Unleashing the Kraken would surely satisfy any appetite for cinematic destruction, right? Think again because Clash of the Titans screenwriter Travis Beacham went looking for bigger fish to fry (or, uh, more substantial sea monsters to sauté?) and the result is the Guillermo del Toro-helmed Pacific Rim, one of the most-anticipated genre films of 2013 and one of the very few that is not a sequel or a prequel, a remake or an adaptation, or (as in the case of Star Trek Into Darkness) some meta-hybrid of the above. Beacham has taken the story one step further and turned the origins of Pacific Rim into a companion comic, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero.
The story is set in a near-future where coastal cities are ravaged by giant beasties who enter our world through a mysterious inter-dimensional portal down in briny depths. Out this week, Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero (112-page hardcover, $24.99 from Legendary) was written by Beacham and illustrated by Sean Chen, Yvel Guichet, Pericles Junior, Chris Batista, and Geoff Shaw. The Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures movie stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Ron Perlman and opens July 12 in 3-D and IMAX 3-D.
EW spoke with Beacham about the challenges of fitting the huge scale of the movie into a companion comic.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The skyline scale of these machines and monsters is perfect for the IMAX screen but I’m curious if that led to any tricky storytelling issues when it was time to move the fight into the comics medium?
Travis Beacham: It was definitely a learning experience. A lot of comparisons are drawn between comics and movies as visual mediums, but they’re quite different in terms of writing. A theatrical film is crafted to be experienced in one unbroken, linear chunk.
A graphic novel is an entirely different narrative artifact. You can put it down in the middle to make a sandwich and pick it back up later. You can dwell on a page or a moment for as long as you want. You can go back and re-read a bit. I actually think that frees you up to be a little more subtle.
EW: Guillermo lights up when he talks about the Japanese films that form the heritage of Pacific Rim. Those films are a passion of yours as well..?
Absolutely. The seed of Pacific Rim is rooted in a sub- genre that I’ve been captivated by for just about as long as I can remember. I think the first movie I owned was Godzilla vs. Megalon, and I had a Voltron lunchbox and all that. I never really grew out of that. I’ve always kept up with kaiju movies and mech anime. For Pacific Rim, we didn’t want to make anything that was too overtly referential. We wanted to invent a complete universe that could be discovered and understood on its own terms. But we were keenly aware of the tradition and we both, I think, were driven by a sincere and long-standing love for that sort of material.
It’s interesting to see the way comics are being explored more as an interlocking element with TV or film properties as an active part of the mythology. Can you talk about the process of melding one medium to the other in organic way?
I think what worked in our favor was the fact that we’d done so much world-building beforehand. We really wanted the film to take place in a world that felt bigger than the story, so we had to imagine a lot of history and unseen details, most of which we knew we’d never use in the movie itself, but we knew our having thought about it would inform the confidence with which we told the story. When it came time to think about doing a graphic novel, we decided something that adds to the universe would be more entertaining than a straight adaptation. And we could do that because we already had the material for it. We knew the history, what the pivotal moments in the bigger world were, all of that. We didn’t have to tiptoe around the facts of the movie to create a non-intrusive tie-in. It’s a vital prologue and it comes right out of all that macro prep work we’d already done.
Among the Jaegers and monsters, do you have a favorite among each? And as far as the characters, is there one you identify with more than the rest?
My favorite Jaeger is Gipsy Danger. She was the first one I thought of and named. She’s been on this journey with me from the beginning. Kaiju? It’s a toss-up between Knifehead and another one you haven’t seen just yet. Knifehead was actually the first one I saw: I went over to Guillermo’s place to work on rewrites and there was Wayne Barlowe painting this gorgeously detailed monster in the study. It was wild. I’ve lived with all the characters so long that I don’t think I could pick a favorite. They’re like family to me. I will say that I don’t think Mako is getting enough attention just yet. A robotics engineer who knows jojutsu? What’s not to love?
From what I’ve seen, the ethos of the pilot interaction seems more like firefighters than war heroes. What I mean is their focus is stopping an overwhelming hazard — not some ideological cause or jingoistic impulse. If that’s the case, it must make for a wider and livelier range of interactions between characters?
That’s quite right. It’s a crisis-response force. They’re defenders. We wanted to evoke a truly indiscriminate global threat to humanity. At its heart, the story is about people coming together to defy that threat. The idea that it takes two pilots to drive a Jaeger, I think, really let us tell that kind of story. In working out the original outline, I knew it couldn’t only be giant things wailing on each other, but with two neurally connected pilots, suddenly relationships are put at the heart of the battles, literally. Love and pain suddenly matter. The baggage you take in matters. The stuff of character becomes a part of that action.
For more monster mashing: