Tuesday , 28 March 2023

A Quiet Place Part II Roars into Theaters

For the past year plus, movie theaters have been rather silent for the most part, either closed or at reduced capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic which you may have heard about. While a number of films have made attempts to usher audiences into theaters once again, with varying degrees of success, from Tenet to Wonder Woman 1984 to Godzilla vs. Kong to Spiral: From the Book of Saw, only now that we’ve reached Memorial Day Weekend, what used to be the traditional start of the summer movie season, do things seem to be getting back to normal, with movie theaters once again filled with the smell of buttery popcorn and hungry audiences ready to devour new, exciting entertainment on the big screen. Perhaps, ironically, the first movie set to welcome back the sound of crowded theaters in over a year is a film often devoid of any sound at all – A Quiet Place Part II.

When the first A Quiet Place was released in April of 2018, it took the box office by storm, grossing $50M its first weekend on its way to a $188M domestic run and over $340M worldwide. All on a mere $17M budget. Critics and audiences alike were taken by John Krasinski’s monster flick – yes, that John Krasinski – Jim, from The Office – which he co-starred in with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, and a particularly effective turn by teen actress, Millicent Simmonds, who also happens to be deaf, as is her character in the movie. Centering on a family’s efforts to survive on an Earth overrun by vicious creatures that hunt and kill by sound, the film masterfully blended family drama, incredible suspense and horror. (Read the Gore 4 review – Screams Aplenty in A Quiet Place.) Based on how the film ended, a sequel was inevitable. Which brings us to 2020 and an Earth overrun by a deadly virus that hunts and kills by attacking the respiratory system.

Originally set for release in March of last year, A Quiet Place Part II actually had its world premiere at Lincoln Center in NYC on March 8, 2020. TV spots were running and Emily Blunt and John Krasinski were set to make the talk show rounds to promote the film. As the pandemic took hold and theaters began to shut down, it was clear the film had to be be delayed. A streaming service was not an option, and besides, this is the type of film that screams to be seen in a theater, with top-notch sound and an enthusisatic audience. After a number of postponements and release date changes, A Quiet Place Part II finally settled for this Memorial Day holiday weekend and it was well worth the wait.

Part II fascinatingly serves as both a direct sequel, picking up immediately after the events of the first film, as well as a prequel, opening with an entire extended sequence depicting the initial onset of the attack by these ravenous creatures. Very little, actually next to nothing was explained about these monsters in the first Quiet Place. While the movie succeeded without providing much in the way of answers, that didn’t mean that we didn’t have plenty of questions. Where did these creatures come from? What is their ultimate purpose? How many are there? Is this a worldwide phenomenon? Do they actually eat their victims or just kill for sport or for some other reason? And are there any Twinkies left in the world? Wait, that’s another movie. With the aforementioned prequel portion of the film, we sort of get some answers, but not a whole lot. What we do get is a chance to see John Krasinski’s character once again. You might be wondering, well, what about the kids? The actors portraying them will certainly be older in real life, yet they are playing the same age again in this film, and actually a full year younger too for a significant stretch. For Millicent’s character, daughter, Regan, the age difference is not especially noticeable. But in the case of younger son, Marcus, played by Noah Jupe, the growth spurt is especially jarring at first. I don’t know if there was anything that realistically could’ve be done with f/x, and eventually, you get over the change in age and size. It’s ultimately probably more important to have the same actor return for the role. Noah does a great job, though his character’s constant state of fear, in stark contrast to his sister’s strength and courage, gets on one’s nerves at times.

New cast members added to this installment include Cillian Murphy, a former friend and neighbor, Djimon Hounsou, as a survivor on an island colony and Scott McNairy as a member of a group just as dangerous as the creatures. Murphy essentially takes over Krasinski’s fatherly role and provides a worthy addition to the franchise. Emily is exceptional once again as the mother who will stop at nothing to protect her children. And Millicent, in an expanded role, shows off her incredible gifts, made more impressive for someone who doesn’t utter a word. Returning to the director’s chair is John Krasinski, who wrote the script as well. His talent as a filmmaker has noticeably improved. While he did a superb job on the first film, expertly using sound design to convey the horrific tale, he employs auditory tactics to even greater effect for this chapter. We go back and forth between hearing the action on screen ourselves to what it sounds like, or rather what it’s like without sound, for hearing impaired Regan. It’s a very effective technique. And because there are significant stretches where the film is silent, when there is a sudden noise, it is especially jolting. Also of note is the clicking sound the creatures make, along with their horrific roars when they are angry or in distress. Another directorial technique Krasinski uses quite successfully is having multiple setpieces occur simultaneously, and cutting back and forth between them, often as the characters are facing similar threats. This adds immensely to the already unbearable suspense.

As mentioned earlier, A Quiet Place Part II was originally set for release just as the real life pandemic was getting underway and about to change every aspect of our world. So perhaps it is fitting that this film is the one to jumpstart the theatrical movie-going experience for a large majority of people. The movie is actually more relevant now as we all have some idea of what it’s like to be afraid to go outside and come into contact with other people. We can understand isolation and maybe even living on limited supplies for a period of time. For the survivors of the world of A Quiet Place, living and enjoying life is all but a memory. It’s all about survival now and protecting your loved ones, if any are still around. There are many similarities with another extremely popular post-apocalyptic world, that of The Walking Dead. There too, people are initially more concerned with just survival before even thinking of restoring some semblance of a society and normal life. While the threat of the living dead, aka, walkers, looms everywhere, just like with the creatures in A Quiet Place, it’s the danger that exists from other people, who care more about their own survival than your life, that remains omnipresent as well and can sometimes pose an even greater threat. Also, while sound is much more of a factor in A Quiet Place, loud noises like a gunshot or knocking something over, can spell doom if it attracts those out to kill you, whether they’re among the dead or living.

It does appear that the timing of A Quiet Place Part II‘s ultimate release was an appropriate and successful one, as the film opened with a pandemic record of $48.4M for the 3-day opening weekend, and $58.5M for the full 4-day Memorial Day Weekend. That’s especially impressive when you consider the first film’s $50.2M opening haul in April of 2018. The original, of course, was a brand new entity, while the sequel has a built-in audience. The theaters that remain closed in North America, coupled with continuing trepidation of some moviegoers was most likely offset by the anxious excitement many people had to return to the movies in a theatrical setting. And unlike some more recent releases (Godzilla vs. Kong, Mortal Kombat, Cruella), the theater was the only place to see A Quiet Place Part II. While a number of theaters throughout the rest of the world are at different stages of opening (from Ireland to Japan), A Quiet Place II‘s triumphant launch bodes well for the industry and upcoming theatrical releases, from F9: The Fast Saga to Black Widow, that have had their release dates postponed for over a year.

The movies are back, baby, so grab that popcorn and drink, sit back and enjoy one of the quintessential entertainment experiences – the supreme thrill of seeing a movie on the big screen with other people. It’s one of the simple joys of life, and maybe now, one we will appreciate more than ever.

— by Brian de Castro

One comment

  1. Komrad Venessa Wicked

    The buttery popcorn was so missed. Your review is spot on. A Quiet Place II had me at the edge of my seat. At one point I almost left the theater because the film was causing me so much anxiety & stress. I hope to see you soon for a Wicked horror movie.