Del Toro Ago Exhibit

Note: Been a busy week starting a new job and looking for a place in a new city. I’ll also be celebrating the holidays over the weekend, but I should hopefully have another blog post up over the weekend.

I remember watching my first Guillermo Del Toro film, Blade II over ten years ago. I didn’t know it was a Del Toro film at the time but I remembered loving the story and the action.

I followed up Blade II with Hellboy. At the time, Hellboy was one of my favourite comic book films and although it may not be a top five, the Hellboy films and Blade II both stand as distinctive entries in the genre of comic book films. Blade II and Hellboy II also both contain great performances from Luke Goss as the villains Nomak and Prince Nuada respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

Nomak                                                                                                                  Prince Nuada

Pan’s Labyrinth was a masterpiece that combined historical fiction and fantasy seamlessly, combined with great performances and more of the stunning imagery and creature design I was introduced to in Hellboy. Finally, Pacific Rim gave me a live-action mecha film that I have been dreaming of seeing since I watched Gundam Wing as a child.

There are earlier works by Del Toro, such as The Devil’s Backbone that I have not yet seen. I have also missed newer releases such as Crimson Peak and The Shape of Water. After seeing the Del Toro exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) I am making it a priority to travel through more of Del Toro’s filmography.

The exhibit “At Home with Monsters” began September 30th and will end on January 7, 2018. I caught the exhibit near the end of its run and I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The exhibit is not only a great tribute to Del Toro’s works, it is also an insight into his creative process and all of the influences that birthed his works. I don’t only recommend the exhibit to movie lovers or Del Toro fans, I believe it is also a must see for any creative mind.

“At Home with Monsters” uses real decorations and props from Del Toro’s own home (or one of them), which he refers to as the “Bleak House”. These props include life-size figures of characters from his movies, and my personal favourite, his “rain room”: a room with a simulated environment of a rainy day, where Del Toro likes to spend a few hours at a time writing. Many of the figures I follow, such as Ryan Holiday, will play one song on repeat in order to focus. I have adopted this strategy as well, playing a low-energy, repetitive song on a loop. After a few minutes, the song becomes part of the background noise but helps to block out other noises e.g. loud roommates. The rain room appears to have a similar effect, with the repetitive and consistent light drumming of rain on a window, complete with an artificial overcast sky outside.

Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft emerged as two of Del Toro’s literary influences. While I read some of Poe’s works in school, I have yet to touch H.P Lovecraft’s works. This is not due to an unwillingness,  Lovecraft has been on my list for a while but this exhibit makes him a priority. Del Toro has expressed interest in adapting Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, going so far as to complete a screenplay for it. The exhibit featured a concept model of an ‘albino penguin’ for the film, which was basically a tall and pale penguin with puss infested eyes. Sweet dreams children.

I felt creatively motivated seeing Poe and Lovecraft represented. Both authors struggled to support themselves with their writing while they lived, but have since become legendary authors. I am not arrogant enough to assume the same fate will befall me, but their stories do give me motivation to continue working at my goal.

A theme of the exhibit, present in the Del Toro quotes plastered throughout, is that adulthood causes many people to lose their sense of wonder and creativity. Perhaps this is a cliche to some, but “At Home with Monsters” gives us a sense of what we can accomplish if we don’t let our curiosity die. A life-size statue of Poe reveals one inspiration, a wall of comics reveals another, a wall of novels reveals more… Del Toro’s works are the amalgamation of everything he consumed and continues to consume. His rain room is a childhood dream brought to life, the embodiment of someone who didn’t let go of what they wanted as a child. Del Toro didn’t only continue to dream, he continued to work at making his goal a reality, and that is what I intend to do as well.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Canadian Thanksgiving wrapped up over the weekend, hence my delayed reaction to this trailer and The Last Jedi.

Pacific Rim drew a lot of comparisons to properties like Transformers and Power Rangers, further demonstrating people’s narrow frames of reference. The mecha and kaiju (strange beast) genre is an old one, and director Guillermo Del Toro cited Tetsujin 28 (1956) as one of his greatest inspirations for Pacific Rim. Transformers and Power Rangers take inspiration from the mecha and kaiju genre, the same way Stranger Things was inspired by IT (and other Stephen King works) and not the other way around.

Even as someone who isn’t well versed in older entries in the mecha genre, the first Pacific Rim trailer reminded me more of Gundam Wing, a show I was obsessed with at one point. I didn’t think Pacific Rim was ripping off Gundam Wing, I recognized it as another entry in the genre. You wouldn’t say that Spider-Man is a rip off Superman simply because they are both superheroes right?

Moving on from the uninformed…

Pacific Rim didn’t sport many great performances or amazing writing, but I can’t deny that it was an entertaining film with great action and plenty of eye candy. It gave me live-action battles between giant robots and giant monsters, and the fanboy in me was willing to settle for that. Then again, I still avoided Power Rangers like the plague because the acting, writing and special effects all looked horrible, so I guess I still have some ability to judge a film critically, even if it triggers nostalgia.

There was talk of a sequel for a while and some of the first substantial news I heard about it was that John Boyega would be co-producing through his production company, Upperroom Entertainment Ltd. Say what you want about his role in the film, producing a big blockbuster this early on is a great step in his career. This development did bring up more concerns about the film’s potential box office success. Pacific Rim had a disappointing run domestically, but was able to recoup with its stronger international showing. International audiences offer a larger number of viewers but this can often be counteracted by the fact that studios get a smaller cut of international earnings.

Pacific Rim had decent word of mouth so I am hoping that can contribute to more success for the sequel. However, online comments are already swarmed with the aforementioned comments about this film ripping off Transformers or Power Rangers. That will likely hurt Uprising’s box office earnings, just like similar talk probably detracted from the first film’s earning. On the other hand, those who saw and liked the first will likely be interested in checking out the second. Hopefully their word of mouth can help to combat the uninformed hordes.

We knew going into the first trailer that we likely wouldn’t see any of the cast from the previous film. Boyega is playing Stacker Pentecost’s son, Jake, but that appears to be the only direct connection revealed so far. A plot summary reveals that Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) will be present as well, serving as Jake’s adoptive sister. The trailer looks like it may feature a slight redesign of Gypsy Danger, or perhaps a brand new Jaeger that is similar.

Along with Gypsy Danger we see three new Jaegers and new Kaiju. I am looking forward to seeing the Jaegers working together as a team since we didn’t get much of it in the first film. The only team fight scene ended with most of the Jaegers and their pilots being killed to make way for Gypsy Danger and Striker Eureka. This time we might truly get to see different weapons and fighting styles get their chance to shine. We also see Jaegers that are faster and more agile than the ones in the previous film, demonstrating either a disregard for the previous film or the evolution of the Jaeger technology.

 

At one point Jake and his co-pilot are battling another Jaeger and I’m curious to find out why. Perhaps there is some sort of safety measure the government enacts, such as a quarantine, which Jake contests. Or perhaps some other political battle pits the humans against each other. Ultimately, each Jaeger is associated with a specific country or region, and perhaps some countries have different ideas about the best way to protect their borders.

The special effects were amazing in the first film, but they look more cartoonish in a lot of the shots here. Below is one of the better ones.

Let’s hope post-production helps to clean up some of the effects. The next issue is that Guillermo Del Toro is only serving as a producer this time, which can mean a myriad of different things for his creative involvement. Let’s hope he was still actively involved in this film’s conception.

This first trailer doesn’t reveal too much about the characters or the plot, which is fine with me. The film doesn’t come out till March 2018 and there will likely be another trailer released before then. The plot summary says this film takes place ten years after the first film, and doesn’t tell us much aside from that. We know Kaijus are still around. As the first film implied, the Kaijus continue to evolve as they combat humans. This is most evident with the kaiju we see at the end of the film, that appears to have some of Wolverine’s DNA and healed from an attack almost instantly.

The music in the trailer appears to have some mixed reviews, but I personally liked it. It got me pumped up, despite seeing my two most hated characters on screen again. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman ‘s characters added a level of campiness that Pacific Rim didn’t need. Yes, the film is about giant monsters fighting giant robots, but do we need the overacting scientists to drive that point home? More than anything, Pacific Rim taught me that I can’t stand the sound of Charlie Day’s voice. I can only hope his role is smaller this time around, but I doubt that. If Kaijus are continuously evolving, then the scientists will be on deck to analyze it. Of all the characters returning, I was hoping these two wouldn’t be among them. We couldn’t get any other scientists?

Your thoughts on Uprising?

John Boyega- Pacific Rim 2 and Star Wars Episode VIII

 

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John Boyega’s star continues to rise. Star Wars Episode VII and now Pacific Rim 2. Aside from starring in Pacific Rim 2, Boyega will also serve as a producer. UpperRoom Productions, founded by Boyega and agent Femi Oguns, will produce the sequel.

Like many people, I first saw Boyega in Attack The Block, and was thrilled to hear that he was cast in Episode VII. As my review stated, I was disappointed that his character (Finn) mostly ended up being comic relief, which is a role that black characters occupy often. Finn was also not a jedi or padawan like the trailers led us to believe. However, Boyega has hinted the character will grow more in the sequel and a recent picture on instagram revealed a picture of a robe on the set of Episode VII. This is leading some to believe that his character may grow into a jedi in the trilogy.

It’s great to hear official word that Pacific Rim will get a sequel. Boyega will play Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba) son. All other casting is still unconfirmed. Unfortunately, Del Toro will not be returning to direct. Stephen S. DeKnight, who currently serves as the show runner for Daredevil and has previously produced  Spartacus. I’ll keep an open mind about DeKnight. For now, this is a true triumph. People may see Pacific Rim as another generic blockbuster, but I was thrilled to see the mech and kaiju genre brought to the big screen in Hollywood.