To anybody who loved Pacific Rim, myself included, the mere prospect of a sequel is incredibly exciting. That being said, one has to wonder what this film will be, with so many original elements no longer in tow. Writer Travis Beacham and director Guillermo del Toro aren’t really involved (del Toro will serve in a ‘producing capacity,’ which could mean pretty much anything) and we don’t yet know which actors will return to the Shatterdome, or if such a structure even exists in a post-Kaiju world. What we do know however is that the first film’s protagonist, Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Beckett, won’t be involved. Rejoice or mourn accordingly, nerds.
This wasn’t always the plan. Raleigh was definitely part of the sequel’s early incarnation, and no conspiracy or sudden change in vision forced him out. Per Hunnam himself, it was merely a matter of scheduling. That doesn’t bode well for the studio’s desire to hit a release date versus its dedication to the actual story, though that doesn’t mean something good can’t come of it. So, who does that leave exactly? Charlie Day and Burn Gorman’s Newt & Gottlieb were to be the new leads at one point, but we’ve heard nothing since then, and directorial duties have fallen to Daredevil’s Steve DeKnight, while the script was placed in the care of Penny Arcade’s Emily Charmichael and The 100’s Kira Snyder. Between them and John Boyega, who’ll play the son of Stacker Pentecost, there’s little doubting the immensity of the talent involved, though I can’t help but wonder what resemblance the film bear to its predecessor, if any beyond a cellular one. That’s neither a good or bad thing. It simply is.
There are those who would deride Hunnam’s performance, and there are those like me who would defend its simplicity, but both sides of this disparate conclave likely agree on one thing: Gosh, Charlie. What is up with that accent? Okay, two things: Mako. Fucking. Mori. What does Hunnam’s absence mean for Mako? Rinko Kikuchi’s character was the heart & soul of Pacific Rim, along with Elba’s Pentecost, who can’t really be much more than a flashback (or a… Drift Ghost?), but having heard nothing about her involvement, and knowing that the schedule won’t bend even for the main character, the cynic in me would doubt our chances of seeing Mako again. That’s pure conjecture, and it certainly doesn’t lessen my excitement for a legacy-quel where Moses from Attack The Block pilots a goddamn Jager, but we’ll barely be five years out from the first film when Part 2 arrives. So no matter how good it turns out to be, it’ll always feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Of course I could be completely wrong and Charlie Hunnam could be the only cast member not returning (the film is still nineteen months away), but either way, I’m excited to see this world explored from a new perspective. I wasn’t expecting the first film to be any good, but here I am writing about how much I loved it three years later. So perhaps the Pacific Rim franchise being something of a wild-card is fitting, then.