Highs & Lows of Guillermo Del Toro's Career | The Mary Sue
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The Determination of del Toro: A Brief History of the Highs & Lows of Guillermo Del Toro’s Career

Guillermo del Toro’s assurances last week that we should hold out hope for Pacific Rim 2 gave me a little déjà vu. Not in a bad way, though—the man’s resilience is commendable! So, we here at The Mary Sue decided to make a video history of del Toro’s past promises and projects—the highs, the lows, and everything in between. You can read the transcript below.

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Guillermo del Toro often creates stories about heroes who face off against impossible odds—massive monsters, mythical mazes, supernatural terrors, and so on. Fans of del Toro know that in spite of his reputation for creating powerful work, he seems to have a devil of a time completing his projects. He doesn’t have a reputation for being a huge failure, though, perhaps because many his failures don’t seem to be entirely his fault.

This week, for example, del Toro assured us all that Pacific Rim 2 would definitely happen—in spite of reports that the project had been shelved indefinitely due to studio funding issues. Even though Pacific Rim was del Toro’s most financially successful project to date, its sequel seemed “risky” to studios due to the recent failure of other unrelated films. This is definitely not the first time that del Toro has had to assure fans that he’s going to conquer his own bad luck.

Del Toro’s work on Hellboy is another such example. Planned to be a live-action trilogy, del Toro’s film adaptation of this comic book franchise never made it past its second entry in 2008. As recently as 2015, though, del Toro continued to assure fans that Hellboy 3 could still happen.

Since the live-action films came and went, the Hellboy franchise saw two straight-to-DVD animated films featuring the film’s star, Ron Perlman, as the lead. A third animated film was planned, but it never surfaced. Sound familiar?

In 2008, del Toro helped pen the story for a Hellboy videogame; the game was widely panned by reviewers.

Yet del Toro has not given up on Hellboy. And, somehow, his fans haven’t given up on him, either.

Perhaps that’s because the man knows his own bad luck well enough to keep his fingers in a lot of pies; that way, he’s always got a new project to which he can divert his interest … and the attention of his fans.

But having one’s fingers in too many pies can be troublesome at times. The most notable example of a depressing del Toro departure would be his exit from The Hobbit; after working on the film for two years, he left in 2010 order to attend to other existing long-term commitments. One such commitment was a deal to make animated films for Disney Double Dare You. Even though del Toro left The Hobbit in order to fulfill other deals, like the one he’d made with Disney, by the time he returned, it was already too late and the Disney deal was “gone”.

Pacific Rim was del Toro’s next successful project, but before completing that film, the man faced yet more obstacles. He was slated to adapt HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness into a film, and Tom Cruise got tapped to star; the development and eventual failure of that film happened at the same time as the initial development process for Pacific Rim.

In the world of videogames, the del Toro curse reigns supreme. For his most recent game project, Silent Hills, del Toro partnered with Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame; the teaser demo for their game, which was called PT, received so much critical acclaim that it appeared on several “Best Of the Month” and “Year” lists by games press sites. That seems bizarre for a game demo designed to be a trailer for a future project. In spite of PT’s acclaim, however, Silent Hills got the axe. After his experience with PT and the whiplash of the subsequent cancellation of Silent Hills, del Toro declared himself “done with video games” this past year.

Even though he’s critically acclaimed as a creator, he’s been besieged by bad luck throughout his career, from scheduling conflicts to failing financials to inexplicable cancellations. Yet, unlike other creators who were once beloved but whose massive failures stained their reputations and led to a fan exodus — such as game developer Peter Molyneux, whose game Godus led to an onslaught of disappointment and Molyneux’s eventual refusal to do press interviews — del Toro’s behavior comes across as surprisingly resilient. If anything, bad reviews and lukewarm reception seem to be the least of del Toro’s concerns as a creator; he’s had to bounce back from worse. Much like Pacific Rim’s Rinko Kikuchi, del Toro always seems to have a secret sword hidden in the back of his mind — a new approach to try, even when all seems lost.

Here’s the good news for all of us Pacific Rim 2 hopefuls: del Toro seems uniquely suited to sequels, given his excellent work on Blade 2 and Hellboy 2. Perhaps it’s because he’s used to having to revisit his own shelved projects time and time again with fresh eyes.

Even if Pacific Rim 2 doesn’t pan out, I’m willing to bet something else weird will. It might be a straight-to-DVD animated featurette. It might even be Hellboy 3. Whatever it is, I’m confident that Guillermo del Toro is working on it.

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).