I’d seen the first one close to when it came out and was wildly impressed with it. It took place in one location the entire time, but kept the story engaging and new throughout. The idea of having to keep quiet, and being unable to do conventional dialogue and filmmaking most of the time was certainly unique. John Krasinski – typically a comedic person in my mind, aside from his role in Jack Ryan – is actually an incredibly talented screenwriter and director, though that may be due to him being new to the scene. When you start out, you typically do everything right to a T, with your own lovely creativity sprinkled on top, as of yet unaffected by having written a hundred scripts over a career.
This sequel to his wildly popular foray into horror filmmaking was… not as good as the first one. Why? Well, there’s a couple simple reasons I’ll outline during this review. Performances were great, the monster effects were alright – a little see-through at some points, but great at others. But it lacked the novelty of the first film. We’ve seen the creatures, we know they can be killed, and so unfortunately, The genuine fear of them wore off a little.
The acting in this film was great. As far as I could tell, every character was believable – even the kids most of the time. Kids are hard to work with, as they have strict labor laws, of course, but they also don’t always have the life experience to equip them with acting prowess. It’s a bit like writing. They say trauma turns writers into authors – or screenwriters – and it certainly helps with acting, as well.
Emily Blunt was wildly convincing in her role as the mother (I don’t remember what the character names are, since they never really say them). Unfortunately, though, she didn’t have much to do in this film. I got the impression she was relegated to staying hidden with her son and baby so that the daughter could be the hero. I’ll discuss that more in the writing portion.
Cillian Murphy was surprising to see. He can pull off a great American accent, which screwed with my brain the entire time – I kept thinking I was seeing Tommy Shelby. He sold the conflicted man he was trying to play, though the writing didn’t give him much in the way of exploring his character on screen very much. What’s most likely is he’ll have some kind of bigger reveal of personality in the third… yes, they’re making a third.
When the son got his leg stuck in the bear trap, his reaction convinced me of his acting skill. Screaming in pain is pretty easy to act out, but he really let himself loose. Some of the more deep and emotional scenes between him and his sister, or his mother, were a little weak, though it helped that they weren’t really talking to each other.
Overall the acting was great. A little odd in some bits because of the actual lines of dialogue they were given, but definitely natural and effortless a lot of the time.
Again, not as good as the first. This one utilized a little too many tropes typical to this genre. Crows flying out of nowhere to make you jump? Really? A moldy dead body falling down right in front of someone in a tight space? Raiders of the Lost Ark did it first… I think.
The first one was good because you felt the tension along with the family trapped on their own farm. They had set up a way of life and you could see the routine they’d fallen into to stay alive. Every little thing they did that made noise had a reverberating consequence, as you knew their routine and way of life would be disrupted if they messed up – not to mention they would probably be dead.
The sacrifice of the father at the end meant something, because he was protecting his family. By that point, their routine was completely destroyed and the real outside world had leeched into their lives. There was a consequence to making noise, but it wasn’t just death. It was a complete and utter ruination of their way of life and their safety.
But that was the first one. In this one, they turned it into a more typical horror/adventure story. Three or four plotlines happening all at once, one of them being a journey to “save” the world… To continue the story (which I don’t think they should have) they were forced to expand, and in expanding, they became another alien horror film, except that they don’t talk most of the time. It was aliens coming to earth, killing a bunch of people, then this one young girl has the secret sauce that can finally stop the monsters. In the next film, the threat of the aliens, I predict, will be all but dissipated. It’ll be Resident Evil at that point, with people going around shooting them with deadly efficiency instead of being scared of them. Ever wonder why most fans of The Walking Dead stopped watching as soon as the zombies were no longer a problem?
But let’s talk about something so egregious, it occurred to me a couple minutes in. When these aliens find a human, they just give them a bitch slap and carry on. They quite literally crawl around smacking people. Why? Am I missing something here? They don’t eat the humans, which would make sense if they were predatory and wanted to hunt for food – they just smack them. If this was explained at some point, I certainly don’t remember. A monster in a film needs to have a reason why it’s a monster. These aliens crashed down on earth, and are now running around, killing humans. Why? Are they hyper sensitive to sound and whenever a human makes noise, it hurts them, so they just want everyone to shut up? I have no idea.
Pretty typical cinematography. It’s clear they were focused on the content and the story instead of the look, which is not always a bad thing. Having the CGI aliens visible in the far background as silhouettes really makes the world seem real, though. They did this in a couple shots, rendering the monsters as little, blurry blobs to make you believe they’re actually there in-camera.
The aliens are also caught half out of frame, which is always a smart thing to do when creating big, fake elements in a film. I’ll be convinced of the veracity of the creatures if it looks like you actually shot them, and they’re too big to fit into frame half the time. This is pretty standard stuff though, so I’d have more to talk about if they did the opposite.
Music was pretty good. Nothing that wowed me in any way. I liked the motif of the out of tune piano; it complimented a creepy horror film quiet nicely. Nothing revolutionary, to be sure, but the music matched the story, and sometimes that’s all you need.
I’d have done a little more, but then again, I like to think big about everything.
Would I watch it again? Probably not. It was a decent film, but good filmmaking doesn’t always mean rewatchability to me. It’s a horror movie at the end of the day, and people watch, and rewatch, horror movies to get scared. In that respect, would I be scared if I watched it a second time? No.
It’s not The Ring. It’s not the Exorcist or more apt of a comparison: Alien. It’s a pretty decent alien invasion film with a gimmick and a couple jump-scares. The first will likely go down as a classic in the genre, but the sequel is more of a money-making scheme than a proper continuation, with less heart and creativity than its predecessor.
See it once to witness a well-written horror film with aliens and female power, though then again, if I wanted those two things, Ridley Scott has me covered.