By Nick Romano
October 06, 2017 at 02:26 PM EDT
Credit: Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

Guillermo del Toro was talking about a sequel to Pacific Rim even before the first one hit theaters in 2013. Ater years of will-they-won’t-they, this tradition continues with director Steven DeKnight (Marvel’s Daredevil). Sitting alongside cast members John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Burn Gorman, and Cailee Spaeny during the film’s New York Comic Con panel on Friday, DeKnight revealed his hope for a much larger Pacific Rim franchise.

“Guillermo set the table and it was a fantastic visual feast,” he said, “and we wanted to make sure we honored what he created. … This is hopefully the first step in a bigger Pacific Rim franchise.” Growing up in the age of peak Godzilla movies, DeKnight was eager to play in the world Del Toro created — and he’s getting his chance with Uprising, which is set 10 years after the events of the first film.

“We really wanted to explore the universe and look at the first movie and expound on it,” he explained. “We actually, there are references to the first movie and what happened in the first movie. … People try to understand why the kaiju attacked, why the aliens sent the kaiju.”

John Boyega — who stars as Jake Pentecost, the estranged son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost — wanted to take on an executive producer role with the film as well because “Pacific Rim is one of the only franchises that has this hopeful, the fans are hopeful about it.” As a fan of the first film, he remembered the “back and forth about whether a sequel was gonna happen.”

“This is sacred ground, this is sacred science fiction ground,” he emphasized before acknowledging, “Moving forward, we can’t go back and ignore what Del Toro has done.”

But before we start speculating about what we could potentially see from a larger cinematic universe, we have to get through Uprising. Entertainment Weekly unveiled the first look and details at the new Jaeger robots, and DeKnight drifted a little deeper into what’s coming in the sequel. The robots are…

Credit: Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

Gypsy Avenger: An upgrade to Gypsy Danger, this Jaeger has a ton of new tricks, including The Gravity Swing. According to DeKnight, it “allows Gypsy to reach out [and] grab buildings, cars and hurl them at the kaiju.”

Bracer Phoenix: “The real brute force” requires three pilots, one of which can drop down into its chest to operate a set of guns collectively called the “Vortex Canon.”

Saber Athena: “The most advanced Jaeger in the fleet,” but also “a little experimental” and “incredibly swift.” Its main weapons are “a pair of plasma swords.”

Titan Redeemer: This Jaeger “uses something we like to call the Ball of Death.” The weapon is “attached to the end of his arm” and is, as DeKnight says, “pretty damn cool.”

Guardian Bravo: Another “brute” enforcer, which uses an arc whip that “really smacks the hell out of some Jaegers.”

Then there’s “a little guy” named Scrapper, who’s been “slapped together” by some of the people “stealing PPDC technology.”

On the human side, Boyega leads the charge as Jake. The star of Star Wars: The Last Jedi didn’t realize he was going in for a meeting with Legendary Pictures to discuss a role as the on-screen son to Elba. “I saw myself in a Jaeger suit and I was like, ‘Oh crap, this is what you brought me in for!'” Jake isn’t eager to step into his father’s shoes, but will learn that “the Pentecost name still means something.”

“We all work as a unit,” Boyega said, “and Jake Pentecost, he doesn’t exist without the other characters.” Some of these other characters include Eastwood as Nathan Lambert (“he’s the tip of the spear, he’s a pilot, he’s one of the best”), Spaeny as Amaro (“she’s super badass”), and Gorman returning as Dr. Herman Gottlieb opposite Charlie Day’s Newt Geiszler.

In Uprising, there is a new generation of Jaeger pilots who were born in the chaos of the first wave of kaiju attacks; it’s not just PDCC anymore. The organization has become “an international fighting force.” It’s now “all of humanity working together.”

Nathan is Jake’s best friend, but they have to work past their falling-out if they’re to Drift together as co-pilots. Amaro, meanwhile, lost her parents in the earlier attacks and is convinced the monsters will come back. “She’s taken it upon herself to dive into the Jaeger tech,” Spaeny said — meaning, she’s building her own artillery so she’s “ready to fight.”

Uprising marks a lot of firsts for Spaeney. “This is my first film,” she said. “First Comic Con, first time being to New York.” But she dove into the material to make sure she did right by the fans. “I really wanted to know all the thing that went behind the Jaeger science,” she said.

As for Herman, it’s not so much that he’s stopped working with Newt. It’s just that Newt is working in the private sector and Herman is still with the PDCC, except this time he has a much larger budget. So he can “do lots of things in dark corners and sort of get away with it,” Burn said. But Herman is “a man very much affected by what happened in the first movie in terms of his Drift and his communication with the kaiju.”

Though Day wasn’t present for the panel, he sent a video message for the fans gathered in the auditorium at Madison Square Garden. The actor had some ideas for a potential theme song for the movie, the first of which poked fun at some lingering questions fans had about 2013’s Pacific Rim. “Do you know you have a sword?” he sang in reference to Gypsy Danger’s secret weapon. “Don’t forget you have a sword, you might want to use your sword really early in the movie.”

DeKnight emphasized that the larger message of Uprising is about unity and diversity.

“One of the important things we wanted to show in this movie is that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it doesn’t matter who your parents are, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your religion, your sexual orientation, you can make a difference and you can actually be a hero, that it’s the human inside the Jaeger that is super. It’s you times a thousand.”

Pacific Rim: Uprising will re-cancel the apocalypse on March 23, 2018.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Steven S. DeKnight