Delivering a worthy sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim was always going to be a challenge of Kaiju-sized proportions. Director Steven S. DeKnight made it a priority to approach Pacific Rim: Uprising from a different angle.

“It’s tricky because you don’t want to repeat what was done in the first movie,” DeKnight tells STACK of following in GDT’s footsteps. “If we did exactly the same thing again, people would probably be disappointed.”

In returning to the world where monstrous Kaiju emerge from an inter-dimensional Breach deep beneath the ocean, and are fought by humans piloting colossal combat robots called Jaegers, DeKnight wanted to stage a grand scale showdown in Tokyo – with a difference.

“Guillermo is such a visual master, and what he did in the first movie was shoot [everything] at night in the rain. There’s no way any other director could come close to matching the brilliance of what he did there.

“I wanted to give the audience something new, so we wanted to make the majority of the attacks in broad daylight, which was a real nail-biter, especially for the Tokyo battle.”

DeKnight adds that staging the Kaiju/Jaeger battles in daylight was a “very scary” prospect – especially for visual effects department Double Negative, as the VFX had to hold up to prolonged scrutiny.

“Most of these giant monster movies tend to have attacks at night, and there’s a reason: it’s infinitely harder to do the visual effects [in daylight] because you can’t hide anything. But I think it made a huge difference, and Double Negative pulled out all the stops.”

While the classic Japanese monster movies utilised miniatures to create destruction on a grand scale, DeKnight notes that Uprising’s Tokyo sequence was achieved entirely with CGI, although he laments being unable to use a combination of the two.

“I’m a big fan of miniatures but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time. It’s funny you mention miniatures because every time I was talking to my visual effects supervisor, Peter Chiang, about how to do a tricky shot, I’d always start yelling ‘miniatures!’ Everyone would start laughing, but I love miniatures. Unfortunately we had no time to build any.”

Set 10 years after the events of the original film, Pacific Rim Uprising introduces Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), a former Jaeger pilot who must uphold the legacy of his famous father (played by Idris Elba in Pacific Rim), alongside fellow Jaeger pilot instructor and rival Lambert (Scott Eastwood). Together they must train a new generation of cadets in the use of ‘the Drift’ – the melding of minds required to pilot a Jaeger.

DeKnight agrees that there are shades of Ender’s Game in the concept of using teenagers to fight an alien threat.

“Obviously in the first movie they were training cadets who were a little bit older. The idea is that when you’re younger, you make stronger emotional connections with other humans before you get older and start throwing up walls, like what happens with Scott Eastwood and John Boyega’s characters. They’re not kids anymore and now they have problems.

“The idea that it’s a next generation of Jaeger pilots, to me, was a very important message. No matter where you’re from, who your parents are, the colour of your skin… you can make a difference, you can be a hero. That’s something very positive that the world wants to hear right now.”

Keep up to date with the latest Australian release dates for movies and TV.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is out on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD on July 4

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Where’s Ron?

John Boyega and Scott Eastwood are the new kids on the block, joining returning Pacific Rim stars Burn Gorman (Dr. Hermann Gottleib), Charlie Day (Dr. Newton Geiszler) and Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori). But where, we hear you cry, is Ron Perlman’s colourful black marketeer, Hannibal Chau?
“I actually wrote some pages for Ron Perlman – he’s a guy I’ve loved for so many years,” says DeKnight. “I think he actually came on my radar with TV’s Beauty and the Beast, and of course his work in Cronos for Guillermo, and as Hellboy.
“Unfortunately his schedule wasn’t working out, so now he’s only mentioned in passing. But I would love to see him come back – he’s such a fantastic character.”