Not two weeks ago, famed auteur and Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro set the internet ablaze when he announced the confirmation of a follow up to his 2013 robots vs. monsters film Pacific Rim and dated Pacific Rim 2 for April 7, 2017. The biggest surprise wasn’t the official announcement of the sequel though, it was the announcement of the comics and animated series that would be produced leading up to 2017: They are using all their weapons at their disposal and are really trying to make this franchise stick. They’re in for a tough time though, as there’s no question it’s never been harder to get an original franchise made in today’s day and age of reboots/sequels of pre-existing properties. But maybe Guillermo Del Toro realizes the tagline of Pacific Rim holds some truth. “To fight monsters we created monsters” – or in this case, “to fight franchises, we created a franchise.” To make a legitimate franchise out of an original concept is no easy feat, but Guillermo Del Toro and company are making the right moves to do so.
Believe it or not, there are only a few franchises this century that have been built from original properties. For one we have James Cameron’s Avatar – while yes, clearly cherry-picked its plot from other films – that smashed box office records in 2009 to become the highest grossing film of all time. While we’re still waiting on the sequels – and for all we know could still be waiting a decade from now – to solidify it’s multi-film franchise title, it still is a franchise that came from an original concept.
The horror genre has actually seen the most original franchises get lucrative this century. First we have the Paranormal Activity franchise, whose first film became one of the unlikeliest box office hits in 2009 off of a shoestring budget. The rest of the films since have tapered off in their box office success, but all have been far from in danger of not making money. The Insidious franchise and Saw franchise – both started by James Wan – have all been lucrative despite running themselves creatively into the ground. You can debate the regressive quality of the sequels, but you can’t debate they made bank.
Then you have one of the weirdest original franchises ever, The Fast and the Furious franchise. Yes, I know the first was based off an article, but we can let it slide as an original concept because I doubt the article had 1/56th of the crazy stuff the film does. And while you could win any debate where your argument is that the first film is just a remake of Point Break but with cars, it’s still an original property. In my bio down below it says that I can talk to you for 30 minutes about how chronologically weird The Fast and the Furious franchise is. That’s not an exaggeration. The Fast and the Furious franchise is one of the most unpredictable successes. What other franchise can say it finally hit its stride with the 5th film, let alone even make it that far? Pacific Rim actually did take a cue from a crucial aspect that made Fast Five the key resurrection of the franchise: an international cast.
International appeal is crucial to selling a film in today’s globalized economy. With each passing year, more and more of the total worldwide gross for film comes from international markets – not the USA. Take Pacific Rim for example – It only grossed just a tinge above $100 million, but internationally took 3 times that amount. It’s because of the international reception that Pacific Rim is getting its sequel, not the lukewarm domestic debut. Del Toro made the right move by having a diverse international cast, just like The Fast and the Furious films have done from Fast Five onwards. It’s a proven method to spike up your film’s earnings. Both Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 doubled their already monstrous domestic takes internationally. The global box office is the way of not only the future, but the immediate present. Del Toro realized that with Pacific Rim, and his bet paid off as the international audience was the film’s biggest supporter. He can expect they will turn up at the theater again, and this time with even bigger box office revenue.
Del Toro and company are also taking a correct page from Marvel’s playbook by extending their franchise into multiple and various mediums of consumption. Besides the 2-3 films-a-year template Marvel has, they’ve also broken their Avengers universe into television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and later this year with Agent Carter. It’s not known when or what channel the Pacific Rim animated series will air, but it’s a step in the right direction to reaching the widest possible audience. Anybody that read the prequel comic to Pacific Rim, Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero found a collection of stories that complimented the existing universe while expanding it. Getting more stories like it should prove to create a more structured universe for audiences by the time the sequel comes out – of course given that they’ve read them. But if they keep the same balance between complimenting and expansion of the cinematic universe than Del Toro should be just fine.
There is only one surefire move that every other franchise is making that Guillermo Del Toro is not: The Rock. Never “Dwayne Johnson”, he will always be The Rock. The Rock is always a solid option for a franchise, he’s contributed to the revival of at least 2 at this point (The Fast and the Furious, G.I. Joe), and could fit right in with Pacific Rim. Think about it Guillermo, The Rock wouldn’t even need a Jaeger to kill a Kaiju, just his bare hands. Think of all the VFX money that would save!
I remember when Pacific Rim came out, I had repeated conversations about how big a deal it was that everyone go see this besides my own anticipation for it – because it was an original summer blockbuster. In order for more original big-budget films and franchises to get made, we had to make the effort to support this one. America didn’t do so well to support it, but thankfully international audiences picked up our slack. We’ve been given a second chance here. Del Toro knows this better than most, and is taking the steps to ensure that this franchise is a lasting one. Del Toro is taking direction from another one of Pacific Rim’s taglines: “Go big or go extinct”. Guillermo Del Toro is going big, and in doing so he’s making sure this franchise doesn’t go extinct.