Blog 669: If I Wrote… Pacific Rim 2

There is little justice in this world. While Cloverfield, a dreadful film (let alone monster movie), has a sequel almost ready to drop, the much-desired sequel to one of the finest action-adventure films of recent years continues to stumble along in development hell. 2018, maybe? Harrumph.

But if they won’t give me Pacific Rim 2, then I’ll just have to dream my own version.

Pacific Rim 2

The Premise

It would be set 20, maybe 30, years after the first film. The war was won, the aliens vanquished, the rift closed. No more need for the jaegers, the world can go back to normal.

Except without an external threat to galvanise the people of Earth, nations started to get itchy feet. Think about it — the devastation the kaiju caused when they were able to rampage freely. Imagine if jaeger technology was turned to traditional war?

Nobody has yet pulled the trigger and started building a jaeger to deploy against other humans, but everybody is thinking it; maybe the same technology has been applied, on a smaller scale, to tanks and jets. Even so, mothballed factories might not be as mothballed as they want us to believe, and there’s a whole heap of kaiju flesh being studied around the world too…

How big is too big?
How big is too big?

The Film

It would begin with a mystery. Ships have been disappearing quietly in the Pacific. Transponders just stop pinging, like the Bermuda Triangle but over a wider area, and there’s no evidence of wreckage. There’s no apparent pattern to these attacks, except perhaps that they’re always large cargo ships, oil tankers and whatnot.

Military ships are put on escort duties, of course, assuming pirates. We’re following one of them as they catch a break: we see a monstrous limb reaching out of the water and pulling the whole ship under. The soldiers are horrified, stunned, and then the patrol boat itself is dragged under. Some photographs are sent out before it’s too late, or maybe one soldier survives to be our protagonist.

Either way, we now have an idea of what’s going on.

No, no destruction of famous landmarks yet. Low-key starts are important -- tease, don't overhype!
No, no destruction of famous landmarks yet. Low-key starts are important — tease, don’t overhype!

There is naturally denial from the Powers That Be. “The rift is still closed! We’ve checked!”, “It must be terrorists!”, et cetera. But the pictures and/or the survivor are adamant: there is a giant monster stealing ships. A kaiju, either a left-over from the first attack, or snuck through a new rift.

The monster reveals itself properly soon after anyway (weeks, months?). It’s big and it’s bad and it attacks some city or other. There is no line of defence but the traditional military, so we get an opportunity for some classic Godzilla-style destruction: buildings smashed, planes swatted out of the sky, all the good stuff. Pants are pooped around the UN table.

However, the basic military do manage to whittle it down. Crucially, it does not die: it retreats. (The first kaiju lasted six days according to the first film, so let’s say one or two before the monster calls it quits and dives back into the sea.)

The kaiju should have two or three special moves to unleash later, but this early they should only be suggested by its design and never used.
The kaiju should have two or three special moves to unleash later, but this early they should only be suggested by its design and never used.

See, one of my small complaints about Pacific Rim is that the monsters don’t get a lot of screen time. There are perhaps too many of them, the fights always in darkness or rain (or both), and they are offed too soon.

Whereas, my favourite classic Toho films generally involve Godzilla facing off against one or two opponents, across either multiple independent fights or one rolling melee that lasts for half the film. Nobody dies until the end and we get lots of long, clear shots of those delicious creature designs. (I want to copy “scenery porn” and say “monster porn” but I’m pretty sure that’s something entirely different.)

Anyway, the human side of the story gets two focuses:

  1. We need to cobble together a jaeger, and fast! And is there anyone alive that can pilot a jaeger anymore?
  2. Where did the kaiju come from? And where is it hiding between attacks?

This gives us a good deal of tension. There is the rush to build a jaeger from old bits and pieces that haven’t been scrapped, and the rush to find drift-compatible pilots. This is where we could bring back Raleigh and Mako, or find some new protagonists; character stuff isn’t my forte so we’ll gloss over that.

Meanwhile, some other heroes are trying to track the monster down. Conspiracy, intrigue: where is there a cave big enough to house a monster that size? A mothballed jaeger base, maybe? But there aren’t many of those left, and scouts report that all of them are either inhabited by people who would notice (you’d think) or are empty…

The scrap metal in a jaeger station would be worth a fortune, let alone the base intact as a defensive fortification.
The scrap metal in a jaeger station would be worth a fortune, let alone the base intact as a defensive fortification.

The jaeger is only half-built when the monster strikes again. It has to go into battle half-cocked, functional but incomplete. The kaiju is bigger now, like it’s still growing up, not even an adult yet, but still bears the scars of its first landward strike. Fresh chitin in places, puckered tissue discoloured bruises in others. The jaeger stands counter to that: fresh and brightly painted, but missing bits.

So after a bit more wanton destruction, the new jaeger gets into place and fights back. They seem evenly matched, the pilots still untrained and/or out-of-practice, the kaiju never having fought something its own size before. They struggle and tear but neither makes much progress.

There has to come a point where a feature that hasn’t been installed yet would have finished it. Both combatants are battered and bruise and stand there, breathing heavily, looking at each other. The staring contest ends with the kaiju leaping back into the ocean.

Needless to say, both parties should have an appropriate number of grab points. Godzilla's pull-the-jaw-so-wide-it-splits move is a true classic.
Needless to say, both parties should have an appropriate number of grab points. Godzilla’s pull-the-jaw-so-wide-it-splits move is a true classic.

Luckily, the kaiju is bleeding. Helicopters are scrambled to try to follow the trail and they track it to…

This part could be at the behest of any nation we like, but since this is Hollywood it probably has to be the Americans. We need somewhere that’s fairly secluded; not so secluded that they couldn’t build a giant jaeger factory there with all the logistical insanity that would entail, but secluded enough they could… get away with things inside it.

The trail of blood is lost somewhere just away from this facility so that there is no clear-cut connection, but it smells suspicious to our team of heroes. What has the military got to do with this new kaiju? Is it some supersoldier programme gone wrong? (The best kind of supersoldier programme!) When they surveyed the base earlier in the film, they were told that everything was fine. Were the military lying or is it just coincidence that the kaiju is living in this area?

Har har. Can you see where this is going yet?

Some people can discuss things... conspiratorially... in a bunker.
Some people can discuss things… conspiratorially… in a bunker.

Our suspicious heroes split into two teams. One team repairs their jaeger, installs the missing parts — plus some upgrades since they expect the kaiju to be even bigger next time, and they’ve learned a little about how it fights. The other team starts to investigate this military base — of course, they’re denied entry, but that’s normal for military bases.

Over the fence, though, they spot a big pile of scrap. Very odd — these are bits of the ships that went missing. Maybe a surreptitious panel with the name of a ship mentioned earlier painted on it? Confirmation that they’re on the right track and that the military is up to its old tricks.

When the first film was winding down the jaeger programme, of course, all these old facilities must have been going cheap. Massive hangars, and labs too — definitely something a military with its eye on the future would want to have. Especially when the kaiju seem to be born with a hive mind that can seemingly communicate instantaneously across the universe. Would be kind of handy to have that, you know?

So this classified military base is cloning kaiju tissue for study. In the first film, we reveal that all the kaiju are clones, with their tissue and final form differentiated by the external shaping by the aliens themselves, so it’s not a stretch to say that people would be nterested in turning that to their own ends.

The Big Reveal

Imagine, then, that in this base somebody decided to let some kaiju tissue grow on its own, let it find its ‘default’ form and see what happens. Now, here comes my masterstroke of extrapolation, the whole reason I want to play it this way…

Let’s say that the kaiju aren’t clones of some ideal substrate kaiju — they’re clones of the aliens themselves.

Yep, this lab didn’t grow a generic kaiju — they grew a proper alien who, during its gestation, establishes its telepathic link with home. With a home that was recently devastated by a nuclear bomb. A home that now houses some really fuckin’ pissed off parents. What do you expect it to do, grow up happy and make friends with the nice humans? (Maybe this is also an excuse for the aliens to get more screen time, because in those final five minutes their design was sublime.)

The alien then has one of two strategies for fucking shit up:

  1. It uses its telepathic abilities to brainwash or full-blown mind control the personnel on the base. It needs the hangar, after all, to grow its own proper kaiju (and the happy parents are feeding it all the information it would need to do so from t’other side of the galaxy). This might be a stretch too far; domination of a completely different species and communication within your own seem too far apart.
  2. It makes a deal with the staff. Here’s where we can introduce a human villain; somebody who, for whatever reason, wants to start a war. Maybe they have a particular country in mind for their ire, or maybe they’re a classic megalomaniac. Either way, when the alien starts talking — they listen. I think I prefer this option, just can’t justify it (yet).

Either way, the alien is alone a long way from home. It needs to grow its kaiju in secret, because it’s not expendable like during the invasion — it doesn’t have that miles-long conveyor belt of new monsters waiting to be unleashed. That’s why it began by stealing big ships: it needed the raw material to grow the beast. Hydrocarbons from oil, livestock and other goods, whatever; the scrap heap outside is the junk it couldn’t use. (Could we play this into the monster design — is it discoloured, slightly unhealthy-looking, since it’s been fed on imperfect materials?)

The kaiju nest would need to fuse the biomechanical alien factory with the brutalist human construction underneath.
The kaiju nest would need to fuse the biomechanical alien factory with the brutalist human construction underneath.

I’m not sure how we’d get to reveal all that to the audience, so this is where my plan breaks down a bit. The heroes clearly have to get into the facility and witness the kaiju nest in the main hangar, but they also have to uncover the human thralls/collaborators. If the human villain is a collaborator, then we need some kind of explanation, motivation. If the humans are thralls, then wouldn’t the alien just execute the intruders on sight?

Somehow, they see the monster curled up in the nest, chowing down on its latest meal, its wounds already healed over. They see the alien itself appear on a balcony, the monster cocks its head as if they are mentally communing, and then it readies itself. The hangar doors do not open, but there’s a huge, rough tunnel been dug just behind it. The kaiju ducks into the tunnel, and the onlookers can do nothing but hope that their jaeger is ready.

xcuze me, wtf r u doin?
xcuze me, wtf r u doin?

The climax has to be a fight around this military base. We need wanton destruction and we need massive explosions, and we also need to know that the alien nest has been destroyed — after all, they could engineer a new kaiju if they left the alien’s own organic apparatus in place. Does the jaeger intercept the kaiju just outside and fight it back to its nest, or do they fight elsewhere and this time the jaeger doesn’t need to give up? Hmm.

The climax should cut back and forward between the humans taking on the alien and its henchpeople and the jaeger and kaiju setting about each other. I’d hesitate to make them physically collide, though, because that effect has always come across as a bit cheap to me. Let the humans have their day and let the monsters have theirs — keep the two scenarios playing out entwined and even in the same location, but not directly on top of each other.

Then we win and fly off into the sunset. Huzzah!

Raocific Rim 2

Well, there we go then. The core is logical extrapolation of the situation, cause and effect, and this is a core that many sequels seem to forget. The balance betweem what could happen next with what would be awesome to happen next. In those terms, I think this is a good shout — cloning an alien is a consistent extrapolation that brings enough of a twist so we’re not just treading the same old ground, and might be a bit of a surprise to the audience that still holds water once the penny drops.

So, if Pacific Rim 2 is in development hell because you’re struggling for ideas, Guillermo, you can have that one for free. Get it done!

Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!
Today, we are cancelling the apocalypse!

And you tell me...

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