Don't get me wrong, I love Raleigh.
Charlie Hunnam's jaded, rugged-yet-puppy-eyed protagonist of the first Pacific Rim was one of the high points of the film, and his journey from grief-stricken ex-soldier to one of the saviors of humanity was an excellent driving force for the plot. Raleigh is undeniably the hero of the story, which is why it was so shocking to learn that Hunnam will not be returning for the eagerly anticipated sequel. And yet, this might be the best thing for the film.
Sure, there are plenty of things about Raleigh that we'll miss — his rippling muscles for one, and the way he looks at Mako like she's a warrior goddess descended from heaven to save us all (which let's face it, she probably is) — but his story is over. How do you top a dramatic almost-sacrifice, diving down into a dimension-ripping hellmouth to blow invading aliens all to hell? Solution: You don't. You get out while the getting's good, and you let the spotlight shine on someone else.
Passing The Torch
That someone, or rather those someones, are Mako Mori and her adopted brother, played by John Boyega. Mako has waited in the wings for far too long: Seemingly sidelined even in the first Pacific Rim, Mako had a compelling story as she sought vengeance for her parents' death, but the focus was firmly on Raleigh getting his groove back.
Even how she went from rookie-in-training to full-bird Jaeger pilot was vaguely patriarchal, as Raleigh argued his case with Stacker Pentecost, Mako's adopted father who was understandably hesitant to allow his young protege to kill Kaiju in anything other than a simulation. Mako's relationship with Stacker was one of the most poignant aspects of the film, but perhaps at the expense of her own heroic journey — Mako's story did focus a lot on the men in her life (namely Stacker and Raleigh), and she even tapped out of the final fight so that Raleigh could have his moment in the sun. (And let's not forget that moment where he literally helps her to breathe which... ok.)
Needless to say, Pacific Rim 2 would be missing a trick if it didn't bring Mako to the fore, as one of the saviors of humanity has to deal with her sudden acceleration from rookie to mentor, and how she responds to the inevitable return of the foe she thought she vanquished.
Not to mention her brother's sudden appearance — because Boyega's character was not alluded to in the previous film, we can assume that the two siblings may be estranged. How they end up working together would be a great emotional driving force for the sequel, especially if they end up piloting a Jaeger together. Which they definitely should.
Of course, Boyega himself might be the new protagonist, which would make sense considering the star of Star Wars is such a high-profile hire. His character is a total blank slate, leaving plenty of story possibilities for Pacific Rim 2 to explore. And according to Hunnam, the sequel will take the story to exciting new levels.
"I think they're on to something really exciting, it's a significant progression. You don't just rest on your laurels and do what you've already done again — it feels like they're really aspiring to push this thing forward and do something original."
Essentially, Raleigh's story is done. His character development arc was perfectly contained within the first movie, and there doesn't really seem to be anywhere for his character to go after that. He's already been a Jaeger pilot for years, he's already faced the return of the Kaiju, so there isn't much of a pull for his presence in Pacific Rim 2.
Passing the torch to the new heroes is the best thing Raleigh can do at this point, and while there are many things about him we'll miss, there are other things we'd rather see — like Mako beating down rookies in drift-combatibility training, before leaping into a Jaeger with her brother to go punch Kaiju in the throat. Yes please.
Who do you think the protagonist of Pacific Rim 2 should be?
[Source: Yahoo via IndieWire]