Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
The future looks much like our world, no flying cars or super advanced technology other than the robots. The world isn’t very futuristic because resources have been focused on trying to stop the monsters since a couple years after the first attack. They looked at how the world would react to these monster attacks realistically, how the world would become a ration-based economy with the prices of food skyrocketing. Oceanside property becomes for the poor. Inland for the rich.
The machinery of the pilots are based on existing technology but the specifics are not always explained. Guillermo has jokingly coined the word “bullshit-tanium” for the instances when they must come up with bullshit reasons to try to explain everything, even if it’s not possible — it just needs to pass.
Kaiju have all different shapes and sizes, but often look reptilian. Slattern has a hammerhead shaped head and large spiked back, with a tail that splits in three. Another monster has a sharp knife shaped head. Onibaba is a more crustacean styled creature. One looks more like a crocodile and moves on all fours. Leatherback is a more brutish King Kong-looking reptile monster.
The choice of making the monsters 240 feet tall is to give them size, but not completely dwarf everything around them. That gives us things to compare the scale of the monsters against. The idea is to make the action sequences feel more real and grounded in the world we know.
The Jaegers are housed in Shatterdomes in various countries. Most of the movie takes place in the Shatterdome in Hong Kong. The top of the dome opens up like petals on a flower.
The bridge is called the Loccent. Sets are made mostly of concrete, using blue tones. The whole environment is very tactile and real with a holographic screen every once in a while. Nothing frivolous exists in this world anymore.
Propaganda posters are all around the production office; they’ll be seen in the film and used in the marketing campaign. These posters are trying to convince people that the war against the Kaiju is being won, even though it might be dire times.
Beltcher Street features part of a Kaiju skeleton that has been there from the early attacks. Residents have rebuilt their homes and buildings around and inside the bones. It is now a part of the buildings.
In the production office space, a set of long hallways are marked at every 10 feet, giving the people working on the film a real sense of scale so that when they are talking about something being 100 feet long, they have a real sense of how long that really is.
When I visited the set, Stage 2 was housing the beginning of what will be the insides of a Kauji’s organs, a 50 foot by 20 foot construction.
Stage 4 of Pinewood Studios in Toronto is referred to as mega stage as it is the largest purpose-built stage in North America. When I was visiting, Stage 4 was housing a couple sets, the exterior and interior of the Kaiju refuge in Hong Kong. And the inside is a large brick tunnel which was destroyed.
On stage 7 we saw them constructing a fishing ship on a small gimbal; the ship finds itself in the middle of a battle between a Kaiju and a Jaeger outside Alaska. It took over a month to construct, and they will shoot the ship for maybe a day, and will appear in the film for less than a minute of screen time.
On Stage 8A, they constructed the 2013 Jaeger that we see at the beginning of the movie. It is destroyed, one of the ellipticals has been ripped out, probably by a Kaiju.
In stage 8B, we saw the Russian Conn Pod being constructed on top of a tall gimbal which allows the production to tilt the set to a 45 degree angle. The set is 70,000 pounds. 400 horsepower hydraulics move the set. In the old days, this would have controlled by ten puppeteers working in sync to control with joysticks, but the fx supervisor demonstrated how they use a miniature replica of the gimbal, which is 2 feet by 2 feet, manipulating the robotic miniature model to control the set.
It takes close to two hours to put the actors in wardrobe and hook them into the Conn Pod elliptical.