I was lucky enough to attend the Pacific Rim: Uprising NYCC panel at Madison Square Garden (and sat in the first row ayyy~~) and took a bunch of notes lol. The panel included the director Steven S. DeKnight, and a few members of the main cast including John Boyega, Cailee Spaeny, Scott Eastwood, and Burn Gorman. Here’s my recap:
General Worldbuilding Tidbits
Pacific Rim: Uprising is set 10 years in the future after the last film. DeKnight said that they wanted to show a “new generation of Jaeger pilots who have known nothing but chaos.”
Previous characters slated to return, as seen by the trailer, include Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), and Dr. Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day).
The new main “trio” seems to consists of the main lead, Jake Pentecost, and the late son of Stacker Pentecost (John Boyega), Jake’s best friend and Jaeger pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), and tech-savvy Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny).
10 years later, the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps (PPDC) has come together to work as an international fighting force, with all of humanity working together - i.e. Jaegers are no longer coded by specific country, like the Russian Jaegers, Australian Jaegers, etc.
This also allowed the opportunity to build Jaegers from the ground up, since they were all previously destroyed in the first film. It was jokingly claimed, “we cancelled the apocalypse and then un-cancelled it to make this movie.”
DeKnight discussed how Del Toro originally set the table with Pacific Rim as a “fantastic visual feast,” so the goal with the sequel was to honor the original, but also expand the universe at the same time.
John Boyega claimed that they weren’t trying to “rewrite what Guillermo Del Toro did, but rather to build upon and expand this universe, and where the humans are at now.”
Boyega also talked about how he came onto work behind-the-scenes creatively on the film as a producer. He described Pacific Rim as one of the only franchises he’s come across where the fans are hopeful and “sacred science fiction ground."
Going in, Boyega felt like he had the same creative passion as DeKnight. When they met in LA for the first time, they went over the specific Jaegers and basically what Boyega wanted to see after Pacific Rim. He claimed that "I believe this is everything you want Pacific Rim to be."
One of the goals of Pacific Rim: Uprising is to explain exactly what happened 10 years after the first film, but not necessarily be a complete detachment to the origin story. It was highlighted that there are a lot of young teenage characters in the cast and hopefully that’ll be something that new viewers can relate to.
According to DeKnight, one of the overarching themes of Pacific Rim is: "It doesn’t matter who your parents are, the color of your skin, your religion, or sexual orientation, you can make a difference and be a hero. It’s the human inside the Jaegers that makes you super."
Pacific Rim: Uprising was filmed both in Australia and China. The cast pretty much agreed that as a director, DeKnight runs a "relaxed” and “creative” set - it was a tough schedule, but the actors all felt that they could still have creative input.
DeKnight called them all “badass,” with Gipysy Avenger leading the charge.
Gipsy Avenger: Has a lot of upgrades, including a Gravity Sling which allows the Jaeger to reach out and grab buildings, cars, etc. and hurl them directly at the Kaiju.
Bracer Phoenix: This is the brute force Jaeger. One of its special abilities, above many, is the fact that it’s a three-pilot machine. Therefore, the third pilot can drop into the chamber and operate a pair of massive guns called the Vortex Cannon.
Saber Athena: This is the most advanced Jaeger in the fleet that uses Plasma swords. Also described as a “little experimental,” and “incredibly swift.”
Titan Redeemer: Has a special weapon called the “ball of death,” which is attached to the end of his arm. According to DeKnight, this was “pretty damn cool."
Guardian Bravo: Is another brute force Jaeger that has a special weapon called the "graphine arc whip."
Scrapper:Described as a "little guy,” that’s been slapped together. Since in the future, there are a lot of people pilfering and stealing PPCD technology to make their own Jaegers.
During the Q&A, an audience member asked if all the new Jeagers run on analog. DeKnight claimed one Jaeger is built on sticks (lmao), but the general idea is that no EM-powered Kaijus will be able to take down the Jaegers in this film.
Jake Pentecost (John Boyega)
Boyega stated that he “loved the first movie and one of the reasons was Idris Elba.” So, he understood the big shoes that he had to fill. Boyega claimed he understood this responsibility, but "we [the cast] all worked as a unit, and Jake Pentecost doesn’t exist without the other characters. This is also a great ensemble piece.“
When the moderator asked if Jake is trying to live up to Sacker’s legacy, Boyega jokingly claimed: "Hell no!” He went to explain that “the greatest heroes don’t accept legendary status. It takes a tussle and a turn and for Jake’s position. Where we find Jake in the beginning of the film is in very different circumstances from his Dad.”
Boyega described Jake as a “stealer, a hustler, and lives in half a mansion. He’s really a guy that doesn’t want to live up to the Pentecost name.”
Jake is bought back into the PPCD in a very unique way through his connection to Cailee Spaeny’s character Amara. So, Jake is bought into this adventure and decides that he’s gotta “step up,” after realizing that the “Pentecost name still means something to people."
During the Q&A, an audience member asked Boyega what’s the most rewarding part of being a sci-fi icon. He claimed that he doesn’t feel like one, but working on both Pacific: Rim Uprising has been exciting, since it’s allowed him to jump into various elements of sci-fi that he loved growing up.
Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood)
Eastwood described him as a Jaeger pilot who’s one of the best out there. Yet, he’s still "the tip of the spear,” and really nothing without his best friend Jake.
Jake and Nate still have issues in this movie to work out from the past, so Eastwood felt that coming back around and dealing with a lost time with these characters was something cool to explore as an actor.
Eastwood also emphasized that while yes, there is plenty of action in the film, it “has a great story first and foremost.”
Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny)
This was Spaeny’s first film that she was ever cast for. So, she was definitely intimidated and a bit terrified, but knew that fans were so supportive of the first film.
Spaeny didn’t actually watch Pacific Rim until she got the audition for the sequel, and really took it upon herself to dive into the universe in order to understand and respect the original film.
In terms of Spaeny’s film experience, there was also diving into tons of stunts and action and lots of skills that she to catch onto , since she was participating in a whole world that’s already been created.
But Spaeny felt that both DeKnight and the cast were very supportive and helpful, whenever she had questions, so it was really easy for her to dive into Cailee’s character. She also bonded with DeKnight since this was the first feature-length, theatrical film that he ever directed.
Spaeny described Amara as very “independent,” and super “badass.” She’s also a tech-savvy person.
For Amara’s backstory, her entire family was killed in the first wave of Kaiju attacks. So, Amara really “takes it upon herself to dive into Jaeger tech and make sure that when Kaiju do come back, she’ll be ready to fight and protect herself."
While Amara’s past is very different from Jake’s, Spaeny claimed that both of them still see a lot of things in similar ways.
Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman)
Gorman said he was very excited to be back in the sequel, which felt like "being back in the playground.” He also joked, "I’ve been lucky enough with this face that God gave me to play a few jerks on screen,” when an audience member briefly highlighted his past roles on Torchwood, Revenge, Game of Thrones, and The Dark Knight Rises.
Gottlieb still has problems with personal hygiene. Gorman claimed, “let’s just say that he hasn’t changed his socks since the last film."
In comparison to Charlie Day’s character (Dr. Newt Geiszler) who has moved onto the private sector, Gottlieb chose to stay behind with the PPCD and arguably their most important scientist at the highest level at this point. So, Gorman joked that Gottlieb now, in effect, has a "really great budget,” to work with now.
However, DeKnight makes it clear that where we find Gottlieb is: “as a man still very much affected in what happened in the previous film in terms of his drift and communication with the Kaiju.
There was a brief Q&A and the last question really stuck out to me, where an audience member asked each cast member to sum up their Pacific: Rim Uprising experience in one word:
Drats. I was about to fall asleep and then I thought of Danielle liking one of El’s pictures on Instagram.
Like… she hadn’t really meant to. It’s just… she’s been doing better, yeah? She’s feeling good these days. She’s over Louis, as much as you can get over someone that might have been the love of your life. She’s at least over him enough that she can see pictures of Eleanor and him together and instead of that bitter taste at the back of her throat, now she only thinks that they look impossibly beautiful together.
And, well, really, Eleanor IS beautiful. To a point where Danielle finds herself on her Instagram one summer evening, feeling nice and loose from the wine she’s opened for herself, and bold enough that she likes one of the pictures, stuck on El’s pouty lips and the way her fingers gracefully curl inwards as she reaches her to brush her hair back.
It’s nothing, really.
Or it would be nothing, if not for the way she wakes up to five notifications telling her El has done a little Instagram browsing of her own.
And for a while nothing really happens, they just like each other’s pictures from time to time and Danielle tries not to think about what any of it means because it doesn’t have to mean anything, right?
Until one fine summer night she goes to one of those L.A. parties where you’re never quite sure who’s throwing the party or what the occasion is, and she bumps into Louis and Eleanor. And El looks so stunning that Danielle barely notices Louis at first, her eyes stuck on El’s never-ending legs and the pale curve of her breasts peeking from her loose top, and when Danielle finally looks at Louis his eyes are dark dark dark in a way that used to be so familiar that it makes Danielle instantly wet under her flimsy yellow dress, or maybe that was from watching El.
And Danielle’s not sure how but hours later, with the edges of the sky slowly turning pale blue with the promise of morning, she finds herself at Louis’s house, in Louis’s bedroom, sitting on Louis’s bed with a hand on her thigh and lips pressed at the corner of her mouth.
Louis’s sitting in an armchair in a corner of the room, his knuckles white with how fiercely he’s gripping the armrests, his erection starkly visible in his sweatpants, but Danielle doesn’t spare him more than one look - it’s hard to really think about him when El’s fingers keep creeping up Danielle’s thigh, when her lips and tongue taste like the cherry shots she had at the party.
Danielle’s only kissed another girl once, years ago, and this is nothing like the giggly clumsiness she remembers. This is something she could lose herself into, and she does, because if she starts thinking now she will never stop thinking again.
It’s only when Danielle’s soft and pliant next to Eleanor, her stomach and thighs still quivering from the orgasm El so softly and patiently teased out of her, that El motions for Louis to come join them, telling him to take his clothes off with just one cocking of her eyebrow.
“Dani, do you want him?” she whispers against Danielle’s lips, and Danielle knows it’s probably a bad idea, but her body still clenches with raw desire, and she nods, because this is the worst idea she’s ever had but it’s also the best, and she thinks maybe she can have Louis again this way, that she can give herself to him and not lose herself just as long as El is there to ground her with a hand on her hip and soft lips at her throat.
She feels Louis carefully lie down behind her and she goes pliant as he gently hooks her leg back over his own legs, lets her eyes slip shut at the first touch of his stubble against the back of her neck, so devastatingly familiar and soothing all at once. She kisses El back hungrily as Louis pushes in, kisses El through it all, through Louis’s quickening thrusts and the clench of his hand on her hip, through him nipping at her neck and whimpering into her skin, she kisses El and buries her hand in El’s hair and lets herself believe that this is all going to turn out okay.