So by now everyone and their dog knows that Guillermo del Toro’s pet project, a big-budget version of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, isn’t going to fly. Universal has gone all whimpy in regards to it, dumping it from their schedule because R-rated horror films don’t traditionally bring in the bucks they’d need to make a decent profit on a US$150 million release. Of course that R-rating is the US “R”, which is the Australian MA+, and contrary to what some have assumed, Del Toro’s project was likely to earn that rating not because it’s full of sex and gratuitous violence, but because (in the words of the man himself) it would be “too intense”. Never mind that other extremely “intense” semi-SF horror films have become huge sellers, especially on DVD — Alien, Aliens and Predator spring to mind — spawning franchises and ongoing mega-sales. Never mind that the film had everything except budgetary conservatism going for it. Never mind that Universal had previously approved of the script, thus wasting the time Del Toro has spent in development and causing him to back away from directing one of The Hobbit films. Never mind the (admittedly single sector) internet ecstasy that’s been raging over the project. It’s gone! Kaput!
Of course, one has to concede that the lilly-livered execs and their artistically astute accountants have a point. The odds of Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness being a mega-blockbuster during its cinema run are dazzlingly remote, for lots of reasons. But let’s face it, the studio hasn’t been very successful in its “conservative” choices of late, losing heaps of money on films that not only performed badly but which have zero ongoing cult value. So maybe an “intense” SF-horror film from one of the world’s most prestigious filmmakers — one with a track record of excellence in fantasy who is so enthused by the project that he managed to drag in the likes of James Cameron as a fellow believer — should be given a chance.
[Cue excuse for a Godzilla picture, perhaps this one -- the cover for issue 1 of Dark Horse's Godzilla King of the Monsters comic by Bob Eggleton. Bear with me. It will become relevant.]
Not that I want to talk about the stupidity of Universal’s lack of gumption. It’s too frustrating. What the tragic removal of At the Mountains of Madness from Del Toro’s current To Do list has meant, however, is that he has agreed to direct Legendary Picture’s Pacific Rim, a project that has been slithering around in a vaguely seductive manner for some time now. If you haven’t heard of it, or if you have but don’t know what it’s about apart from the fact that it’s got giant monsters in it, take a look at this newly released synopsis, courtesy of News in Film, apparently based on their sighting of writer Travis Beacham’s screenplay:
They say that the project will give the Hellboy filmmaker the opportunity to create two worlds:
The first is an alternate version of Earth in the near future, decades after a historic date in November 2012 when the first kaiju, a towering Godzilla-like beast, emerged from a hole in the Pacific Ocean and attacked the city of Osaka, Japan. The second is “The Anteverse,” another universe on the other side of that gaping portal, 5 miles below our ocean’s surface.
Since the first attack, the rim has been “spitting out” a variety of gigantic monsters at an increasing rate, which then stride out of the ocean and begin destroying sea-bordering cities, like Tokyo and Los Angeles. In order to combat these monstrous, otherworldly menaces, the military developed the “Jaeger” program, which trains teams of two pilots to jointly operate massive, building-sized mechanized suits of armor and high-tech weaponry.
Within the first act alone, we are given enough detailed background on the god-like Jaeger systems, its shared neural piloting system (called “pons”), and the relentless beasts. But Beacham is an absolute master at immediately establishing characters and their conflicts.
The central character is Raleigh Antrobus, 23, a skilled Jaeger pilot still wrestling emotionally with the loss of his co-pilot and biological brother, Yance, during a mission a year earlier. The ordeal has wreaked havoc on his mind spirit, leaving him with ghostly nightmares of the battle from the shared “pons” experience. After the initial setup, the damaged hero is recruited to re-join the task force in Tokyo, where pilots are in demand, and team with a fellow “leftover,” 22-year-old female Japanese pilot Mako Mori. Naturally, the language barrier (among other things) presents an issue for the out-of-sync duo, meaning an even steeper learning curve for the unprecedented pairing.
Meanwhile, Felicity “Flick” Kincaid, a journalist and Yance’s former fiancée, circles the globe (ours) to discover answers about this mysterious rift and the origins of its intensifying threat.
It certainly sounds Godzilla-like. Interesting, given the fact that the same studio is currently in production with an actual Godzilla film, under the directorial expertise of Gareth Edwards (Monsters), due for release in 2012.
Could this be another Age of Giant Monsters?