Hold onto your proverbial butts, friends, Guillermo del Toro has announced a continuation of his pet project Pacific Rim—and this isn’t even an announcement we can dispute or pore over on the internet, because it is literally GDT telling us there’s going to be a Pacific Rim 2 and an animated series based on the prequel comics, with the most adorable geeky teddy bear grin. You can’t argue with a grin like that, people. The question is, now what?
Pacific Rim gave us a world surprisingly and lovingly well-developed for a one-shot (then, anyway) sci-fi blockbuster about giant robots punching giant aliens, so despite the fact that the story as we know it wrapped up (more on than in a second), proposing a spinoff and sequel is not actually an air-grabby gesture since there’s room to explore and expand the existing universe. The prequel comics Year Zero, which the animated series is being based on, are the best example of this, showing us the backstory of a lot of the characters and the beginning of the kaiju war that we get shown briefly in the opening sequence of the movie. For the show they can adapt and extend what they put in the graphic novel, to cover and flesh out every possible detail of the evolution of the war and the characters and technology within, because Travis Beacham and co. are wizards, or at least very dedicated writers, and if you pull a detail out of a hat to ask him about there’s a solid chance he will be able to answer you.
So we have the building of a whole world to watch—in animation too, which will be interesting, and lend itself well to the fun and games and anime homage of a battle of mechas vs monsters—in prequel form. It’s a virtual smorgasbord of potential plotlines, as long as it doesn’t contradict what happens in Pacific Rim itself, so both writers and viewers will go into this with an open imagination. This, I have confidence, will be at least a little bit awesome. What I’m most curious about is Pacific Rim 2, where story potential wise, they’ve somewhat rocket-punched themselves into a corner.
Not that there’s never been a sequel that successfully continues a seemingly finished story. It’s just that, well, Pacific Rim had a fairly finite ending, with the destruction of the alien threat and promise of peace to all mankind and everything. They’ve shut off the entry point of all the giant aliens, and destroyed the last of the giant robots in the process, leaving the series with nothing much to lean on given that it was mostly about a war between giant aliens and giant robots. Sure, you can build new ones, but that means dredging the parts and the story attached out of the bottom of the sea, and creating sufficient conflict to fuel another movie.
Pacific Rim had a bittersweet but ultimately optimistic and hopeful ending. It seems a little rude to step on the characters’ glory with the enormous mechanical foot of a sequel, which will drag them back into a fray they thought they’d finished. The tension will be upped, of course, because it’s a sequel and we expect bigger and better, but also as a natural course of storytelling because half the cast from the first movie are quite dead. Naturally this creates a power vacuum, and conflict between the Shatterdome mob and the hoity-toity world powers and the people—there’s certainly room for exploration of the new world that’s born after the war, where humanity is picking up the pieces and in the process getting in fights with itself.
Backlash against the government for the class divide created in the war (those who could afford it moving inland, those who couldn’t slaving away to build anti-kaiju walls that didn’t work), pro-kaiju groups rising up and trying to bring them back, the characters trying to adjust to their new life with a status as international heroes and a hell of a lot of trauma lurking behind their eyes… these are all possibilities off the top of my head. Hopefully, countries turning against each other with their leftover jaeger technology is out of the question given GDT’s insistence that Pacific Rim is about the world coming together to save the world, but tensions could arise in that regard as well. A new kind of internal conflict is ripe for emerging, but Pacific Rim was never about humans vs humans, and a political or self-vs-community narrative doesn’t really stand out as a perfect match to a franchise about giant robots punching giant aliens.
Maybe the Russians will wash up on the coast of a tropical island with seaweed in their hair, and immediately demand a phone, and call Mako going “You’ll never believe what we’ve just seen. There’s another Breach, this time in the Atlantic/the sky/grandma’s wine cellar” and that will be the beginning.
Well, that would be ridiculous. But Pacific Rim is a little ridiculous, and it knows this, and has no problem with it, which is possibly why it’s such a relaxed and loveable movie that’s captured the hearts of millions. Heck, they could probably make the sequel just about the domestic life of Raleigh, Mako, Herc, the Science Bros and Max the dog, all getting a bit of downtime and adjusting to the new peaceful world and having Monopoly nights, and it would still rake in millions of dollars.
Speaking of which, the element I’m most interested in, besides whatever’s going to occur aliens and robots wise, is Mako and Raleigh. I’ve highly praised the movie before for creating a relationship dynamic the audience really got invested it, but without making it a tried-and-died action movie romance subplot. If you wanted to see their headbutt of love as platonic or something more, or if you simply didn’t want to think about it at all, the decision was left in your hands. However, if the story continues, the ambiguity of the ending is going to have to be answered. And that might take away some of the magic. Of course, they could continue with the happy gazes and bonding moments for another two hours, but I think would feel a bit drawn-out. Either that, or more pointless drama would get introduced, and for the love of gosh, nobody wants that.
Or, of course, when the shipwrecked Russians call up, they interrupt the middle of Mako and Raleigh’s wedding. Max the dog is wearing a bow tie. Newt cries and Gottleib pretends not to notice. Herc says something poignant about how he wishes Stacker could be there, and how proud he would be to see his grown-up girl. Then, a kaiju erupts from the ocean behind the clifftop altar, and Mako pilots the fight against it in a wedding gown. They say their vows in the drift and the celebrant pronounces them married from the wreckage of the awesome fight they’ve just had.
Again, that would be ridiculous, but I’m really not sure if I’d put it past them. There are both boundless possibilities and a very narrow frame of opportunities for Pacific Rim 2, and if we sit here speculating until April 2017 we’re all going to go mad. We can only hope that it’s pulled off with the energy and style the first movie was, enough to capture all of our hearts anew and not screw with the story in an effort to franchise it. I remain, as usual, faithful yet dubious. But I’m excited to see what the dedicated creative team comes up with, what they resolve and explore, whether they dig deeper into themes of heroism and sacrifice or run into conflicting ideals and philosophies…
Hey, if the roaring success of Pacific Rim has taught us anything, it’s to never underestimate giant robots. They open up the road for intelligent drama more than you might think. Of course, they also open up the road for utter enjoyable ridiculousness, and that’s wonderful too. Watch this space.