kaigou: Ed & Ling bumpfist. (2 word)
[personal profile] kaigou
I decided I really wanted to see Pacific Rim (again), and the local bookstore had it, so Friday night I rewatched. (Yay!) Then on Saturday I rewatched, this time with the director's commentary. There are people who think Godzilla is cool, and people who like mecha, and then there's the level of geekery from del Toro: names, names, little trivia about the origins of Godzilla (and the makings of), and the various mecha series (no shout-outs to Eva, but certainly plenty of discussion about Mazinger). If I was in any doubt about the man's geek cred, I am in doubt no longer.

Much of what he had to say -- while really fascinating in terms of the additional visual layers of the story, like the color-coding -- was cool but not really pertinent to verbal/on-page storytelling. And he also had me totes nodding along when he complained about CGI tending to make things look ungrounded, as in, no actual weight/substance. (His emphasis on the fight scenes being in rain and water were to offset that groundlessness; by seeing the water splashing around, and things flying through the air and cars hopping as the kaiju walks, it gives your brain the message that this CGI thing is on the same ground as everything else you see.)

Other things he had to say just made me go AHA. In no particular order:

-- When you're dealing with a large cast, you can lean on types*, but you have to move really fast through the introductions. The value in using types is that you don't have to dwell; you leave that for later, when you can flesh characters out as needed.

-- This is the reverse of good world-building, where the 'real' feeling comes not from the massive sets (I'm looking at you, Thor-movies) but from the tiny details. Things being a little worn, none of that just-from-the-drycleaners look to the clothes, like paint worn down where hands might've rubbed it from everyday use. Scuff-marks on the floor.

-- Which ties into what del Toro called the 'thunderbird' school of visual explanation. There's two ways to go, when showing (frex) the process of pilots getting into the mecha and taking off. You can follow the Sailor Moon/Gundam process, where it's stock footage used over and over, that's pretty un-detailed. (del Toro didn't call anything out by name, but name any major mecha anime and it's what he's talking about.) The other is to do a really extensive, step-by-step showing of the process -- once. After that, you can skip it. You've already established all the little details, and reassured the audience that this world-building is solid.

Rewatching, I saw things I hadn't seen/realized before, thanks to the commentary. Like that in the space of about two minutes, we arrive at the Shatterdome and meet (or are told about) almost a dozen characters. That's a crapload, but I never felt confused. I get the complaints about relying on types, but when it comes to introductions, it does give the reader/viewer a handle, and once the type is established, then you can go back and adjust, deepen, broaden, etc.

* tho I rolled my eyes when del Toro listed the types: 'has-been', 'team star', 'female'... UGH. His insisting Mako also get her moments of awesome are great, but still, 'female type', dubble-ugh.

I also realized that we actually only see the entire "get them ready for launch" process once, at the very beginning of the movie. I could've sworn we saw that process again... but we don't. Clearly the director knows his stuff, when he said something like the audience will "fill in the blanks, having seen them filled in completely and thoroughly just once". I didn't just fill in the blanks, I was quite certain I'd gotten to see it again. Strange. Kind of cool. (For that matter, the final battle, the Russian and Chinese teams go from getting their orders to being dropped into the ocean, and it didn't seem at all awkward or rushed to me; now I know why.)

I was pondering how to translate this into the written version, and was digging through my various books and ebooks, looking for something to read. Now I can't even remember which books -- just the contrast between them. One is SFF, with in-depth descriptions to the point you could probably draw the ship's layout in your head. The other just mentions little details mid-scene and mid-dialogue.

I'm not saying one's better than the other, since both have their place. But the first does strike me as the written equivalent of the establishing shot, where you have to see the school or the diner or the office building so you know 'where' you are in the story, now. The second just throws you in there, and lets you conclude from a mention of desks, or coffee cups, or the xerox machine, where you're at.

Given that I'm working on a story where I could be here all day loading up the detail and still not make much sense (what average western readers know jack about roof-lines, anyway, let alone really care), I think the latter makes for a better fit, for my purposes. Clothes, buildings, layout; I doubt these will be important to the readers, just as I don't think they're ultimately much important to the characters, either. Except where something otherwise insignificant jumps out at them, and we're back to little details, not lengthy dissertations.

Plus, the notion of spending a lot of time only the first time makes me feel a little better about the ship-board scenes. When it's time to rewrite, I'll shift all that kind of setting sail info into the first time, and after that... just skip it. Well, it's worth a shot.

Also, del Toro has some really interesting things about how he sees the characters, and what they're doing, and that as types they're not really 'types' so much as 'facets'. In other words, he doesn't see Mako, Stacker, Raleigh, etc as individuals crafted from stereotypes, so much as facets of humanity that, when drawn quickly, become archetypes. Something like that. Naturally he put it much better than I.

Date: 25 Nov 2013 06:12 am (UTC)
margrave: (Default)
From: [personal profile] margrave
Wow. I now must get this on Blu-ray with the commentary. Sounds utterly fascinating. I wish I couls soak up his brain/thought process.

Date: 26 Nov 2013 07:04 am (UTC)
majoline: picture of Majoline, mother of Bon Mucho in Loco Roco 2 (Default)
From: [personal profile] majoline
Huh. I think I might need the DVD now.

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kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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