Ron Perlman and Charlie Day battle invisible monsters for Guillermo Del Toro on 'Pacific Rim' set
On the main set that was in use that day, there were signs everywhere that a horrifying attack had happened, and people are doing what they can to deal with it. I had time to walk around, and what really sells it is how deep the details go. There is a bit of graffiti that I see a few places on the set and I ask what it means. I'm told is is the symbol of the Wei Clan, the team of triplets who pilot the Chinese Jaeger, Crimson Typhoon. The graffiti is a sign of support and unity behind the team, which has done a very good job as the film begins. They're part of the big action sequence in the middle of the film, and so is this set.
"Hong Kong, from beginning to end, is the biggest thing I've ever done," Guillermo says at one point. He know what he wants to see, he knows how to do it, but it's a matter of putting all those images in the can, one after another, and in Guillermo's case, meticulously. He wants to create a 25 minute sequence that not only thrills and features amazing epic scale performance work from ILM, but that also expresses character.
Much of what I saw that day I can't describe because of what a big spoiler it is. I'll say this much: there is nothing weirder than watching someone shoot a scene where humans react to a giant monster and there is no giant monster there for any of us to see. In this scene, Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day) is trying to acquire something very specific from black-market-kaiju-parts-expert Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), and their business takes them out to the streets where a monster attack has just finished happening and they think everything is okay.
This being a monster movie, I suspect peace and quiet isn't on the agenda for very long in the film. Something very bad happens, and (to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum) then comes the running and the screaming. And later, months from now on some hard drives in San Francisco, the monsters.
Since there are no giant monsters or giant robots on set, I'm left to look at things like the blue blood that seems to be splashed everywhere, or the twisted street sign for "Tull Road" that's now half-melted and bent and burnt. It looks like a hole was smashed into the street to reveal a large underground room, a place to ride out kaiju attacks on the city.
Considering the way the street has been peeled back, it does not look like it was a very good hiding place at all.
As we watch, both Day and Perlman play scenes with the not-quite-sure-what-it-is, and all we ever see are some greenscreen boxes. Ron throws a knife that sticks in whatever it is at one point, and it's just a greenscreen he keeps throwing the knife into, surprisingly accurate each time.
It's a sequence that takes much of the afternoon and into the night, and Guillermo is amazing in terms of how he spends his energy on the set. He's very demonstrative. He's never laying back and taking it easy during a shoot. We see him walking through shots with his cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro, and he's running around making sure there's enough blue monster blood splashed over everything and he's watching Charlie Day scramble across the ground, curling into a ball and hoping he's not crushed or eaten, and his energy never flags.
When Guillermo offers someone a job on a film, he asks them, "Do you want to come and play with us?" And when you see him in his element, as he definitely was on "Pacific Rim," that's exactly what comes through. He's playing. He's free and he's playing the biggest game of monsters and robots ever.
If it's half as much fun on the screen as it was for these people to put it all together, it will be a tremendous experience.
I'll have more from my time on the "Pacific Rim" set, including our chat with Del Toro, in the days ahead.
"Pacific Rim" opens in theaters July 12, 2013.