It’s kind of crazy a second Pacific Rim movie exists at all. The first, released in 2013 and directed by the now Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, underperformed domestically, but then surged in international markets. This surge brought about a barrage of will there/won’t there questions regarding a sequel. After writing the initial script, del Toro went on to other projects as what would come to be known as Pacific Rim Uprising was held in limbo.
Steven S. DeKnight, whose resumé includes the Spartacus series for Starz and serving as showrunner for Netflix’s Daredevil, was hired to take over the project, for which he serves as director and co-screenwriter. Del Toro’s first script was largely rewritten. Then — just when he thought he had the script cracked, with the star of the first film, Charlie Hunnam, returning — DeKnight sees a story in the trades that Hunnam is off to make Papillon so it was back to the drawing board.
So, no, there’s no Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim Uprising. (DeKnight goes into a lot of detail about all that ahead.) He’s been replaced in the lead spot by John Boyega playing Jake, the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). Jake is not his father and spends most days at parties or ransacking junkyards looking for scraped Jaeger parts. After a run-in with the authorities, Jake has to return to military duty to save the planet from a new Kaiju threat.
Ahead, DeKnight, who is making his feature film debut with this massive movie, takes us through the painstaking process of getting this film made and gives us some details about the other scripts that weren’t used. The first thing I said to DeKnight was that I can’t believe this movie exists, and judging from DeKnight’s reaction, I suspect he can’t either. (Also, I’m not sure if it’s possible to spoil a Pacific Rim movie, but if this is something you are worried about there are probably a few plot details that are on the spoiler-ish side below.)
I’m actually amazed this movie exists.
You and me both.
After the first one, there was back and forth for so many years about if this was ever going to happen, and here it is.
You know, when they came to me with the possibility of directing this, one of the things they told me is we have to go now or there is going to be no sequel and the franchise will be dead. So, yeah, it got to the point where they had been developing it for years and they started to look at it with the idea that if we don’t get a movie in the pipeline now, it’s going to be too many years since the original and it won’t be worth pursuing it. So I’m amazed and delighted there’s a sequel.
It’s also quite a thing for your feature-length directorial debut…
Oh, you know, I decided to start with a small, intimate movie. Yeah, it was the same, but bigger. Thankfully, from the stuff that I’ve done in television, I’m used to working with action and visual effects and genre, so this was a lot of the same stuff except a hundred times bigger, you know?
So there were similarities?
Before this, the longest I’d ever shot was, I think it was 16 days on the Daredevil finale on the first season. And this was over 80 days of shooting and all over the world. So, literally, it’s just like somebody hit the “big” button. But my experience in TV was absolutely invaluable. I never could have stepped into this without that background.
I’m under the impression that this final version is quite a bit different than the script that del Toro wrote and first turned in? Is that accurate?
Yeah, there were actually three scripts when I came on board. Over the years they had developed three different stories, all vastly different. And I took some inspiration from all the scripts. There was an evil Jaeger called Black Maria in the original script. It was actually piloted by, I think in one version, there’s a pair of sisters from Tijuana. But I took that idea and I thought, well, you know, if you’re going to crack it open, why not build a mystery of who’s piloting it and then crack it open and it’s a Kaiju brain? So there were little bits and pieces like that, but we started pretty much from whole cloth. Legendary really wanted to go in a bit of a different direction.
I was wondering if it would be an evil Raleigh Becket.
[Laughs.] I love that idea.