A few days before the film Guillermo del Toro was attached to direct but didn't, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," opened to record-breaking numbers last Friday, Warner Bros. unleashed the trailer for "Pacific Rim," the auteur's first outright foray into mainstream summer blockbuster fare (despite their production values, his two "Hellboy" movies are fairly niche-oriented). By the time it opens in July, "Pacific Rim" will be his first feature in a whopping five years. If the plot -- man-made robots duke it out with alien monsters in the future -- had his "Pan's Labarynth" enthusiasts crying foul for succumbing to the Michael Bay brand of large scale filmmaking, chances are their worries were put to rest by this gloriously entertaining two-minute-plus promo, which has del Toro's visionary stamp all over it. "Transformers" this is not.
Del Toro came onto "Pacific Rim" after parting ways with "The Hobbit" (he stayed on as a co-writer) and failing to get funding from Universal on one of his longtime dream projects, "In the Mountains of Madness," a sure-to-be R-rated film based on a sci-fi horror story by H.P. Lovecraft. Industry analysts have since dubbed "Pacific Rim" to be his consolation prize. Despite being his bronze medal, should it go over well, the film stands a chance at ushering the fan boy favorite into Hollywood's roster of A-list tentpole directors.
Kicking off with ominously with a "Transformers"-like electronic wail that segues into a siren call, the trailer opens to the striking image of a lone girl on a deserted street watch in awe as fighter jets shoot at an unidentified target right above her head. It's soon made clear via a newscaster's voice that said target is one of the many Godzilla-like creatures wreaking havoc on our planet. Cut to an exposition-laden voiceover by the film's lead, played by "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam, that lays bare where the monsters come from -- "a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean" -- and what the humans have done to fight back: create stories-high robot warriors piloted by humans to wipe them out.
So far, so good. What really sells the promo, however, is the creature design. As anyone familiar with either of the "Hellboy" films or "Pan's Labarynth" can attest to, no director working today dreams up more artfully realized beasties than del Toro. Merely teased at the opening minute of the trailer (we love that deep, terrifying roar one of them makes atop the Golden Gate Bridge), Warner Bros. wisely leaves the big reveal for the final money shot -- and, boy, is it killer. Sporting what appears to be horns (or very pointy ears), a massive mouth that radiates a blue misty hue and some thick-looking skin, the baddie glimpsed under a streak of lightening looks like del Toro's take on a gargoyle brought to petrifying large-scale life. One thing's for certain: The humans have their work cut out for them.
Speaking of humans, no attention is paid to identifying the principal players in the cast (Hunman, "Babel" star Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba) beyond showing them suited up and ready to crush some monsters. While we have confidence the screenplay by del Toro and Travis Beacham ("Clash of Titans") does afford the three archs to supply some emotional heft to the sci-fi tale, the trailer doesn't do much in the way to prove that that's the case. Still, in a promo for a film about robots vs. aliens, did you really want to see anything but expertly orchestrated mayhem? We didn't think so.