Review Date: June 12, 2009
Released by: New Line Cinema
Release date: 6/16/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
Full Frame 1.33:1
As film fans dedicated to the art behind films, weíd all like to believe that The Cell
ís modest box office success in 2000 was due primarily to the lush visual splendor of Tarsemís directorial vision. The reality is probably that Jennifer Lopez was just starting to break out as a bonafide media mainstay thanks to her Oscar nomination and newly minted singing career, and audiences flocked to see her in a new movie. They probably all left confused, but thatís a different matter. So whether the draw was Tarsem or Jennifer Lopez it doesnít really matter, because for The Cell 2
, the filmmakers have brought back neither. Nine years later. And you wonder why New Line went under. Well, put on the probes and letís see what itís like to step inside a vacant mind. A very vacant mind.
Some chick who isnít Jennifer Lopez but has the same mental powers is put to the test trying to help police find a missing person based on the synapses contained within possessions of the absent victim. She tracks the victim down, but because of a mental block brought on by the killer, sheís unable to save her. A victim dead and the killer still at large, thatís quite the cross that Maya Casteneda (Tessie Santiago
) must bear. With her confidence shattered, she doesnít know if she can risk another life, but she doesnít have much time to think about it, since the killer moves right on to the next target. The girl in his sights this time just happens to be the niece of Sheriff Harris (Chris Bruno
from TVís The Dead Zone
), so now Maya and Harris must work together to bring the killer down once and for all.
Whoís the killer? Well, remember the killer from the first film with the pierced nipples, gaunt skin and two giant, curling horns? This guy is nothing like it. In fact, all he could afford was a brush cut and an old police uniform. He did manage to secure a pretty cool name: The Cusp. Itís like The Edge, but a bit more TI-83 scientific sounding. Anyway, The Cusp (Frank Whaley
), who looks like a cross between Tobey Maguire and Ted Raimi (intimidating, I know), likes to kill his victims again and again and again, reviving them just enough so theyíll ultimately beg for their death. Kind of like how Jigsaw makes his victims choose death rather than have it forced upon them. Speaking of Saw
, The Cusp is always placing his victims in similar trap-like apparatuses. An homage, Iím sure.
Anyway, The Cuspís connection with Maya is that she was once a victim of his that he was unable to finish. You see, youíve got to kill them seven times before they can really die. Cats have nine lives, so I guess we get seven. I wonder how many a manatee has? Thereís something about taking the heart out, too, during the final death. But since The Cusp didnít do that, the endorphins released during death caused her mind to open in ways previously unknown to humans, thus enabling her to use her skills to surf through the memories of others. Sheís got to save Harrisí niece, but we all know that sooner or later sheís got to face off with the man who gave her the mental condition in the first place.
Youíll probably die a little from watching The Cell 2
, but donít worry, youíll still have six more lives afterwards. This is the kind of cookie cutter, riskless drivel that really gives direct to video the bad name it has today. Characters are never given any backstory, they just sort of work on preconceptions of what a cop, a serial killer, or a girl filling in for Jennifer Lopez would be. Itís already an uphill climb for actors filling in for Vince Vaughn, Vincent DíOnofrio and even J.Lo, so to give them zero character development is like popping tires at a wheelchair basketball game. The story is so blasť and telegraphed that youíll feel the clairvoyant in knowing everything thatís going to happen before it actually does. There arenít even any payoffs in the story Ė like there are no moments when a character trait (not that there are any in this movie anyway) changes the trajectory of a scene. Going even further, there isnít even a moment in the film where anything but the most predictable outcome ensues. The fact that itís all executed so poorly only adds to the pain.
When you had a low budget in the past, it used to mean that youíd have to use ingenuity and hard work to really pull it off. What you didnít have in effects you could make up in writing, a dynamic composition or a charismatic performance. Now, what it means is that you have less money to invest in CGI, so everything is going to look that much worse. Whether itís coming from New Line or Dimension Extreme, all these direct to video sequels to films we didnít really care about in the first place just seem to be getting it all wrong. Seriously, if you donít have the money for an elaborate inner-mind world, then donít write every scene to take place inside of one! In big Hollywood films, CGI has proved that it can tread water beside conventional effects work these days. In small scale shit like this, though, it continues to be the single biggest factor bringing down direct to video product today. Itís so fake, so cheap and just so downright lazy that stock After Effects filters have replaced what most used to achieve with creativity.
If the comatose performances, empty story and tacky effects work didnít already tip you off that the filmmakers were just cashing cheques, then the ending credits certainly will. Okay, first off Ė ELEVEN AND A HALF MINUTES. Like seriously, how can that happen? The extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy combined probably doesnít even touch that. Itís bad enough that a movie like this got made, but to have wasted the time of that many participants Ė close to twelve minutes worth, now thatís an abomination. The credits are ridiculous, but they donít end with the text. Realizing they were still well shy of the 90-minute golden standard, the film breaks each credit, and for the first five minutes or so they are single name only, with a long helicopter shot of the mountains. That would still suck even if the movie was set in a mountain, but considering the film really has no ties whatsoever to the location or scenery, these shots come off as nothing more than just tourism. Looking at the credits and all the Utah grant funding the film received, itís no surprise why we get our faces stuffed with the Rockies. I wish I could say that was it for the credits, but there is more.
So even with all that junk, the filmís still ticking in at a fat 85. Theyíre all out of helicopter B-roll, so what next? Well, how about playing a behind-the-scenes clip of a car jumping off of a ramp. That would be pretty cool, right? What were they thinking?! Have you ever seen a movie where the EPK is actually embedded within the film itself? Well, now I have. I mean, imagine watching the Universal Frankensteinłand then before the final credits it just cuts to some shaky Super8 of Karloff grabbing a croissant at craft service. Itís just ludicrous. So this fucking car stunt plays itself out for a minute or so, and then yep, back to credits. This time they scroll, thank god. So down they go for another few minutes, and finally we hit the 90-minute mark. Alright, it should all end now, right? No. Because all good things come in twos, the filmmakers put a SECOND behind-the-scenes clip just before the final fade to black. This time itís Chris Brunoís stunt double grabbing onto a flying helicopter. What a great day to be alive.
I seriously donít even know what to say about those end credits. I guess itís just another one of those endurance tests we as filmgoers must undergo just to prove that we really do work hard appreciating the cinema. If you can make it through 12-minutes of credits for a film that doesnít even deserve any, then Netflix Berlin Alexanderplatz
, thatíll be a sinch.
New Line Cinema was one of the early adopters of DVD, and also one of the first companies to offer both widescreen and full screen cuts of their film on a single disc. I guess they died with that adage, too. Both full frame and 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen versions are included on this dual-layer disc. It was shot on video, so it has that flat, limited color space of most video productions, with muddy colors and soft picture quality. The special effects are at least all consistently bad, without any lapses in color timing. There isnít much grain, and the print, being from a video source, is naturally all very clean, but it still isnít any good, either.
We get English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks for this mix, and while there are a few chopper scenes and several in ambient, dank basements and prison-esque rooms, the sound design is still pretty conservative. There is a bit of envelopment, but nothing at all really that notable.
So considering the way the end credits went, I half expected the making-of to contain the first 20-minutes of the movie that felt missing from the speedy beginning of the film. No such luck. Admittedly, the 30-minute documentary here is actually quite thorough, and interviews a broad range of the production team, from the assistant directors to the sound and special effects editors. The only problem is that the filmís nowhere near interesting enough to warrant such deconstruction. Thereís quite a bit of talk about the stunts and effects, and then a lot of navel glazing by the actors and above-the-line production crew. Youíd think theyíd just made the next The Blair Witch Project. Wondering why those effects look so bad? Well, you know your CGI is in trouble when your post-production workstations are iMacs from 2002. Proof that everyone cares about this documentary as much as they do the film, the ending bit consists of one of the stars actually apologizing for the quality of the EPK, saying that ďall the interviews blowĒ. Well, at least heís honest.
There are no other extras other than a digital copy of the film that can only be downloaded directly from the Warner website with a 12 character password. Hardly worth the effort!
Without an original thought in its mindhunting little head, The Cell 2
is as tepid and time wasting a direct to video sequel as could be imaginable. All the style of the original is gone, the characterizations are weak and the killer is about as scary as Mickey Rooney in Silent Night, Deadly Night 5
. You know that tape that kills people in The Ring
? Iím pretty sure that was the 12-minute end credit sequence from this death sentence. The video looks soft, washed out and unprofessional, and the audio isnít a whole lot better. The making-of documentary is notable for actually apologizing for itself just before the end credits. The Cell 2
lives up to its name, watching this movie is like being in prison. Avoid.
Movie - D
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B-
Supplements - C
- Running time - 1 hour 31 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- "The Cell 2: Behind the Scenes" featurette