Year Zero

While fans of this week’s biggest (and robot-ist and monster-ist) new release, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, have already started leading the charge for its final battle sequences to be recognized as some of the best battle sequences in modern cinema, my hyperbolic praise for the film has to be heaped on something that happens far, far earlier. Del Toro’s film centers on a world that’s been dealing with the influx of the intergalactic monsters known as Kaiju for over a decade, a world that has already experienced both fear and hope, triumph and despair – basically a world where the sort of major battles that round out the film’s action are somehow commonplace and old hat. Which is why the film starts with a long-from prologue that explains how Travis Beacham’s story actually got to this point – what it was like when the Kaiju first appeared, how humans bonded together to fight back, the way Jaeger pilots were treated by the public, the straight-to-our head success rate in battling Kaiju, and the ultimate realization that even the best Jaeger was no longer good enough for the constantly-evolving Kaiju.

As entertaining as I found Pacific Rim to be, it was the film’s prologue that most intrigued me – and, frankly speaking, it was something that I found myself wishing was the part committed to film first. (Perhaps the early years of the Jaeger program will get the prequel treatment one day, but I’m still a bit sad that all of that stuff doesn’t make up at least a larger part of Pacific Rim.) Fortunately enough, Beacham himself recognizes that the world of Pacific Rim is much larger than just one story can portray, and he wrote a prequel-ish graphic novel (“Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero,” released in June) to help fill in the gaps between the film’s information-packed prologue and the immediate action we see on screen. It’s not a perfect substitute for a fleshed-out prequel, but it does fill in some mighty colorful details that add some major background (and emotion!) to Pacific Rim the film.

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the film just yet, you might want to bookmark this post and come back post-viewing, though it doesn’t contain any information that will spoil anything in the film (at least, we think so). 

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1. The first attack, called “K-Day,” occurred on August 10, 2013.

Should we start preparing? Now-ish? Is now too late?

2. Stacker Pentecost’s fighter pilot sister, Luna, died on K-Day while trying to send a Sidewinder missile down the first Kaiju’s throat.

No wonder the character, played in the film by Idris Elba, is so damn haunted.

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3. The “folklore” story behind the creation of the Jaeger program involves a little boy smashing some toys together – no, really.

At least, that’s the story Dr. Jasper Schoenfeld tells reporter Naomi Sokolov when attempting to explain how the Jaeger first came to be, though we soon learn it’s just the tip of a big, emotional iceberg.

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4. Pentecost was the first Jaeger test subject.

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5. The first Jaeger test pilot (not subject) died. Big-time died.

6. The two-pilot “drift” that eventually becomes essential to Jaeger piloting was invented in a moment of terror and love.

As Jaeger scientist Dr. Caitlin Lightcap watches the second Jaeger test pilot, Lt. Sergio D’Onofrio, struggle during his first outing, she taps in to lighten his neural load, and to save him. 

7. Oh, yeah, that “love” element of the drift? That becomes one of its most important pieces.

Lightcap eventually leaves her partner (Schoenfeld, as it turns out, who was also her former professor who jilted her once) to become a Jaeger pilot and D’Onofrio’s main squeeze. Their bond is what drives their ability to pilot (and, eventually, what drives every Jaeger pilot team’s ability to pilot).

8. Pentecost’s co-pilot, Tamsin (incidentally, one of Luna’s best friends) dies from cancer.

Once you’ve seen the film, you’ll realize she’s not the only one.

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9. Mako Mori was considered “Tokyo’s daughter” and the “iconic survivor” of the attack that killed her entire family.

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10. The Becket brothers and their bond were almost destroyed by…a girl?

A reporter girl, actually, named Naomi Sokolov (she’s everywhere!).

“Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero” is available now.

Pacific Rim hits theaters on Friday, July 12.


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