WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Steven S. DeKnight's Pacific Rim Uprising, in theaters now.
Fans of actor Charlie Hunnam were no doubt disappointed when it was revealed he wouldn't reprise his role as Kaiju War hero Raleigh in Pacific Rim Uprising. After all, Raleigh was key to the defeat of the enormous monsters in 2031's Pacific Rim, and many expected him to lead the charge in the sequel.
Repeated production delays created a scheduling conflict with Hunnam's passion project, Papillon, forcing him to drop out of Uprising. As the actor revealed last year, Legendary Pictures was generous enough to release him from his contract. However, the filmmakers didn't forget about Hunnam or his character, and even hint in the new robots-versus-monsters movie that there could be room for for Raleigh Becket to return to the franchise.
So, just how is Raleigh written out of Pacific Rim Uprising? Rather ... vaguely, it turns out.
Uprising, for whatever reason, treats Raleigh like Lord Voldemort, and appears scared to mention his name and clarify his status quo. However, director Steven S. DeKnight it clear the former Jaeger pilot is alive and well; he's just not involved in this new conflict with the Kaiju.
Our first hint comes when Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the renegade son of Idris Elba's Stacker Pentecost, reenlists as a Ranger to train young pilots alongside Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood). As they tour the new Jaeger headquarters, we see Gipsy Avenger, the upgrade of the Gipsy Danger once piloted by Raleigh and his late brother Yancy. As everyone stares in awe, Nate rambles on about it, all in the hopes of trying to inspire and redeem Jake.
Nate reveals he was actually supposed to pilot that Jaeger with Jake, but the latter sadly preferred to remain an undisciplined and stubborn runaway instead of becoming a Ranger. As he continues, Nate indicates to his teenage squad that once the Breach was sealed at the end of the Kaiju War, Jaeger pilots went into the private sector to make money, as seen in Uprising with the Shao Corporation, which hires them to control their new drones. While some may assume Raleigh is one of those recruits, Lambert pours cold water on that notion with a later hint, when he says the former pilot of Gipsy Avenger is now with the United Nations.
That can only be Raleigh, who was the lead pilot of Gipsy Danger after Yancy's death; Mako then joined as his co-pilot. Thus, it would make sense that he'd also have piloted the upgraded Gipsy Avenger for a while too. With Mako, also his love interest, promoted to the head of the new Jaeger program, it stands to reason that Raleigh may have wanted out the Jaeger game as well. What also makes the U.N. angle so plausible is that Raleigh already has a history with the organization, as in the 2013 film he was part of a construction crew that was building Kaiju-proof walls on the organization's behalf.
In Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, there's even a scene in which criticism is directed at the United Nations for playing politics with the plans that are supposed to protect people from Kaiju attacks. So there's a good chance that Raleigh, as someone who experienced war in the trenches, actually moved into a position where he could make a real difference.
Raleigh is actually name-dropped later, when Jake delivers a speech to rouse the new generation of Rangers against the new Kaiju apocalypse, and mentions Hunnam's character as a legend they should be living up to.
And that's about all we get of Raleigh in the sequel. He's definitely not dead, but his precise activities are left a mystery. However, the film ends on a note that could easily set up his return, with the humans now planning to open breaches of their own, take Jaegers through and invade the Precursors' home for a change. To carry out that mission, humanity will need all hands on deck, and Raleigh would certainly be a valuable asset.
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight, Pacific Rim Uprising is headlined by franchise newcomers John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Jing Tian, Adria Arjona and Zhang Jin, with returning stars Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day and Burn Gorma. The film opens Friday nationwide.