The blockbuster-filled month of March rolls along this weekend with the release of Pacific Rim Uprising. The sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 film brings us back to the gigantic struggle between the Jaegers and the Kaiju in a movie that looks to have expanded upon the scope, story and action of its predecessor. You might think a clash as epic as this one would necessitate a long runtime, but that was apparently not the case. Apparently Pacific Rim Uprising actually had a bit of fat to trim initially, as director Steve DeKnight explained:
The movie was a little flabby to start with. The script was much bigger. When we got into the editing room, I think the editor’s cut was about two and half hours long. My director’s cut was two hours and 18 minutes. And when I signed on to the movie, I told Legendary I love this genre, but I don’t think this story in this world should be longer than two hours. So we knew we were flabby. So we got in there and did some hacking and slashing — some of it painful, some of it less painful — to get it down.
Pacific Rim Uprising clocks in at 111 minutes versus the 131-minute runtime of Pacific Rim. It sounds like there was a lot in the script and plenty enough to fill a 2 and a half hour movie, but that cut was a little bloated. The first film dragged in some parts, so this slimmer runtime might indicate a more efficiently-paced story. Director’s cuts are often longer than what we see in theaters; that’s what double-dip Blu-rays are for after all, but the near half hour removed from Steven S. DeKnight’s cut is a healthy chunk. The sequel will have to do a little bit of exposition and reframing since we’re following new characters, so hopefully this runtime still allows for a proper introduction to reacquaint everyone with this universe and what happened between the last film and this one.
Steven DeKnight does come from the television world and is used to working with a much more constrained timeframe for individual episodes. While shows like Daredevil and Spartacus gave him whole seasons to craft a complete arc, he still had to break that down into episodic chapters, which ideally makes him well suited to know how to tell a tight story that discards anything extraneous. The editing process often involves parting with things you love but the way, Steven S. DeKnight makes it sound, what was cut from Pacific Rim Uprising was cut for a good reason.
The only thing that gives me pause about Steven S. DeKnight’s comments to Uproxx is that he says when he signed onto Pacific Rim Uprising, he didn’t think it should be over two hours. Sometimes less is more, but I don’t love the idea that he or the studio had the ‘keep it under two hours’ mindset going in. Hopefully the cut we see in theaters is a tight action film and the best version of this story, but we have seen in the past where runtimes are shaved to meet a mandate, and the film suffers for it. On the flip side, there are plenty of blockbuster films that could have used a more spartan editing approach.
Pacific Rim Uprising went through quite a journey to the big screen, including a director switch, changing the ending and replacing the main character, but you can’t keep a good Jaeger down, and it is finally here. Pacific Rim Uprising stomps its way into theaters on March 23. For all the biggest movies hitting theaters this year, check out our release schedule.