Release Date: May 28th, 2021
Director: John Krasinski | MPAA Rating: PG-13 | LeavittLens Rating: 6.5
As a world, few films in recent memory have created a cinematic experience quite like the post-apocalyptic reality of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place series. Particularly in a filmscape inundated by loud, excessive, and often indulgent shows of action and noise on the big screen, a film that maintains thrilling action while reducing noise to a minimum is a refreshing and intriguing gift to the modern moviegoer. Krasinski’s highly original first film provided a taut and compelling theatrical experience, one that involves the audience in the world in a way I haven’t seen since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. I can still fondly remember having the feeling of fear in every bite of popcorn, wanting to avoid any noise as I entered into the lives of the characters! At just ninety minutes in its run time, the first film’s brisk pace mirrors the agility of the monsters themselves, and its focused narrative prevents unnecessary world-building questions from arising, allowing the audience to simply enter into the experience. Few films can capture quite like A Quiet Place.
Following its great commercial success–its streamlined $22 million budget was blown out of the water by a $341 million box office showing in 2018–a sequel was an obvious decision for distributor Paramount. And while A Quiet Place Part II certainly reaches, in spurts, many of the peaks of it predecessor (its opening sequence is particularly engrossing and effective), it fails to hit with the same resonance.
Following an early flashback, the sequel film is set 474 days after the invasion of mysterious alien monsters, picking up almost immediately after the first film ended. Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) is now widowed after the sacrificial death of her husband (John Krasinski) in the first film, and she is left with her deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), her son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and newly born child from that incredible scene in the first film. The family has elected to leave their safe haven on the farm, as their recent encounter with the monsters has left the place in shambles. Following an expectable run-in with booby traps and more monsters, the family is heroically saved by their pre-apocalyptic neighbor, Emmett (Cillian Murphy).
It is at this point that the film begins to devolve into more stereotypical genre territory, falling especially prey to the old character-does-something-no-normal-person-would-do horror movie cliche. This happens on numerous occasions, and it becomes increasingly clear that in expanding beyond the claustrophobic setting of the first film (which focuses almost exclusively on the Abbott family) Krasinski’s writing is forced to tread ground that has already been tread in many a post-apocalyptic film or show. This ultimately prevents the audience from having much investment in characters beyond those we met in the first movie; multiple people serve as glorified Macguffins, behaving or acting strictly as a means to the story’s end, rather than as complete and compelling elements themselves.
Given the premise, it would be almost impossible for this film not to generate a flurry of legitimate and heart-pumping thrills, and Krasinski’s directorial work again creates a terrific environment that carries the film through its writing lulls. Yet in expanding the world (and budget – $61 million for this film) we don’t find much in the way of expanded interest or ideas; while it carries many of the same themes of family, sacrifice, and love, it does not develop those in any meaningful way, revealing that oftentimes–particularly with high-concept work like this–less is actually more.
While the law of diminishing returns has started to set in with this sequel, the film has still made $191.7 million at the box office to date, even with many theaters at less than full capacity. And so we may find ourselves in the midst of another brilliant original idea turned franchise for the sake of maximizing profit, an all too common trend in the film industry. While this world certainly remains worth exploring, I’d advise us to have expectations that are a bit quieter moving forward.