“Go big or go extinct!” is the dire warning of Pacific Rim (opening July 12), with giant robots defending Earth from alien sea monsters. Sure, Lake Ontario is a ‘great lake’, but here it gets a promotion to ocean, ‘playing’ the Pacific. I predict this summer blockbuster will become the biggest box office hit ever filmed in Toronto, even bigger than My Big, Fat Greek Wedding (2002).
Mexican director/producer Guillermo del Toro was once chased by a raccoon in a Toronto alley while filming Mimic (1997), his first Hollywood movie, but he still loves Toronto, his home away from home. In every interview, del Toro is full of praise for our people and culture. He loves our “eminently liveable city” with its great film crews, comic book stores and restaurants. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but two of his favourite hangouts are Sunset Grill on Queen in the Beach and Pizza Libretto on the Danforth.
Del Toro is known for his dark and foreboding stories in surreal fantasy films like Pan’s Labrynth (2006), which won three Oscars. He has spent the last two years here filming Pacific Rim and executive producing Mama (2013), which starred Jessica Chastain. He’s also working on a TV show, The Strain, while prepping another haunted house feature with Chastain called Crimson Peak.
Del Toro thinks the Toronto International Film Festival is “amazing” and hosted a Hitchcock series at Bell Lightbox, “the best cinematheque in the world.”
As a producer he has expressed enthusiasm about the depth of our film crews, stages and “looks.” For Mama, Toronto has the ‘look’ of Virginia.
Toronto has become a movie capital for ‘creature features’, science fiction and horror films. In Pacific Rim, Toronto doubles as many cities. In one scene, Elizabeth Street behind city hall is transformed into downtown Tokyo after a disaster, complete with plastic cherry blossoms on trees. The Portlands became a dump site in Manila.
There wasn’t much of the real white stuff in the winter of 2012 when filmmakers used fake snow on the beach at Bluffer’s Park. The cliffs and lake are real, but the monsters…not so much.
With its main settings of Tokyo and Hong Kong, Pacific Rim should be popular in Asia. What teenager doesn’t like to see their city destroyed by awesome sea monsters in 3D? On top of the real-life peril of tsunamis, coastal areas in the Pacific Rim are also in danger due to rising sea levels and storm surges caused by global warming and melting glaciers. Don’t mess with Mother Nature!
Two hundred years ago, British soldiers looked out from the Scarborough Bluffs and spotted the American fleet headed for our town. There’s a different kind of enemy invader in Pacific Rim, threatening all mankind. They come from beneath the sea (and no, they’re not wind turbines).
Lake Ontario has had its ‘close-up’ before, playing Lake Michigan in The In-Laws (2003) with Michael Douglas. Now it has a big starring role. Maybe Lake Ontario needs our own Loch Ness-style monster to boost tourism. Next time you’re down on the boardwalk, take a good look!