Pacific Rim VFX Feature Shows You How They Tore Down Hong Kong

By Brent McKnight | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

One of the most fun movie going experiences of last year was Guillermo del Toro’s massive monsters versus mechs adventure Pacific Rim. The film has the giddiness of a child playing with toys, making them fight, loudly. In this case they just happen to be really big, really expensive toys. I’ve watched it three or four times since it’s been on Blu-ray, and each time it’s still a total blast. Pacific Rim isn’t going to win any awards for writing or acting, but it probably should for special effects, despite a snub from the Academy Awards. Seriously, The Lone Ranger made the cut but not Pacific Rim? That just screams travesty. A lack of statues doesn’t do anything to diminish Industrial Light and Magic’s visual achievement, and this new feature from the Verge, chronicles just how they constructed one of the movie’s big action sequences.

One of the biggest battles between the monstrous Kaiju and the skyscraper-tall mechanical suits called Jaegers, takes place in the streets of Hong Kong. In true monster movie fashion, the joint gets wrecked up all to hell. Building are knocked down, streets are torn up, and an oil tanker even gets used as a baseball bat, which I’m pretty sure was not taken into account when they designed that sucker.

Given the size, scope, and level of detail that went into realizing this scene, it makes perfect sense that ILM saved his task for last. Because there is so much going on, so many buildings tumbling down, so many layers, filming the scenes and inserting the CGI characters later wasn’t a viable option. Instead they opted to create the entire cityscape from scratch, rendering everything digitally. They wound up creating 15 buildings, complete inside and out, and then proceeded to rip them down with reckless abandon.

Almost every shot in this scene includes buildings, monsters, robots, rain, buildings falling, rubble, lighting from neon signs, pooling water, and more variables than you can count. The sheer volume of minute details that are in every frame is mindboggling. I have neither the patience nor attention to detail to something like this (and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that I have no artistic ability to speak of).

Not everything in this fight was digital it turns out. When Gipsy Danger punches her way through an office building, they filmed the moment using miniatures. ILM 3D-printed all of the props, creating 14 full cubicles—I desperately want a giant robot fist to come barreling through my cube—complete with drop ceilings and tiny furniture.

So next time you watch Pacific Rim–which for me will probably be later this week—take a moment to really take in this scene. This video definitely gives you a new appreciation for the action.