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PACIFIC RIM UPRISING Honors Del Toro’s Vision and Pushes it Forward

The audience for the Pacific Rim Uprising panel at Madison Square Garden during New York Comic Con (NYCC) was beyond hyped. Four years have passed since the first film, which has become a sci-fi fan favorite. At times, there were doubts as to whether or not a sequel would even happen, but now Uprising is mere months away from theaters.

Director Steven S. DeKnight is well aware he has big shoes to fill with Pacific Rim Uprising. Moderator and SYFY Editor-at-Large Aaron Sagers stated that DeKnight must be living “every nerd’s dream” having come from working on shows like Spartacus and Netflix’s Daredevil; the director called it an honor to be working on the Pacific Rim franchise. Having grown up on Godzilla and other big monster movies, DeKnight said that he’s glad to be expanding on the world Guillermo del Toro “expertly executed the first time around.”

DeKnight was able to expand a bit on Uprising’s story, which takes place ten years after the original. A new generation of Jaeger pilots, too young to remember a pre-kaiju world, are ready to step up when the threat returns. “It’s the human inside the Jaeger that’s a hero,” DeKnight said, a theme that would be reiterated throughout the panel: no matter who you are or where you’re from, you can make a difference.

If you watched the trailer that premiered at the panel yesterday, you’ve seen some of the new Jaegers, redesigned from the ground up. Leading the charge is the Gipsy Avenger, which uses a “gravity sling” to grab buildings, cars, and whatever impossibly large objects are available and hurl them at the monsters. Bracer Phoenix is a three-pilot brute force machine, with the third pilot operating vortex cannons in its chest. The most advanced—and experimental—of the bunch is Saber Athena, which uses plasma swords. The one with the “ball of death”—DeKnight’s words, not ours—on the end of its arm is called Titan Redeemer. Guardian Bravo also uses sheer force to “smack the hell out of” anything in its way. We’ll also see homemade Jaegers like the tiny Scrapper; in the years since the first kaiju attack, people have pilfered technology and parts to make their own machines.

After giving us the rundown on Uprising’s new toys, DeKnight was joined onstage by Burn Gorman, Cailee Spaeny, Scott Eastwood, and John Boyega, the last of whom said it was “cool to step into another franchise” as the son of Idris Elba’s character Stacker Pentecost. Jake, the younger Pentecost, isn’t really trying to live up to his father’s status; he’s not interested in following the family business of defeating kaiju, but finds himself pulled into it and eventually embraces his new role.

Spaeny’s character Mara sounds especially interesting; Mara’s a tech-savvy survivor dedicated to learning everything there is to know about Jaegers. Her family was killed in the first attack, and she always believed the kaiju would be back, so she makes it her mission to be prepared. Spaeny describes her character as an independent badass—“I’m not, but she is!” This being her first film ever, she said she had to learn about the physically demanding set of an action flick, but the other panelists were quick to praise her performance.

Burn Gorman was the only person onstage returning from the first film, and he said “life has sucked” for his character Dr. Hermann Gottlieb. Though he’s an important scientist with this huge budget, Gottlieb still has problems with personal hygiene and continues to have a love/hate relationship with Charlie Day’s Dr. Geiszler. “It’s an odd couple scenario,” Gorman said of the characters’ friendship, but in real life it was “effortless” stepping back into that scenario with Day.

Nerdist News broke down the trailer in great detail, but when it premiered during the panel, my first thought was, “I understand the ball of death now.” Having visuals to accompany DeKnight’s Jaeger descriptions really brought the vision to life, and the audience was pumped as they started lining up to ask the stars questions.

When asked about how he planned to appease fans of the first Pacific Rim while bringing in a new audience, DeKnight said again that he wanted to honor what del Toro created while expanding the audience. Moving the timeline forward ten years was the way to do just that, and the director added that he hoped Uprising would just be the first step towards an even bigger franchise.

John Boyega described Pacific Rim fans as “hopeful,” both in their desire to see a sequel come to fruition and the quality of Uprising itself. The ongoing conversations about the sequel, as well as fans’ reactions, were what pushed him to pursue a behind-the-scenes role as producer as well. “We’ve got all of your backs, don’t worry,” he promised. When a fan described him as a “sci-fi icon,” Boyega said he didn’t feel like one yet, but added, “Do I have a mission to be a part of every single thing? Pretty much, yeah.”

The panel wrapped with a video from Pacific Rim “superfan” Charlie Day, who treated the audience to delightful original theme music with absurd lyrics. It’s doubtful that any of his songs will make it into the final production when it premieres in March 2018, but at least fans can rest assured that Uprising strives to respect the original’s world and make it even bigger.

Images: Legendary

Editor’s note: Nerdist Industries is a subsidiary of Legendary Digital Networks.

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