The End of 'Uprising' Sets Up a 'Pacific Rim 3,' and John Boyega Knows What's Next
This post contains major spoilers from Pacific Rim Uprising.
Another war is brewing in Pacific Rim. At least that’s what Uprising, the sequel out now in theaters, wants you to think. Like DC, Kingsman, and all the other big-name properties working to capitalize on expanded universe opportunities, this follow-up unspools with the kind of chameleonic gaze that has one eye looking in the present while the other looks to the future. Plans for a threequel -- and beyond -- go back to the beginning of the saga, when Guillermo del Toro told Collider three years ago that "we have decided that we're going to shoot ambitiously and say, 'Let's hope we have three movies.'"
Del Toro wouldn't stick with the franchise, but while developing Uprising, the series' new gatekeeper, writer-director Steven S. DeKnight (Netflix's Daredevil) started sketching what's to come. "My idea was always to end the third movie by expanding the universe into a Star Wars-/Star Trek-style universe, where you could have standalones or you could follow the canon," he told Den of Geek recently. "Just make it big and fun."
In that regard, Uprising serves its purpose as a mostly anodyne bridge between the franchise's first and inevitable third movies.
A quick refresher: The first installment, directed by Del Toro, introduced viewers to the world of kaiju (Godzilla-like monsters) and jaegers (Gundam-like robots). An interdimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, dubbed "the breach," was letting these kaiju mercilessly terrorize coastal cities, and so Idris Elba, starring as General Stacker Pentecost, led a team of pilots to victory in an epic underwater showdown that became known, fittingly, as the Battle of the Breach.
Uprising, directed by DeKnight and co-written with Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin, picks up 10 years after that battle, with the world enjoying some semblance of peace. John Boyega gives a tremendous turn as Jake Pentecost, Stacker's son, who, in the absence of his late war-hero father, lives like a fusion of Rey and BoJack Horseman, a hard-partying rebel scavenging junk jaeger parts for profit. It's not long before he finds trouble alongside Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a jaeger fangirl who's toyed with building her own bot, getting arrested and shipped off to the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps to instruct new recruits alongside his old co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). It's there that Jake learns of a new jaeger program, one that combines cloned kaiju cells leftover from the war with the mecha-tech to create massive remote-controlled drones.
Why? Well. Everyone's a little unsure, honestly. Where Del Toro worked to mesh themes of humanity with ambitious set pieces in the first movie, DeKnight's sequel drags like a long string of plotty excuses made to get these bots back out of the garage and battling extraterrestrial baddies. Which is fine, the movie just lumbers to get us to that point, with not enough real tension and drawn-out focus on a rogue jaeger.
Things start to get interesting later, when Uprising reveals that Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day, back from the first) has been connecting to kaiju brains in secret, lured back to the Drift almost as a junkie. So while the aliens have been shut out of the human dimension, they still have a link to earth and a vehicle with which to sow mayhem.
That's exactly what happens when the drone program is given the green light and the new-fangled bots turn on their human controllers, attacking the jaeger bases and briefly re-opening the breach. Out of the rift crawl three kaiju, who aim to claim Mount Fuji to terraform the planet and set the stage for their alien masterminds, the Precursors, to colonize. While DeKnight and company struggle to match the heart of Del Toro's original -- there's a lesson about teamwork and redemption for Boyega and Spaeny in here somewhere -- they make sure to capitalize on what's most fun about this franchise at least once: massive robots fighting massive monsters.
In Tokyo, Uprising ditches the doom and gloom of the first movie to stage a showdown that's sunny and epic, giving viewers flashbacks to the times they might have spent sitting in front of the TV cheering on Megazord. The kaiju combine into a mega-kaiju. The jaegers assemble. The battle you've been waiting for plays out as a rollicking, occasionally dizzying display (see this in IMAX!) of crumbling skyscrapers, swinging fists, and gnashing teeth. It's a true spectacle and achievement.
Though DeKnight tries to paint a picture of mankind teetering on the edge, what has to happen is a bit predictable. Yes, there's a casualty, but the humans ultimately delay the apocalypse, so the action satisfies while leaving room for more. After the mega-kaiju falls, cut to ribbons by a jaeger-turned-rocket, we get an essential coda with Geiszler strapped in an interrogation chair.
"We're gonna keep coming," he tells Jake, referring to the Precursors. "Your luck is going to run out."
He's menacing for a split second -- as much as Day can be -- before Jake says, "We're gonna come for them!"
Translation: That's what that third movie, Del Toro and DeKnight mentioned, will look like. A pre-emptive strike, and, likely, a full-on war. Despite the shot we're left with, it's clear Geiszler isn't the one to fear. He's a villain as much as any mild-mannered person possessed by demons in an exorcism movie is. Tactfully, DeKnight and company have kept the real antagonists, the Precursors, out of sight this round. If audiences rally around this movie, voting with their feet to justify more, expect the otherworldly puppet masters to get their share of the spotlight next.
Boyega, who also produced Uprising and wants to produce a third, confirmed as much to IGN, saying, "We'll probably have to go to their world this time." With new help, to boot. "Jaegers won't be able to go through [the breach] the way we want them to," he added. "Maybe we'll try and build something else."