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In the Pacific Rim universe, piloting a Jaeger is no easy feat. Because of the massive size of the machine, it's not a job that can be handled by one person alone, and all of these operators have to be neurologically compatible in The Drift -- a technologically-created shared mental space that allows a pilot to see the entire mind of their partner. A side effect of this is that the work is made harder if you're carrying a lot of emotional issues... but in Steven DeKnight's upcoming sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising, the world has found a fix for that. As explained by producer Cale Boyter,
One of the ideas is, as you get older, you have more baggage, and you're a little less quick to trust. When you're younger, you're open. It's easier for you to make friends. So we kind of followed through with that idea and just said, 'What if there was a pilot program with kids?' So that became one idea, and it became these cadets called the Hopefuls. And that's how Amara comes into the story. She's lost her family in the Kaiju war initially, and our movie takes place ten years after that. There's a lot to discover in this movie.
I learned a ton about Pacific Rim Uprising back in January, when I joined a very small group of other reporters to fly out to Sydney, Australia and visit the set of the film while it was still in production. One of the big things that was discussed during interviews was the fact that the sequel is skewing a bit younger, particularly with the introduction of Cailee Spaeny's character, Amara, and it turns out that it fits into a much bigger element of the Pacific Rim world. As Cale Boyter explained, one of the big initiatives moving forward in the story is an attempt to mobilize younger Jaeger pilots, as they have a tendency to operate a bit better while functioning in The Drift.
As noted by the producer, Pacific Rim Uprising is set a full 10 years after the events of the first movie, and finds a world that is conflicted regarding the recent historical events. While the last decade has been free from any attacks from the interdimensional monsters known as Kaiju, there is still a lingering fear that they will find a way to return to Earth. Because of this, the Jaeger program is kept active, and new initiatives are created. One example is the Hopefuls -- which is a group that the young protagonist Amara will wind up joining through the course of the movie.
Before that happens in the movie, however, it should be recognized that the character manages to accomplish something rather amazing. Amara is a 15-year-old orphan who has been forced to learn to survive by being on her own, and develops a knack for engineering as a result. She builds her very own diminutive Jaeger that she names Scrapper, and what's most amazing about it is that she can actually operate it all by herself. Clearly this makes her an excellent fit for the Hopefuls program, but speaking to Cailee Spaeny on set, she explained that Amara's incredible technological breakthrough is actually kind of lost on her. Said the actress,
[It's a] single neural load. She's figured out how to pilot it herself, which I don't think she fully understands how groundbreaking it is, but she's figured that out herself.