'Pacific Rim' Comic-Con panel: Giant robots! Giant monsters! Giant monster 'American Idol'!

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Image Credit: Jordan Strauss/AP

The Project: Pacific Rim

The Panel: Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi (pictured), director Guillermo del Toro. Moderated by the Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick.

Footage Screened: “This movie came to me like a big, fat, obscene Christmas gift at a time that I needed it very much,” del Toro explained before screening a trailer he said was cut specifically for Comic-Con and would not be seen anywhere else.

And, boy, was it massive. The footage starts with two people hunting for treasure on a wintry beach staring gobsmacked as a giant multi-story robot stumbles from the ocean, missing an arm, and collapses on the beach. The attention to detail in this small sequence was impressive: the robot (or Jaeger, in the film’s parlance) shuddered with every step, and the ground rumbled as it plodded along, while the camera struggled to even fit the entire thing within the frame.

The rest of the footage was an extended sizzle reel, featuring shots of ginormous monsters ripping into the landscape (like the poor Golden Gate Bridge) as we caught glimpses of stars Charlie Hunnam suiting up in a metal uniform to pilot one of the Jaegers (which require two pilots, one for each hemisphere, since they’re too gargantuan for just one person to control). We also caught shots of Ron Perlman and Charlie Day in civilian clothes staring agape at something towering above them, as well as Jaegers wading through the ocean or being dropped from the sky into battle with the monsters (or kaiju) below. At the end of the footage, Idris Elba delivered this rousing speech: “Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we’ve chosen to turn to each other! Today, we face the monsters that are at our door! Today we are canceling the apocalypse!” FOGHORN! FIN!

“As they say in Mexico about icebergs,” said del Toro after the crowd’s roars of approval died down, “that’s just the tip. And we say that only about icebergs.”

Snap Judgment: As a movie about Brobdingnagian robots battling mountainous monsters, Pacific Rim definitely looks appropriately scaled. What I liked most, though, were the small touches of detail and the visual idiosyncrasy — everyone appears to be battling in terribly inclement weather, for one thing — making clear that del Toro is bringing as much distinctive personality to the proceedings as possible. If the footage was missing anything, it was a sense of how the human cast fits into the larger story — other than Elba, barely anyone else spoke more than a few brief lines. I’d especially love to hear how Day’s scientist character reacts to the insanity unspooling before him.

The Big Revelations: Del Toro, who did the lion’s share of talking during the panel, revealed that the film would feature “approximately nine kaijus, and six robots,” but in the development process, his team developed as many as 40 kaijus. “And then we did an American Idol on them,” said del Toro. “We would go into heated discussions. Punches were thrown.” When one fan asked if there were any sea monsters, del Toro beamed. “You got it man! Three! We have flying monsters! We have sea monsters! We have monsters up the wazoo!”

There was also one telling moment when del Toro made clear that the monsters and robots were animated traditionally: “No f—king motion capture!” he said. “I don’t want the robots moving just like human beings.”

Most Incisive Audience Question: A fan asked what would happen if only one person piloted the Jaegers instead of two. “That actually happens in the film,” said del Toro, and it sounds like the result ain’t good.

Before the panel, del Toro and the Pacific Rim cast stopped by the EW.com Comic-Con lounge for an interview. Watch it here:

Read more:
‘Hellboy 3’? Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman say they’re both game — EXCLUSIVE
Comic-Con 2012: 15 Hot Movies

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