Come July, moviegoers will be invited to a world where humanity armors up to a skyscraping degree in order to battle invaders from the bottom of the ocean in Legendary Entertainment and director Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim.” But comic fans are invited to see the world of towering Jaeger battlesuits versus Kaiju monsters on June 6 when Legendary debuts its official prequel graphic novel.
Titled “Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero,” the hardcover volume features a cover by Alex Ross and interior art by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, and Pericles Junior with inks by Steve Bird and Mark McKenna. Providing the story are del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham, who wrote the original story pitch that became the film. Since then, Beacham has continued on as screenwriter for the movie, making him the man chiefly responsible for fleshing out the details of “Pacific Rim.”
“Just by virtue of being with this thing for so long, I’ve sort of become the curator of this world,” Beacham told CBR News. “I’m the guy people come to and go ‘How much does this weigh?’ or ‘When was the third Kaiju attack?’ For me, it’s incredibly fun because I have a very geekishly detail-oriented mind when it comes to this stuff. It’s been a blast curating the world.”
While the film focuses on two pilots who seem uniquely suited to control the Jaeger that might just end the decades-long conflict, the comic sheds light on the early years of the war — including the first Kaiju attacks and the years of academy training that turned Charlie Hunnam’s character Raleigh into a would-be world savior.
“The graphic novel is a way to present the earlier days of this war and set up the world in more detail,” the writer explained. “I think the movie is basically a drop in. The easiest analogy I can think of is ‘Blade Runner’ where you’re on the street level with the characters, and then the backstory of the world is picked up through context clues. There’s not a lot of expositional description of how things became the way they are. You pick that all up as you go on. ‘Pacific Rim’ works to some extent in the same way. We come into this war as it’s been happening for a long time, and our perspective is of a bird’s eye view with the people who are fighting in the mechs and in the control room. It deals with their immediate problem. I think it gives you as much detail as you’ll ever need to understand the world in the movie. If you watch it, you won’t necessarily feel it’s confusing. But if you are curious to learn more about this, the graphic novel is a good place to get those details from and the history from.”
Beacham said that the one core that runs through both comic and film is the relationships between the Jaeger pilots. And although the film’s focus is on the fate of Raleigh’s pairing with volatile academy recruit Mako (played by “The Wolverine’s” Rinko Kikuchi), “Tales From Zero Year” helps flesh out the piloting program in other ways. “Initially, I had wanted to see one of these movies ‘Robots Vs. Monsters’ stories done as a modern summer movie. I’d always been a fan of that subgenre. But that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a story. You know the robots are going to be fun, and you know the monsters are going to be fun, but you don’t know that you necessarily have a story until all parts with the people come together. What really made our story come together was this realization that it takes two people to drive one of these things. And that being the case, suddenly there was a relationship between two people that was urgently important to the macro action scenes. They can beat the monster because they get along, and if they don’t get along, that’s going to be a huge problem. That was a really appealing revelation which led us into character a lot more than a movie like this would ordinarily let you do.”
In preview pages provided exclusively to CBR News, readers meet Raleigh and his early partner Yancy (played onscreen by Diego Klattenhoff) as they hear the pitch of gruff general Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) for why they should join the fight against the monstrous Kaiju. “It’s such a weird combination of skills that you have to have in order to drive one of these things. It’s mentally challenging and physically challenging at the same time. So finding someone by themselves is challenging, but finding two people who know each other and can get along is what makes this even harder,” Beacham said. “When you see Raleigh and Yancy in the graphic novel, they’re at a point where it’s kind of absurd of them to think anything will even come of this. It starts off as ‘This is fun! We’re driving a giant robot, and we’re going to fight monsters!’ I think if this happened in the real world, that would be the immediate draw of the job. Only later when you have to fight actual monsters outside of the academy or outside any simulation program do things really start to feel heavy. So in the comic, you’re seeing them in the earliest days – wide-eyed and full of hope and pride. The movie finds them in a different sort of place.”
The writer noted that “Pacific Rim’s” expansive budget paired with del Toro’s cinematic style made it hard to view the comic as being an “unlimited budget” presentation of the “Pacific Rim” world like many four-color offerings boat, but there were many strengths he found in the format as well. “I think the action scenes in the movie are so incredibly lavish, to see them you’d never imagine that there were any budgetary restrictions at all. But one of the things that we did for the comic — which definitely has robots and monsters and fight scenes – is that you get to spend a lot more time getting to know the characters. You get to have those character beats that might not necessarily fit into the pacing of a two-hour feature film, but they work great to set up this overall dynamic. It would be criminally negligent if there were no robots and monsters here, but we do get to explore more characters.”
Particularly, fans wanting to know more about Elba’s character will be appeased on the page. “Especially, we get more with Pentecost who in the movie is deliberately mysterious. He has a mystique and an ambiance about him, but here you can see a lot more of how he came about and who he is. That’s all in the comic.”
Overall, with two media versions of the world already completed, Beacham sees a long term life for the ideas of “Pacific Rim.” “I think it was a challenge to find these stories,” he said. “The process of putting this all together means that as you’re writing, you find so much material and so much dark matter that you know can’t fit into the movie. But our having created it informed the direction of the movie. You can see its presence by its gravity. But we have all these background stories and historical moments that we’ve compiled. Taking out a handful of them to put in the graphic novel was a challenge, but there’s still more stuff on the table. In my mind, I’d love to get to that in whatever medium we can.”
“Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero” arrives in comic shops tomorrow, June 5, from Legendary Comics.