#324. Guillermo del Toro

If there’s a monster under your bed, chances are it’s probably been directed by Guillermo del Toro. While his work isn’t outright horror based on the “slasher” or “gorenography” interpretations of the genre, many of his films feature some scary monsters. Perhaps what makes these monsters somewhat more palatable is their inclusion in a (mostly) fantasy world. It’s through these fanciful settings where del Toro’s visual and artistic style come to full fruition. Even the real-world settings feel safe through the heroic protagonists that inhabit these alternate realities. If anything, the monsters in his films are supposed to be powerful beings that the protagonists need to overcome in order to develop as characters. This week’s two films highlight some early and recent works directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Pacific RimPacific Rim
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

The types of films del Toro has directed can be pretty easily divided into two categories: action and horror. While his earlier career focused on the horror genre, when the new millennium rolled around he started creating action-focused films. Often, darker source material would be the source for these films, keeping in line with his predisposition toward the macabre. From Blade II (2002) to Hellboy (2004) and its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Guillermo del Toro has had comics and graphic novels off of which he could directly base his films. With Pacific Rim (2013), no such source material existed, but plenty of genre pieces influenced this action film. From the huge monster movies of the Godzilla franchise to the sub-genre of mecha anime and manga, it’s easy to see where this movie’s origins lie.

For decades, humanity thought the alien invasion would come from above us. When enormous monsters known as Kaiju appeared from a cross-dimensional rift deep within the Pacific Ocean, humans soon found themselves fighting off this threat with giant robots called Jaegers. One of these Jaegers, the American Gipsy Danger, helped to defend the Pacific Rim, eventually losing to a Kaiju outside of Anchorage. Years later, after mothballing the Jaeger program and with the coastal wall proving to be insufficient to protect humanity, Gipsy Danger and the remaining functional Jaegers were called into service once again. With the size and frequency of the Kaijus increasing, the leader of the Jaeger program has but one final option left to stop the threat to humanity. Diving deep into the ocean, Gipsy Danger goes forth to detonate a nuclear device to close the portal between worlds for good.

Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

As you can probably tell by his name, Guillermo del Toro has a Spanish background (Mexican, to be specific). Consequently, many of his early films have Spanish as their spoken language. While he directed a few short films in the late 1980’s, his first feature-length piece was Cronos (1993). Compared to the “action” films mentioned above, his earlier films are definitely darker in tone. Movies like Mimic (1997) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001) were straight-up horror, but by Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), del Toro started to make the horror more fantasy-based, thus lessening some of its scariness. Even if he still has some chops when it comes to horror, like in Crimson Peak (2015), I feel his fantasy films really show off his creative potential. This potential was recently present in The Shape of Water (2017), this year’s Best Picture and somewhat of a follow-up to Pan’s Labyrinth in settings and themes.

Antique dealer, Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), through the course of his work, finds an archangel statue with a hollow base. He finds a mechanical, bug-like device inside the base, which latches onto him and injects him with a centuries-old serum that grants eternal life. In the following days, Gris finds that his old body is returning to its youthful state. Unfortunately, Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a well-connected businessman is also looking for this device to extend his own life. As Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman) searches for the Cronos device, Gris finds that he craves blood and that the sun burns his skin. Even though Angel kills Gris, the vampiric antique dealer is able to attend his own funeral before confronting Dieter with the Cronos device. It is in this exchange when Gris learns the real power of what he has become.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Guillermo del Toro movies

Bacon #: 2 (Puss in Boots / Billy Bob Thornton -> Jayne Mansfield’s Car / Kevin Bacon)


Snack Break: Congratulations

Once again, I thought I had this Best Picture Oscar pegged and get surprised with a film that traditionally would not have won. I hope this means we’ll see more representation from other genres than “drama” in the years to come.

The Shape of Water

Of the nine contenders for Best Picture this year, there were plenty that I thought were truly great. It’s tough to choose one over the others, especially with some really thought-provoking and well-made films. Personally, my favorite was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, followed by Darkest Hour, Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird. The Shape of Water was in that list of favorites as well, but that’s because it was directed by one of my favorite directors: Guillermo del Toro. In fact, a number of my favorite directors had showings this year, including Christopher Nolan and Martin McDonagh.

It’s tough when there’s not necessarily a front-runner for the Oscars, as each category presented proves to be a real mystery. Many of them could have gone a number of different ways, but at least the ones that won were certainly well-deserved.