NYCC: Steven DeKnight hopes Pacific Rim sequel will kick off new franchise

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Sep 3, 2019, 8:06 AM EDT (Updated)

It's been four years since the apocalypse was officially canceled in the first Pacific Rim movie, but the hype among fans was almost palpable at Madison Square Garden, where the first theatrical trailer for Pacific Rim: Uprising debuted to enthusiastic cheers, whoops -- and in some instances, happy tears.

Much of that has to do with the sequel's lead, John Boyega, who chuckled when a fan asked him how he felt about being a "sci-fi star" in two major genre franchises but also had a very simple answer when it came to reflecting on his experience filming Pacific Rim: Uprising. For Boyega, it was all about "unity."

It was a sentiment that seemed to be reflected among Boyega's co-stars, many of whom were in attendance on the panel -- Scott Eastwood (Nate Lambert), Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), and Burn Gorman (reprising his role as Hermann Gottlieb), along with director Steven S. DeKnight. Boyega, who's doing double duty on Uprising as both actor and producer, admitted that he wanted to have more behind-the-scenes creative input on the movie because of how sacred the Pacific Rim world already is and how enthusiastic the fans are about the universe. In terms of the fan hype, however, Boyega was quick to emphasize that Uprising will be "everything you want Pacific Rim to be moving forward."

This time around, the cast of characters seems as motley and unprepared to save the day as the ones we saw in the first movie. As Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba's Stacker from the previous film, Boyega may be playing one of the leading characters, but he's not exactly playing a hero. At one point, he cryptically added that "the greatest heroes don't accept their legendary status," which means that Jake will likely face a hero's journey of his own similar to what Raleigh Becket had to experience 10 years previously in the Pacific Rim world.

Most of Uprising's players are newbies to the universe -- and none more so than Spaeny, who shared that this was actually her first feature film ever, let alone her first trip to New York Comic Con. (Her character, Amara, devours everything she can learn about jaeger tech after the death of her family in the previous kaiju attack.) Considering that it was DeKnight's first time in the director's chair on a movie, Spaeny confessed that the two of them had a lot of bonding moments together on the set as the resident film rookies.

Although one half of the Pacific Rim Odd Couple couldn't be there, Gorman said that when it came to jumping back into the dynamic between his Dr. Gottlieb and Charlie Day's Dr. Newt Geiszler they were able to pick right back up where they left off. Granted, they're both working for different branches of kaiju research and development at this stage; Gottlieb has risen in the ranks at the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps to become the foremost scientist, while Geiszler's working more "in the private sector," according to Gorman.

And as for the future of Pacific Rim? Well, DeKnight's optimistic, telling panel attendees that Uprising will hopefully be the first step in a bigger franchise. Judging by the audience reaction to the trailer today, the enthusiasm for Pacific Rim hasn't been canceled yet.

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