Wait! Don’t I get a choice? Don’t all the condemned get a choice? I choose death!
I commented in my review for “Cube 2” that sequels are very rarely as good as the first film, but is even rarer is a good third film in a trilogy. When I think of poor “threequels” there are a few that jump immediately to mind as not being needed, being awful, not adding anything to the previous two, not really resolving anything from the first two films or on a regular basis, all of the above.
Some examples of very poor “threequels” are;
- Terminator 3
- Neverending Story 3
- Hangover 3
- The Matrix : Revolutions
- Jurassic Park 3
- The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
You get the idea.
Whilst the first Cube film was amazing and could have left to a new, long running franchise, they decided to then ruin the long term chances of that with the second installment, the horrendously boring “Cube 2 : Hypercube”, so my excitement for the third film was very, well, non-existent going into it, and whilst it is still nowhere near as good as the first film, it does start going back into the right direction.
It sees the return of trapped cubes, deaths of characters and actually expands on the universe by introducing the characters who control what happens in the cubes.
Wynn (Bennett) is a technician for a company that puts people who break the law in a form of rehabilitation, a maze of cubes, some of which are armed with traps that are designed to kill. Much to the frustration of his fellow technician, Dodd (Huband), Wynn keeps asking questions that he really shouldn’t be asking.
Meanwhile, a new group of participants had entered, headed by Cassandra (Moore), who takes an instant dislike to Kaskell (Roach) due to his job as a bounty hunter, either though he doesn’t remember it. As they move through the cubes the group starts to dwindle due to being trapped by flesh eating viruses, soundwaves and many others.
Things seem to be going as normal until suddenly an entrant from a previous group has found their way to the exist and Wynn notices that it is a former colleague of his. When he is killed by Dodd, despite surviving the cube, Wynn decides to take things into his own hands and enters the cube system to help Cassandra’s group escape via the hidden exit. Dodd soon finds himself accompanied by his supervisor who is determined to kill of Wynn within the cube.
So why is it better than the second one but not the first?
Well, it doesn’t take a lot to be better than the second one, although the one thing that they do have in common is poor female characters. In “Cube 2” there are four female characters, one is a boring woman with no personality, one is a senile old woman, one is a blind girl who can’t do anything for herself, and the other is one who has sex with literally the first man that she sees, and in “Cube Zero” there are only two female characters, with the main one being the irritating Cassandra.
Cassandra is an awful character, she makes herself unlikeable from the first second but turning on Haskell, despite it being obvious that he is no longer under control from the people who turned him into a bounty hunter (they are shown in flashbacks as having bright, lime green eyes when under control), she isn’t prepared to listen to his pleas of not knowing who he is and literally spits in his face.
She has no likeable qualities whatsoever and I was desperate for her to die and you shouldn’t have that from a film that is trying to promote them as one of the chief protagonists. When you want one of the protagonists to die, the filmmakers have not done a good job at all.
I didn’t feel the same sort of tension that I did in the first one and there is very little character development. Now, I mention character development in pretty much all of my reviews and whilst it’s not vitally important, you do want your characters to grow in some way, but they don’t. All the characters are the same from when you first see them until either when they die or the end of the film, depending on which is appropriate.
What I did like however was that it did expand on the situation by revealing some very clever elements, including;
- Realising at the end of the film that Kazan from the first film was more than likely a former employee of the company the runs the cube.
- Every cube is trapped but can be turned off and on, although in theory this does make the numbers completely irrelevant.
- Pretty much everyone within the cubes, barring one or two exceptions, actually gave their consent to be in there, regardless of whether they remember doing so or not.
That’s just a few of them but I do like that they thought to expand the universe rather than just shove people in a cube again to fight their way out. A lot of franchises, especially in the horror genre (although this isn’t horror), just repeat the same thing over and over again and that’s why a lot of people get bored of them very quickly. “Saw” is an excellent example of this. It’s almost unanimously agreed by anyone who has watched all seven that the first two are the best two, but after that nothing really changes.
Characters get put into a situation where they have the mutilate themselves, or others, in other to survive, and whilst there is a story going on in the background, you need what’s happening on the inside of these stories to be more than convenient ways of getting people to kill themselves.
For me one of the most important things that they did was completely abandon the portals and alternative reality nonsense that the second film turned into. They’ve taken what made the first film work and expanded on it, and whilst it’s nowhere near as good as the first one for many reasons, I will give it credit for trying.
The flipping between the cube and the control work both works and doesn’t work at the same time. It works because it expands on the first film and shows that the environment is control, there is a scene where the group enters a cube and Dodd’s supervisor turns on the traps in all of the surrounding cubes, and that was quite cool. However, it doesn’t work in one sense because one of the elements that made the first so intriguing was the claustrophobic environment, but due to the constant flipping you don’t feel as confined as the characters do and in a way the film loses some of the elements that made the first film so tense.
Finally, it’s hard not to talk about “Cube Zero” without talking about the traps and despite most of the film not being as good as the first, I did actually think that the traps in this film were actually better than in the first. For example, one of the characters gets infected with a very fast acting flesh-eating virus and all of a sudden no-one wants to be anywhere near her, nor the person who she accidentally infects.
Due to a slightly higher budget they were able to come up with a lot more interesting method of death, and this is evident from the first screen when a character is walking through a cube, gets sprayed with what he thinks is water, but it actually turns out to be something that corrodes his skin and his body literally falls to pieces. That was quite well done.
If you’re going into the film expecting it to be better than the first film then you’ll be wrong. It lacks a lot of what made the first film so good and whilst it does offer something new, the elements that it lost are too hard to overlook.
It is a definitely improvement from the second installment though, however, it’s probably for the best that the franchise stopped after this one. You can’t continue a franchise after only one of the installments was actually good, and whilst “Cube Zero” did try, it ultimately failed.