Published Oct 17, 2013No other director provides fan service like Guillermo del Toro. For the Blu-Ray release of his internationally successful love letter to simplistic adolescent wonderment, the fertile, aesthetically-driven mind behind Hellyboy and Pan's Labyrinth has assembled enough behind-the-scenes content to constitute a mini-course in gargantuan spectacle filmmaking.
Spread across two discs and still impressively fat-free, the smorgasbord of insider information covers every aspect of the intent behind and construction of this ode to the idiosyncratic world of Japanese monster movies and anime. Specifically,
The plot trades in basic heroism, for the most part avoiding cheesy genre trappings like obligatory romance in a situation that calls for anything but. Mankind is on the brink of defeat at the hands of giant monsters (Kaiju) pouring out of a portal in the ocean floor and they're down to one last outpost of enormous robots (Jaegers) piloted by special teams of two pilots synched via "the Drift." Personal traumas and doubts must be overcome, egos must be stowed and all conversations must be meted out between massive, city-destroying battles of the most dynamic and wowing kind.
Some time is afforded to story and theme in the special features, particularly in "The Director's Notebook," an interactive look through del Toro's actual notebook of ideas, augmented with translations, concept art and focused video interview segments, and in "Shatterdome Rangers Roll Call," which includes behind-the-scenes footage of a table read and interviews with each cast member. However, the majority of the bonus content deals with art design, special effects and the many openly acknowledged influences the director was trying to give new life to. "A Film by Guillermo Del Toro" is a fairly typical bit of praise for the visionary directory by the cast and crew — there's not much to it, but it's the only extra that qualifies as filler.
"A Primer On Kaijus & Jaegers" finds the director explaining the appeal of the fetishism and pageantry of Japanese monster movies and giving a thorough background on the genre, including personal favourites like Space Giant. A few more illustrated examples would be nice, but that's likely a licensing issue. "Honouring the Kaiju Tradition" probes deeper into developing the creature designs specific to this picture.
Technical issues raised by tackling a project this big are explored in "The Importance of Mass and Scale." Del Toro's obsessive attention to detail is revealed to be something close to full-blown neurosis, with an insistence on tweaking details far too minute for the eye to detect without the aid of a zoom function. Continuing with the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, "Inside the Drift" provides a great tutorial on lighting and "Goth-Tech" digs deeper into art design, including architecture, costuming, equipment and the colour palettes used for each type of scene. "Mega-Sized Sets" depicts the massive effort spent on integrating CGI with practical set pieces. "Baby Kaiju Set Visit" and "Tokyo Alley Set Visit" are focused versions of more of the same, while "Jaegers Echo Human Grace" covers the harsh physical training the primary performers were put through.
"Orchestral Sounds From the Anteverse" looks at the film's triumphant score, with the composer going over the process of writing its many evolving themes, along with candid footage of del Toro describing the sounds rattling around in his head. Save for the "Director's Notebook," the aforementioned features are all three- to eight minutes in length and are included on the first disc, along with the movie and an exceptional commentary by del Toro. The enthusiastic director explains every decision in the film — nothing is arbitrary.
Along with the notebook, the additional disc of bonus content includes a 17-minute look at the digital effects work of ILM studios, a storyboard breakdown of four scenes of characters "drifting," an archive of key design art presented by animatic and still galleries, four inconsequential deleted scenes (all minor character moments) and a blooper reel, which unsurprisingly features a lot of mugging by Charlie Day.
It'd be hard, if not impossible, to include more information on a home video release. If he made Pacific Rim for his 13-year-old self, del Toro made these special features for the aspiring filmmaker inside of any 13-year-old enamoured by his work. (Warner)