It’s safe to say that Steven DeKnight is having a busy day. Between coordinating action shots with John Boyega and Scott Eastwood in an intricately designed Jaeger Conn-Pod, and holding court with a group of info-hungry journalists, DeKnight’s ability to multitask is being seriously put to the test. But that doesn’t stop the director of Pacific Rim Uprising’s enthusiasm for answering our probing questions about the upcoming follow-up to Guillermo del Toro‘s modern monster classic, which adds fresh faces like Boyega, Eastwood and newcomer Cailee Spaeny to the cast, and picks up ten years after the conclusion of the first film.
During the chat with DeKnight and Pacific Rim: Uprising‘s producer Cale Boyter, we got insight into how the sequel utilizes the world built by Guillermo del Toro, why the film’s stars are significantly younger than the stars of the first film, what the tone of the sequel is, how working on Daredevil helped DeKnight handle his first feature film, and what of del Toro’s original sequel script remains today.
Check out the full interview below.
Clearly there are ties to the first movie but does this function as a standalone for people?
CALE BOYTER: Yes, absolutely, that was a big part of it.
STEVEN DEKNIGHT: We built it so if you want to just watch this movie, all the information you need is in there.
I’m curious how you both utilize and build on top of the world-building that’s already been established in the first Pacific Rim?
DEKNIGHT: We always wanted for the fans of the first movie, when they watch this, it will be a very rich experience. They’ll catch a bunch of stuff, but you don’t have to know about the first movie. Without giving anything away, the opening of this movie catches you up in a unique way.
So is it a two-hander between Jake (Boyega) and Amara (Spaeny)?
DEKNIGHT: In a way, in a way. We really wanted Jake to be our entrance back into the world and for Amara that storyline is to include a separate part of the world we haven’t seen yet. So between the two we cover both bases and the story really function as how they intertwine throughout the movie.
We’ve seen this shift for blockbusters to consciously try and appeal to a worldwide audience, but the first Pacific Rim was very organically a world story. How are you building on this in the second film?
DEKNIGHT: It’s the same thing, part of the movie being a China element but what really drew me to this was something I loved about when I did Spartacus, all these cultures that were together, and they were just together. For this movie it functions in such that organic way, the way China and Japan and Russia and Latin America and all the countries came together to fight this threat it was really baked into the story. So it never felt like “Oh we’re reaching to jam in this Chinese character,” it all just made sense. It certainly helps that these countries are all on the Pacific Rim.
BOYTER: “You’ll see more Chinese speaking in the movie, it’s a fun dynamic between Jing Tian and Charlie Day where he’s trying to learn Mandarin and he’s really bad at it.”
Another neat thing from the first movie is Crimson Typhoon, the Jaeger with three pilots, are there any in this film with three or more pilots?
DEKNIGHT: I can’t give you any specifics on the Jaegers but we’ve mixed some stuff up that we think is pretty cool. We definitely wanted to take what Guillermo did in the first movie with those Jaegers and explore different venues and different options on what they do and how they do it.
BOYTER: There’s been a focused effort to make each one of these things special. They will all do things that you don’t expect.
DEKNIGHT: Early on, Cale, when we had the concept art and he came in and wisely said “Okay, but what’s the “Why” button on each of these?” and it was like a light bulb went off in all of us “Oh yeah! The ‘Why’ button.”