This week’s video offers examples from Pacific Rim on how to layer your foreshadowing for maximum effect.
I said last week that I was going to fail at not gushing over Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim—and I was right. Turns out I have yet to say all I have to say on this subject. For the next couple of episodes, we’re going to explore a few more lessons we can glean from this outstanding bit of storytelling. Today, we’re going to talk about foreshadowing—including both plants and payoffs. And that means spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know about a certain important plot development in the climax, then you might want to pause this now and come back to it after you’ve seen the movie.
So here comes the SPOILER: In the climax, in which the heroes are trying to blow up the wormhole that’s letting the alien monsters into our world, their plan to nuke it goes astray. This is a great moment in itself, since it immediately and impossibly ups the stakes. But, fortunately for all humanity, it turns out that one of the Jaegers—the machines used fight the monsters—runs on nuclear power. Enter: a spur-of-the-moment Plan B.
This twist works because it was prominently and repeatedly foreshadowed. Earlier in the movie, the Jaeger’s antiquated nuclear power source is emphasized when it keeps running even after the other digital Jaegers are knocked out by an EMP. This sequence left viewers in no doubt of the nuclear core’s existence.
But then del Toro cleverly reinforced this foreshadowing in several smaller ways—in essence, creating a 1-2-3 punch. One subplot features a prominent character who is dying of cancer from radiation, as a result of his own time spent in a nuclear-powered Jaeger. And then, finally, as the heroes gear up for the climax, viewers are subtly reminded of the nuclear power system when the camera lingers on the nuclear symbol on the Jaeger’s back. None of this is quite blatant enough to let viewers guess what’s going to happen in the climax. But it’s also set up so perfectly that when the events of the climax do play out, they make perfect sense.