With a name like Jake Pentecost, it’s fitting that John Boyega’s character in Pacific Rim Uprising has a backstory that’s practically biblical.

He is the estranged son of Stacker Pentecost, Idris Elba’s character from the 2013 original, and although his father is no longer around, Jake has come home to take up the old man’s cause – kicking monster ass with giant robots.

These machines, known as Jaegers, successfully beat back an invasion of behemoth Kaiju fiends in the first movie, but a decade later the world is still a bruised and battered place. And the creatures are making a comeback.

“Jake is the prodigal son,” Boyega tells EW. “He is a young guy who was on the cusp of greatness in his early days when he was training to be a Jaeger pilot, but he always had a troubled relationship with Stacker. I’m the son he didn’t really talk about in the first film … the product of Stacker’s first love.”

Father and son fell out, he says, “because of Stacker’s attention and hope and faith in Mako rather than him.” Mako is the Jaeger meister who helped save the world last time, played by Rinko Kikuchi, who returns for the sequel – unlike previous costar Charlie Hunnam.

This time, Mako is Jake’s protector, despite their awkward history. “He felt he never lived up to his father’s expectations and so he decided to leave the Jaeger program and start stealing for a living,” Boyega says.

Jake thrives as a black market retailer. The monster attacks from the sea have driven the wealthy inland. Middle America is now prime real estate, while the poor populate the coasts, where they could be the first to face an assault.

“When we meet him, he is living in an abandoned mansion in Santa Monica, which is half a mansion anyway because there’s a big Kaiju claw-swipe that has crushed part of it,” Boyega says. “He sells and buys stolen goods, and some of that includes Jaeger parts.”

The masses of poor huddled on the coasts have decided to start building their own giant machines. If there’s going to be a fight, they’re going to make sure they’re ready for it. That brings him into contact with newcomer Cailee Spaeny’s amateur Jaeger pilot, Amara, who is building one of her own battle-bots.1 2 Exclusive  Pacific Rim Uprising photos offer first look at John Boyega preparing to stomp monsters

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When the two of them break one too many laws and Mako can’t protect them anymore, they’re given a choice. Actually, not much of a choice. “The only thing he can do to compensate for his crimes is join the Jaeger program and teach the kids what he learned,” Boyega says.

That reunites him with his old friend Lambert (played by Scott Eastwood), who will mind-meld with him to co-pilot on the state-of-the-art new Jaeger known as Gipsy Avenger. You can see them both below, bracing for battle.

“They were brothers,” Boyega says, but that bond broke when Jake ran away. “Being in each other’s heads in The Drift, they know each other’s thoughts, so they have great moments of hashing out what happened in the past.”2 1 Exclusive  Pacific Rim Uprising photos offer first look at John Boyega preparing to stomp monsters

Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

While they’re sorting out their grudge, it’s also going to be a monster mash.

“The Kaiju have found a new way,” Boyega says. “They are way more intelligent than we thought they were. The monsters you saw in the first movie were the test run, to see how the planet would hold up. The breach we thought was closed is not their only way into our world. Their plans are more specific. Jake leads the team in trying to build up a new defense against that.”

That means new mechs:4 1 Exclusive  Pacific Rim Uprising photos offer first look at John Boyega preparing to stomp monsters

Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

Gipsy Avenger (center, foreground): “She’s an upgrade model form Gipsy Danger in the first movie,” Boyega says.

“She is still a two-man Jaeger and has new weapons and technology. The new Gipsy has LCD screens and holographic imagery of what is going outside. Her gravity sling has improved,” he adds. “Pilots are no longer locked into robot by feet. It has a scanning system that makes the drift easier to handle. Gipsy Avenger is strongest and hardest to operate.”

Saber Athena (far left, in orange): “She’s the fastest Jaeger, and she is agile and assigned two skillful pilots who know how to do martial arts,” Boyega says. “She has two swords she can join together to slice stuff down. She’s flexible and very fast.”

Guardian Bravo (far right) in red: “She has big electric whips, but is very stocky and strong,” Boyega says.

Titan Redeemer* (above): “She is a mystery rogue Jaeger, but is really strong and advanced,” Boyega says. “She has guns on the chest. That Jaeger is, in fact, a three-man rig — one is in the cockpit shooting missiles and bullets from the chest.”