×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Pacific Rim’ Visual Effects Get Operatic Twist

Del Toro asked for 'romantic' feeling in robot vs. monster epic

What words come to mind when you think of a summer tentpole? “Thrilling?” “Spectacular?” “Thunderous”? When director Guillermo del Toro talks about “Pacific Rim,” his favorite description is: “Operatic.”

“That was one of the first words I said to the entire team at ILM,” says del Toro. “I said, ‘This movie needs to be theatrical, operatic, romantic.’ We used a lot of words not usually associated with hightech blockbusters.”

To get that look on his giant-robots-vs.-giant-monsters epic, del Toro made an unusual request of his visual effects supervisor, cerebral Michigander John Knoll.

“We went for a very, very, very, very saturated color palette for the battle for Hong Kong,” del Toro says. “I kept asking John to tap into his inner Mexican and be able to saturate the greens and the purples and the pinks and the oranges.”

Del Toro also asked Knoll not to necessarily match the lighting from shot to shot.

“It’s pretty unorthodox to do that,” says del Toro, “but I think the results are really beautiful and very artistically free and powerful, not something you would associate a big sci-fi action movie.”

Del Toro wasn’t entirely kidding about Knoll getting in touch with his inner Mexican.

“I do think John can let his hair down,” says del Toro with a laugh.

Asked what he’s most excited about in the pic’s vfx, del Toro first mentions neither robots nor monsters but something subtler: water. Since the creatures emerge from the Pacific, much of the action is in the ocean or in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor.

“The water dynamics in this movie are technically beautiful, but also artistically incredibly expressive,” he says. “We agreed on making the water become almost another character. We would time the water very precisely. I’d say ‘Get out of the wave (on this frame).’ ”

Sometimes the helmer would use classic art, such as Hokusai’s engraving the Great Wave as a common point of reference. “I would say ‘Give me a Hokusai wave,’ ” says del Toro. “I think (the vfx team) did a tremendous job; we use the waves and weather in the movie very operatically.”

Del Toro decided after principal photography was complete to let “Pacific Rim” go 3D, then insisted that Industrial Light & Magic render the visual effects in stereo, eschewing post-conversion of the all-CG shots.

He asked Knoll to go “the full Ann Arbor” and be a strict disciplinarian as he oversaw the 3D visual effects shots. Del Toro was worried that exaggerated 3D would have the unintended side effect of making objects in the frame look small (the technical term is “hyperstereo”).

That would be disastrous for a picture determined to establish the huge scale of the monsters and robots. After all, its tagline is “Go big or go extinct.” It’s a credo the production team took to heart.

“John is pretty adept at keeping the 3D expressive but keeping the optics of it realistic,” explains del Toro, “That’s exactly why I thought it was imperative that he and ILM were in charge of creating the 3D aspects of the shots, because that’s what I wanted.”

More Film

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Salma Hayek Owen Wilson Bliss

    Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson to Star in Amazon's Sci-Fi Drama 'Bliss'

    Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson have signed on to star in Amazon’s science-fiction drama “Bliss,” with Mike Cahill directing from his own script. Wilson portrays a recently divorced man whose life is falling apart when he meets Hayek’s character, a woman who lives on the streets and is convinced that the polluted, broken world around [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • 'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works

    'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works From Original Screenwriter (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nearly a decade after the success of “Easy A,” a spinoff of the coming-of-age comedy is in the works. Sources tell Variety that Screen Gems has appointed Bert Royal, who penned the first script, to write and direct the upcoming movie. Insiders stress that the film is still in early development, as Royal is still [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Running Unopposed for Re-Election as President of Writers Guild East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” is running unopposed for re-election to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. The WGA East announced a total of 24 candidates Thursday for its top officer posts [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content