Comic-Con: Pacific Rim Touches Down

Guillermo del Toro wrangles robots

Godzilla wasn't the only gigantic, city-destroying monster to smash into Hall H yesterday at Comic-Con. The great Guillermo del Toro popped along with some footage from one of the biggest unknown quantities at the 'Con: Pacific Rim. And, it's safe to say, it's no longer an unknown quantity. This thing is going to be epic.

A high-concept blockbuster that, unusually for a day dominated by Superman, Iron Man and The Hobbit, is an original property, Pacific Rim takes place in the future; a future where giant monsters have emerged from within a rift in the Pacific Rim and laid waste to humanity. The air is choked with ash. Cities are destroyed. Mankind is struggling for survival.

Their only hope: Jaegers, enormous, 25-storey robots piloted by humans who bond telepathically with their machines that can take on the monsters at their own game. But it's a battle that they're on the verge of losing. Can Charlie Hunnam's Raleigh Antrobus, Rinko Kikuchi's Mako Mori and Idris Elba's Stacker Pentecost (love those sci-fi names) turn the tide?

The footage itself imparts a sense of overwhelming scale like little else we've seen. It begins with a guy on a snow choked beach, looking for salvage with a metal detector. He finds a small chunk of metal - a tiny robot figure - but then looks agog as his metal detector picks up a strong reading... coming from directly in front of him. From the sea.

The next shot is simply astonishing, as a Jaeger the size of a building emerges staggering from the waves. One arm is missing. It's clearly been brutalised. And then it collapses to the ground, dwarfing the man completely. The robot itself is clearly the work of del Toro, that design genius, and his team: an otherwordly combination of sleek and bulky that looks like nothing else (del Toro promised us at least six setpieces that will be like nothing we've ever seen), and certainly banish any thought that this could look like a Transformers rip-off.

Of the monsters, we saw brief glimpses (there are nine in total, with del Toro holding those back for a later date). We saw a giant clawed hand ripping cars off a bridge, and fighter jets firing missiles at something with brown skin, an enormous mouth and a Monday morning mood.

And then we saw the Jaegers being built in enormous facilities, the pilots - Hunnam and Kikuchi - piloting them in. The pilots are based inside the head of the robots, and each controls one hemisphere of the 'bot, meaning they have to be in perfect synchronicity. And what's more, because of that telepathic link, if the robot is damaged, so are the pilots. Yikes.

Quick shots of robots and monsters, and various characters - including Charlie Day looking worried by something unfolding on a televison screen - follow, culminating in a St. Crispin's Day-style speech from Elba (retaining his Vodafone - Power To You accent for once), who bellows at his assembled troops that, "Today... we are CANCELLING THE APOCALYPSE."

It's mouthwatering and highly promising stuff, considering there's still a year to go until the movie's release. Del Toro has had rotten luck of late, with The Hobbit and At The Mountains Of Madness falling apart, and he essentially admitted that this movie saved his life. To hear more from del Toro, check out the final Comic-Con daily podcast special. It should be up soon.

Pacific Rim is out on July 12, 2013.