea in and of itself and I think the idea that really changed everything and that really let the story come about was that there were two pilots, that it took two pilots to drive this thing, because then suddenly the relationships are literally at the core of the battles, at the heart of it, and the baggage matters, and the feelings matter and the people matter, not only to themselves as characters, but to the battles and how they work and therefore to the world as a whole and that I think, you know, that let it be a story that was about people rather than just an excuse for you know, different action sequences.
That is the real heart of this film. You have to have the people, otherwise you just don’t care. It’s just CGI hitting CGI.
So, when you’re writing this script, how do you go about balancing the real and the epicness?
Yeah, it’s, well it’s not necessarily difficult. It’s, you just, you have to sort of put something aside and for me, it was exposition, you know, and I like those kinds of sci-fi movies anyway, you know. I like how Blade Runner kind of drops you into this world and you have to figure it out as you go along, you know. I really, really like that, and I knew that this couldn’t be a sort of, you know, bacon and eggs morning commute, aliens land sort of movie, because then, you know, you’re spending two acts just explaining and building the road blocks, but if it started well into the conflict, you know, and the jaegers were established and the kaiju techs were established, then the story could take place in the world as opposed to the world taking place in the story.
And so, you could say, “Well, ok, who were the interesting people in this world,” you know and it doesn’t have to be the president, you know, to explain things to everybody, and that I think was a really, sort of, liberating notion.
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