When Pacific Rim first released in 2013, it was something of an anomaly. On one hand, it featured top-of-the-line special effects, a talented director in Guillermo Del Toro, and A-list actors in Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba. On the other, it flopped at the domestic box office, making just a shade over $100 million on an almost $200 million budget. Predictably, it blew up in popularity the second it went overseas, making an additional $300 million at the foreign box office (thanks in large part to Chinese and Japanese audiences). In the two years since, the film has gained a cult following on the Internet among creature feature fanatics.
It wasn’t just the foreign box office that buoyed Pacific Rim either. Rotten Tomatoes has it sitting pretty at a fresh 73% rating, while IGN described it as “a gorgeous and thrilling experience.” General opinions from all who saw it were largely positive, and in the end the reward for Del Toro and company was a sequel originally slated for a 2017 release. Sadly though, Universal has changed its tune. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film “has been halted indefinitely and will be pushed back (if it gets made at all),” making for a baffling decision bound to displease a whole lot of people.
Take a look at the fan reception for Pacific Rim and it’s hard to imagine why Universal would be hesitant to develop a potential tentpole franchise. Yes, the movie made back just half of its budget stateside. But if modern Hollywood is telling us anything, it’s that America is no longer the target market. Even the latest Transformers movie barely made back its budget before hauling in almost a billion dollars overseas. China and Japan are fast becoming two of the biggest consumers of American cinema, and a movie about giant robots fighting monsters practically sells itself in those countries.
There’s no doubting that Universal stands to lose a lot of money for not doubling down on Pacific Rim. But the real victims here are audiences. We as fans miss out on a quality original monster movie in an era where Universal is busy constantly feeding us Godzilla and King Kong reboots. Hollywood needs new monsters, and Pacific Rim gave it just that. It makes it that much more tragic to see a stunningly well-done film shuttered because a studio isn’t willing to spend money.
What’s even more unbelievable about this whole situation is the frayed logic Universal used to justify halting the sequel’s production. That same article from The Hollywood Reporter cites the reasoning being past flops like Blackhat and Seventh Son causing some trepidation about pouring big money into “risky” projects. While the studio feels confident in rebooting time-honored moneymakers like Godzilla, an original screenplay that didn’t succeed at the American box office unfortunately falls into the “risk” category. It’s more than a little fallacious to liken the failure of patently bad movies like Seventh Son scare Universal away from Pacific Rim 2, but this is the sad reality of the film industry.
Without a Pacific Rim sequel, the landscape for creature features in the next few years is set to be more of the same. The plan right now for Universal is to put out sequels for King Kong and Godzilla, and then a crossover featuring both iconic monsters. Whether or not the films are good, it’ll still represent a commitment to sameness that’s plagued Hollywood over the last half-decade. All we can hope is that eventually the studio realizes what they have in Pacific Rim, and follow through on the sequel the world deserves.
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