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Guillermo del Toro’s living color

Kerry Hayes/Warner Bros. Pictures

The chromatic key of Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” is gunmetal. The action epic is all dark gleam: grays and blues and blacks. This color scheme isn’t grim or shadowy, though. The movie doesn’t have the appearance of a horror film or noir. Rather it’s the sleek, black-box beauty of contemporary technology: a muscular, sci-fi sheen that’s a very guy look.

Well, it’s not all dark gleam — and the movie isn’t all guys. Along with its heroes, played by Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba, it has a heroine, too. She’s Rinko Kikuchi, and del Toro sets her off in a subtle, yet distinctive way. He uses color.

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Three things stand out when del Toro introduces Kikuchi’s character. First, that’s she’s female (OK, she’s not just one of the boys). Second, that she wears her hair in a sensible pageboy (OK, she’s serious). Third, that the two strands of hair framing her face are streaked cornflower blue — a shade vividly different from the more subdued blues seen elsewhere in the movie (OK, there’s something interesting going on with this person).

Then there’s the matter of the shiny red shoe Elba carries around as a sort of talisman. Huh? That’s right, a child’s Mary Jane. You can probably guess that it’s associated somehow with Kikuchi. But as to how it’s associated, and why Elba carries it — that’s too important to the plot, and too unexpected, to reveal here. Suffice it to say that here’s another example of how del Toro uses color to heighten our awareness of the character and indicate her uniqueness. Showing rather than telling is the essence of a visual medium, after all. And if there’s an echo of a certain ruby-red item of footwear from another work in that same visual medium, all right then, so much the better.MARK FEENEY

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