Mind you: I'm still hammering out formats with which to make this stuff appealing all on its own, so bear with me as we grow, change, flex, etc.
In my continuing quest to make SciFiHistory.Net the web's premiere source for All Things SciFi, I'm quickly penning this piece just this morning (early riser here, folks) in hope of promoting yet one more genre franchise ... namely DC Comics' superspeedster The Flash! The 'running man' has enjoyed a few TV incarnations as well as a few big screen appearances, and I think it's about time he be given his due in this space ... don't you think?
Mind you: I'm still hammering out formats with which to make this stuff appealing all on its own, so bear with me as we grow, change, flex, etc.
Comic book writer Len Wein (1948-2017) is largely regarded in the industry for his work in creating the wide, wide, wet world of DC Comics' Swamp Thing, but in his work for the company he also did some work on The Flash, namely the issues 208, 212, 215, 217 from the Scarlet Speedster's run in the years 1971–1972. Readers are always thankful when such renowned veterans pen stories and/or complete bits and pieces of the broader puzzle, and Wein's career is certainly one deserving further study. Wein was born on this day in 1948.
Ah, the lovely Paula Marshall! How do we love thee? Let us count the ways! Though I'd seen her in other things, the actress really caught my eye in the short-lived but vastly underrated TV Fantasy/Serial Cupid (1998-1999), a show that deserved a huge audience. Little did I know until I recently rewatched CBS's pilot episode of The Flash that she was in that 1990 installment as none other Barry's long-time love interest Iris West! Alas, her character only appeared in the pilot, as Allen's attentions in this incarnation were reserved for Christina McGee (played by the lovely Amanda Pays). Marshall was born on this day in 1964.
Honestly, I'm not a fan of the Kevin Smith universe of things, but -- as always -- I have nothing but respect for folks who can toil away and actually make a career out of the entertainment business ... so in that respect let's give a shout-out to today's birthday boy Jason Mewes. To date, this lucky Thespian has enjoyed a pair of appearances in the popular Flash incarnation on The CW; and I suspect if longtime collaborator Smith has anything to say about it then we haven't seen the last of this merry man! Mewes was born on this day in 1974.
Alas, faithful readers, that's all I have for today (or this is all my research has rewarded me to this point); but you know I'll be on the lookout for items to add to this space in the years ahead. In the meantime, let's all hope that Barry keeps running!
Science Fiction and Fantasy films are chock full of 'Helen Of Troy' stories.
You know what I mean, right? I'm talking about the tale of a woman of unquestioned beauty, so astonishingly attractive that she can launch a thousand ships to war. (I've always called this the 'Helen Of Troy' Effect, though I suspect someone wiser than I has a better name for it.) It's a phenomenon employed in thousands of genre films -- with a bit of variation -- like King Kong (1933), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), or even The Stepford Wives (1975) to a degree. I suppose the point of what some may deem misogynist overtones is that, yes, a pretty face can drive the sane or insane mind to do just about anything; and that sentiment has found a means to weave its way into our culture in thoughtful and even campy ways.
And speaking of camp? I'd like to tell you a little something-something about a little film called Robot Monster (1953).
Even in its day, Robot Monster was laughed at by critics and audiences alike. It's a bad film -- conceived poorly, shot poorly -- but despite our betters pushing us to embrace more intelligent features Robot Monster endures to this day. It's found a cult audience -- the kind of folks who aren't afraid to laugh at something that transcends lunacy -- and perhaps no one else is as deserving of the praise as the actors and actresses who helped 'sell' this thing to the audience, one of which was the lovely Claudia Barrett.
A California native, Barrett toiled away in obscurity until being contracted by Warner Bros. into their studio system. Essentially, her task was to fill in bit part after bit part within the corporate structure. As often happens in Tinseltown, her beauty pushed her higher and higher up the credit list until eventually she found prime billing status aboard Robot Monster. I suspect this little feature -- shot somewhere on a budget between $13,000 and $16,000 (I've seen different numbers) -- probably didn't light the right kinds of fires; and she disappeared back into the studio system. Her last picture was dated at 1964, and then she simply vanished from starring roles of any type.
I've scanned a few obituaries of the lady who passed recently. It would seem that she didn't leave Hollywood behind exactly so much as she found a calling that brought her greater hapiness: apparently she spent years with the AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) in fostering the Oscars presentation for those scientific and technical awards which get their own separate ceremony and a brief recap at the big show. Good for her!
Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this lovely lady.
True story: I honestly didn't much care for Supernatural early in its run.
Essentially, I tuned in for a few episodes, thought it was a bit too sugary for my likes, and tuned it off. I loved the cast -- Ackles and Padalecki and the great Jim Beaver -- but the stories were a bit loose with the mythology at this point. Misha Collins wasn't on the show yet, nor was the always reliable Mark Sheppard. Again, this was very early, a first season kinda reaction.
Eventually, my wife turned me on to it much later in the run. She had discovered it via streaming, and she encouraged me to go back to it. What we did was purchased a few of those early seasons on DVD, and we binged through them in a variety of sessions. Even though I'd still argue some of the 'lore' is a bit goofy (for my tastes, anyway), I was won over by the camaraderie of the cast: they clearly loved what they were doing, and it was hard to not embrace the winning chemistry.
Yeah, like so many, we thought the show took a bit of time to "find itself" again after Season 5 (the originally plotted 'ending' to the program). I'm not so sure it ever truly rediscovered the strength of those earliest seasons, but the storytelling evolved to the point wherein either you accepted it as it was or not: we did -- at least, we wanted to see where it was all going -- so we hung with it. We're glad we did.
I will say -- briefly -- that I think the show's finale, while good, was the wrong way to go. I'd rather they kept the franchise open-ended to a degree as I think it could've been a great property to revisit in either a continuation later on or a big screen adventure or two; but -- as they say -- it is what it is. The great characters were now reduced to little more than their own mythology ... and elderly Sam's wig was damn awful.
In any event, I'd like to keep the show alive for those who love it, and I'll continue to tinkering with these "On This Day In _____ History" as time permits.
I've always been a fan of Mike Dopud's work. He just seems to have this great blue collar work ethic -- it's about the story, not about me -- and I appreciate those who toil away in work after work always giving the story nothing but his best. He did enjoy a single appearance in the wide, wide world of Supernatural ... and wouldn't you know it would be in flannel? He's also been a part of The Outer Limits, Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Stargate Universe, Continuum, Dark Matter, and The 100 ... just to name a few. Dopud was born on this day in 1968.
The great DJ Qualls has enjoyed a solid career, much of which has been part and parcel of Science Fiction and Fantasy's biggest properties. His 'Garth Fitzgerald IV' enjoyed a full creative character arc in his appearances across Supernatural's 15 bloody seasons; and he's gone on to pop up in such franchises as ABC's Lost, Amazon's The Man In The High Castle, and Syfy's Z Nation. His film work includes the genre entry The Core (2003). Qualls was born on this day in 1978 ... and he remains one of the industry's skinniest actors!
I've mentioned before -- many, many times in this space -- about how I'm of the opinion that 1985's Back To The Future is, without a doubt, one of the very best examples of a script and finished product that effectively combines Science Fiction and Comedy to the benefit of the audience.
In other words, both SciFi fans and Comedy fans can come to the film and appreciate what all of the players have accomplished; and both groups can rather easily set aside the differences they may have with the other's particular genre all for the sake of just having a good time for the films 116 minutes. Think what you may, but this successful combination of two genres that normally don't go together is exceedingly rare: hats off to all involved for seriously not only getting this one right but also for hitting it out of the park as BTTF remains watchable decades after its first appearance in cinemas.
In any event ... here are today's citations relating to the burgeoning history of the saga.
The original Back To The Future -- as well as the subsequent films -- are quintessential buddy pictures, and they feature one of cinema's more unlikely couplings ever: a wizened scientist (Doc Brown) and his always-running-late high school counterpart, Marty McFly, played by today's "birthday boy" Michael J. Fox.
Fox had already achieved household success with his work on television's popular Family Ties, a place where he certainly displayed an affinity for character as well as a solid command of comic timing. While he may not have been the first choice to play Marty McFly (a curious miscast of Eric Stoltz who I've read didn't find the film 'funny'), he remains the one that audiences certainly warmed to and appreciate to this day.
Though he's certainly gone on to other things, I suspect the actor will always be known for his work here, and why not? The Back To The Future trilogy retains its magic even upon subsequent viewings, and it's nice to have a measure of SciFi that's also family friendly in this day and age.
Honestly, I just love older SciFi films.
The simplest, purest reason for this is I tend to love films adorned with practical effects and real set decoration and construction. At one level, I think I'm almost CGI-intolerant; but the truth is I think great CGI has its time, place, and uses as well. But older films have a certain look that modern features just can't match, especially on the 'retro cool' factor with maybe just a touch of kitsch thrown in to bring it all back to Earth.
So any time one of these older Science Fiction film gets slated for commercial release, I'm usually in the market to give it a solid look-see; and that's likely what I'll be doing this July when Flight To Mars (1951) gets a release. Directed by Lesley Selander -- a storyteller caught somewhere between A and B pictures from what I've read -- this 1950's feature starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, and Arthur Franz. According to IMDB.com, here's the plot summary:
"A newspaper reporter and a bunch of scientists fly a rocket to Mars just to find out that Martians look exactly like us. Mars is running low on one of their natural resources (Corium), and plan to steal the Earth astronauts' rocket and conquer Earth. The Martian underground helps the Earthmen stop the insidious plan."
As is the case with many of these smaller SciFi films of a certain era, it's escaped the attention of serious students of film, making it perfect for those of us who seriously get jazzed about them; and I'm looking forward to viewing and reviewing should the opportunity present itself in the days ahead.
I have obtained a copy of the press release issued by The Film Detective, and I'm happily copying and pasting below for all involved. It is up for pre-order at Amazon.com, and those interested in getting to the front of the line can go right here.
Classic ’50s Sci-Fi Adventure Flight to Mars is
Launching to Special-Edition Blu-ray & DVD, July 20
From the Dawn of the Science-Fiction Boom, With a Stunning, 70th Anniversary Restoration
From the Original Cinecolor Separation Negatives & Out-of-This-World Special Features
LOS ANGELES — July 2021 — For Immediate Release — Cinedigm, the leading independent streaming entertainment company super-serving enthusiast fan bases, announced today that The Film Detective, the classic film restoration and distribution company, is releasing Flight to Mars (1951) on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD, July 20.
Flight to Mars blasted into theaters at the dawn of the 1950s science-fiction boom from legendary producer Walter Mirisch (Some Like It Hot, The Magnificent Seven, West Side Story, The Great Escape, The Pink Panther). Filmed in gorgeous Cinecolor with special effects ahead of its time, Flight to Mars stands as an eye-popping, must-have feature for any fan of the science-fiction genre.
Starring Marguerite Chapman (The Seven Year Itch, Coroner Creek, Destroyer, A Man’s World, Parachute Nurse) and Cameron Mitchell (The High Chaparral, Hollywood Cop, Monkey on My Back, How to Marry a Millionaire), the film follows five Earthlings who land a successful space expedition on Mars, where they encounter seemingly welcoming Martians. To their surprise, the Martians fear they have depleted the key mineral used to power their life support systems and are determined to get off the red planet by any means necessary, including stealing the Earthlings’ ship and invading Earth!
Restored via a 4K transfer sourced from the original 35mm Cinecolor separation negatives, the stunning restoration and preservation was completed by Paramount Pictures Archive, Andrea Kalas, Charles Stepczyk and Charlotte Johnson and serves as the latest collaboration between The Film Detective and The Wade Williams Collection, with future titles to be announced this summer from Williams’ expansive collection of essential genre films.
OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD SPECIAL FEATURES: Two new documentary shorts from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, Walter Mirisch: From Bomba to Body Snatchers and Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema's First Space Race, with celebrated science-fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate ● Audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys ● Full-color insert booklet with essay, Mars at the Movies, by award-winning author Don Stradley ● English and Spanish subtitles.
Flight to Mars will be available for purchase on July 20 on special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95) and DVD ($19.95).
To learn more, visit: https://www.thefilmdetective.com/flight-to-mars
Whether you personally like the film or not, you cannot deny the power of 1951's SciFi/Classic The Day The Earth Stood Still from 20th Century Fox.
The Robert Wise directed feature turns an incredible 70 years young today, and its message of "you Earthlings better get your act together" continues to resonant with fans, even those who've someone never managed to see it until recently ... at least, that's a sentiment not lost of the hosts of The Front Row Network, an Illinois-based podcast somehow looked up with NPR. (FYI: I'm no fan of NPR, but I'm a reasonable fan of podcasts. Not crazy about them. Just enjoy them occasionally.) It would seem that the folks in this podcast were not all that familiar with the property but recently decided to give it a go: interested readers can check out the 'cast right here.
Having just completed listening to it, I'll say that it's fairly solid though largely introductory for those of us who've long ago appreciated what cultural weight the feature clearly holds in our genre and beyond. I don't know that I agree with all of their impressions of the film, but I've always argued that it's downright cool to chat with folks who've never enjoyed it the way long-time fans have: such discussions truly gives us something to think about when we're considering what we like, why we like it, and why we'd still recommend it despite the age of some of the narrative.
I will say that it's always prescient to keep in mind that each of us takes what we want from art. Some of what these folks inferred from it clearly comes from their own perceptions and experiences, as well as their way of looking at today's world. I'd suggest that I see some elements a bit differently, and that's the nature of interpreting art: it's personal, and it means something fresh and different to many of us.
That said, it's still a good listen. Enjoy ... if you're into that sort of thing.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!
Mark my words, kids: the overwhelming danger of allowing for the SciFi films of Christopher Nolan is that we're inevitably going to be indoctrinated with a bunch of familiar-looking incarnations, no doubt many of them inferior but attempting to push the same buttons that have already been pushed before.
Lo and behold, now we have one which has sprung from the mind of Lisa Joy in the form of Reminiscence, a script that I believe has been in development for some time. (It seems to me that I've read about this one from a few years back.) With the release of the trailer, it's clear that Joy is staking out territory very, very, very familiar to Christopher Nolan ... who happens to be her brother-in-law as she's married to Chris's brother Jonathan.
Huh. Go figure.
Now, I'm not opposed to this on many levels. Good SciFi begats more good SciFi, and that's always a big plus so far as audience members like myself. Even when I've seen bad SciFi (and you folks know in reading in this space that I've seen plenty), I'm thankful for it largely because I know it's derivative of something else, something maybe superior or inferior, and it gives me something to watch. As I've always argued, I'd rather have more choices than less, so I've learned at my ripe old age to be thankful for small miracles.
But -- as I cautioned above -- there's a risk in going back to this memory-induced well too often; and I'm not sure this one has the legs to stand on its own.
Well, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have (in my humble opinion) pretty much messed up the world of HBO's Westworld (which they're responsible for). As I've said, I've found quite a bit of the storytelling over there a bit incoherent: half-baked ideas desperately in need to greater fusion. It isn't as if the effort is unworthy: rather I don't think audiences should be made to -- ahem -- 'make up their own mind' about events that occurred and whether or not they're real in the context of the greater story. Westworld has an overwhelming nebulousness to it that I'm personally uncomfortable with ... so I'm going to just keep my fingers crossed with Reminiscence and hope for the best.
Trailer is below. If interested, check it, and feel free to sound off.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!
One of the things I've always wanted to do on the MainPage here of SciFiHistory.Net is to conceive these pull-out features on individual days regarding the movers and shakers within a wider franchise for a bit of additional focus. For example, I've always wanted to pen a daily feature along the lines of 'All Roads Lead To Marvel' wherein I specifically highlighted all of the associated birthdays, movies, TV episodes, etc., relating to the Marvel Universe ... but as anyone can guess it takes more than a bit of time to build up those citations with research. So, in the meantime, I might just start putting together what I can in smaller blog posts like this -- the first one -- for "Savior Of The Universe: On This Day In Flash Gordon History!"
Naturally, I need a bit of additional preparation -- graphics and the like -- to get closer to what I envision, but as I sat here this morning I figured I wasn't getting any younger; and since life was getting only shorter I'd make an honest stab at this.
So without further ado ...
Born on this day in 1924 was illustrator and comics book artist was Frank Bolle, a creative who actually worked on the Gold Key Comics run of the immortal Flash Gordon during the 1970's. Fans interested in seeing the work he created can purchase a copy of a copy of the Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives: Volume 4 (Dark Horse Comics, first edition printed in 2011) as all indications are Bolle's run is included in this collection. Alas, it's definitely priced a bit steep for my liking; hopefully there will eventually be a digital release that's priced more affordable for the masses-at-large.
Flash! He'll save every one of us!
Not all that long ago, I got into a brief scuffle with a fellow SciFi fan on Facebook.
We were having a back-and-forth about Debris, NBC’s weekly procedural exploring a pair of government agents trying to track down and retrieve the fallen wreckage of an alien spaceship from across the United States. His position was that Debris wasn’t even a Science Fiction show, that there was no examination of the ‘said debris’ regularly, and that if anything the program was little more than mainstream fare with some psychological overtones. My position was that he was clearly watching a different version of the show than I was – one likely broadcast in his own head – as every single episode dealt directly with the effects ‘said debris’ was having on the victims unfortunate enough to find it.
Don’t worry. We parted friends.
Still, I get the fellow’s point: Debris’ premise meant that the audience wasn’t going to be spending an awful lot of time in outer space or ogling the flashing bells and whistles of a high-tech military laboratory (or starship bridge), the very kinds of things many TV fans still tune in to see. Instead, this ‘said debris’ was far more emotional and/or dramatic storytelling. Wouldn’t you know it, but we, the audience, would have to spend time investing in things like characters, actions, and consequences when all we really wanted were aliens, phasers, and deep space travel.
Yes, I kid, but it’s easy (or should be) to see my point: Debris was never intended to be your ‘run of the mill’ SciFi/Fantasy weekly. It was about more than that. Much more than that.
For those who missed it, Debris sprang from the mind of J.H. Wyman, a producer of Fox’s stellar Fringe and the criminally-underrated Almost Human. Fringe dealt with a team of experts trying to explain the unexplainable, and the program explored such high-profile SciFi tropes as cloning, mind-enhancing drugs, and parallel universes. Almost Human – by contrast – was a smaller, gentler procedural that paired two cops – one human, one synthetic – in a weekly routine wherein the goal was just to protect and serve. Understanding wherein Wyman comes from, it should be clear to any viewer that Debris was not going to be conventional fare but smart, prescient, and probing … and those are perhaps three of the worst descriptors you could possibly ever offer a studio executive with a checkbook.
In fact, the smarter any property is the less likely it’s going to find an audience, much less quickly. Fringe is the perfect example of that.
Fringe launched on Fox, and by all accounts it was pretty clear early on that the network and audience likely saw it as a carbon copy for Chris Carter’s The X-Files, the popular series that gave us David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as federal agents exploring the weird and wonderful. Though Fringe didn’t have the alien mythology angle, it dabbled in otherwise similar subject matter. Yet, unlike the X-Files, folks weren’t exactly showing up in record viewership. Once the program found its own ‘central mythology’ it definitely tapped into cult potential very, very quickly … even though the network tried to relegate it into the famed ‘Friday night broadcast death slot.’ Fringe eventually soared but not early on.
I remember reading an interview involving Akiva Goldsman about his joining the writing team on Fringe. I’ve Googled and can’t find it, so I’m having to go from memory on this one. What I recall is that he noticed that the writers were only dabbling sparingly with the show’s slowly emerging central storyline, that involving a parallel Earth wherein our characters’ doubles were involved in some shady science and potentially nefarious doings. When he saw what they had planned, Goldsman was quick to point out, “Get the audience there! That’s good storytelling! That’s what audiences want!” They did, and the show truly blossomed into something special.
Though I could be wrong, I think Debris had the same creative hang-up: the writers were pacing themselves to keep the big reveals coming but not at the rate its shrinking audience would accept. The show arguably evolved over its last four or five episodes, and what took shape was a program that – like Fringe – was deeply entrenched in science we knew little or nothing about. Its leads Bryan Beneventi (played by Jonathan Tucker) and Finola Jones (Riann Steele) were gradually coming to realize that the scope of what they knew was miniscule compared to the virtual galaxy of knowledge awaiting their discovery, and I suspect that the audience – had they hung around – would likely have been treated to some world-changing, ground-breaking ideas.
That’s always the problem with the ‘slow burn.’ Fire catches quickly, but when not enough is done to keep it stoked those embers grow cold. Despite Hollywood’s current investment in the long-form structure, I’ve yet to see any program succeed – especially in genre entertainment – without a healthy, regular, and expensive dose of shock-and-awe. Much of Debris’ best moments were smaller reveals – yes, quite probably more psychological than visual spectacle – and the folks simply tuned them out or missed them completely. It’s a sad state of affairs but such is still the nature of episodic television.
Alas, Debris is likely gone now, as the Peacock network has shrugged the show off into the cancellation bin. I think that’s sad – we were really just getting to know its foundation and exploring the potential – and I’m disappointed that its closing cliffhanger will never get resolution. You’d think that coming to life on the cusp of this whole damned COVID affair might earn those kids a longer shelf-life to build something special, but the suits saw otherwise.
Its world deserved better.
2018’s A Quiet Place was what they call a box office sleeper hit.
It arrived without a lot of the typical studio fanfare, flying in low under every critic’s radar. Without a lot of big studio bluster, the film opened to solid critical praise and enjoyed growing audience approval. The film’s ensemble – John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe – played a believable family caught up in the aftermath of an alien invasion (of sorts); audiences weren’t provided much detail because that really didn’t involve the feature’s central premise – too much sound is definitely a bad thing.
Quite possibly defying the expectations of everyone involved, A Quiet Place quietly went on to big business. The modestly-priced SciFi/Fantasy was reportedly filmed for $17M but grossed nearly $350M worldwide, so it was only smart for everyone involved to start thinking about the property as a possible franchise. And why not? Moviegoers love a good alien invasion story; there’s always been a market for quality horror features; and a young cast could be around for years, paving the way for future installments. It was, arguably, a brilliant trifecta.
While I wasn’t gaga over the original (I thought it worked as a great starting point but left me asking a lot of questions, mostly about what happened to set this all up), I did find it an exceptional debut for writer/director Krasinski. Many first pictures struggle to bring all storytelling elements together, but A Quiet Place – as bizarre as this may sound – felt like a ‘labor of love.’ The script was efficient – only bothering to chart the information necessary to tell this story – and the performances were noteworthy. So, yes, I was up for a sequel.
Though the COVID pandemic kept this one in drawers for an extra year, A Quiet Place Part 2 has finally screened for the masses; and I suspect the audience that made the original a success story will happily continue their efforts at seeing this franchise survive. Krasinski – whose character met his demise in the first one – is back (albeit briefly) in the film’s opening; and, thankfully, we’re finally given a bit more about just where these nasty aliens came from, though again he only parses out what we need to know. Here’s hoping there will be even more secrets revealed if Part 3 comes to silver screen life.
[NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …]
From IMDB.com: “Following the events at home, the Abbott now faces the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.”
I’m going to say this right away mostly so that I can get it out of the way: Hollywood types love to turn on the common man.
For some reason, storytellers possess a never-ending disdain for folks in the middle class. Any time there’s an alien invasion, lo and behold the folks who don’t reside on either coast typical end up being portrayed as savages who’ll stop at nothing to survive, even when that means doing unspeakably evil things to their friends and neighbors. Realistically, there’s a certain nugget of potential truth to this: none of us can truly say what we’ll do when the Apocalypse arrives, but the fact that storytellers like Krasinski rarely turn their tales against the wealthy or the elite speaks volumes.
Those threats lurking beyond the sand path that IMDB.com speaks of? Why, those would be your neighbors.
Stories like this take the easiest, laziest approach. They’re quick to portray a world wherein the guy next door has now been reduced to a sadist who’s willing to capture you, maybe even eat you, maybe even rape you, and it’s all because this is the true nature of the world we apparently have left for ourselves once the aliens reduce us to the primitives we are. Naturally, critics and the intellectual elite (i.e. your betters) love these narrative developments as it only gives them fodder for dinner table conversation at the next celebrity presser or fundraising dinner. It gives them fuel for their next thesis. It shows the way they honestly think of their common man and what he will do to endure. The little people are destroying the climate, after all, so why not hype up their worst instincts in motion pictures?
To a degree, TNT’s Falling Skies (2011-2015) tried to buck this trend throughout much of its run, though it did descend into similar territory in its final season. Still, much of this Steven Spielberg produced series showed an Earth similar to Krasinski’s silver screen incarnation – much of the planet had been affected by the arrival of an alien threat – but instead of showing mankind hell bent on its own moral destruction this TV show explored stories of coming together to serve the common goal of survival. When opposing factions intersected, they tried to iron out their differences by finding a common strategy to work as allies. There was still plenty of conflict, but in the Spielberg world at least these commoners understood that age-old philosophy about there being strength in numbers.
In Krasinski’s brave new world, the only folks willing to embrace survivors and seriously consider the future of mankind are those who live on an island, thus being functionally removed from the alien menace. This idyllic commune (another Hollywood-approved existence for us commoners) still has picnics and cookouts and swing-sets. They’re living the good life, and they’re reaching out by means of an island radio station offering a secret message for anyone left alive to look ‘beyond the sea.’ It’s quaint, but since the aliens don’t appear to understand our language, why are we speaking in code? Why not actually broadcast a message, eh? In plain English?
So, yes, philosophically I thought A Quiet Place Part II made more negative noise than it needed. I’ve no doubt Krasinski thought this the natural progression of the society he’s created, making him the perfect product of his Hollywood upbringing, that highbrow Common Core. To his credit, the auteur keeps the focus on the family – that great backbone of global culture (not typically American, though we like to think it so) – and what remains of his ensemble continues to impress: Blunt is the noble matriarch – the parental glue – and she’s raising children who dutifully look out for one another even in the direst predicament. The always impressive Cillian Murphy joins the group as the kind neighbor who – despite his worst intentions – is forced to do the right thing.
But as a thrill machine?
A Quiet Place Part 2 is dynamic. While it continues to beat the drum that started a picture ago, it’s still a fascinating sound to behold. The scares are just as effective as before. Though the picture shouldn’t win any accolades for mirroring the exact closing moments of the original, Krasinski did do us the honor of a double dose … this time giving both children – broken in their own ways – the chance to show that mom indeed is a great teacher. Hell, I even had to hold back a cheer over that finale. Well done, kids!
Still … I hope that island has a good supply of hearing aid batteries.
Recommended. I wasn’t overwhelmed by A Quiet Place Part II any more than I was its predecessor. To their credit, both films are lean, mean, audience-pleasing machines; neither leaves them wanting more but neither leaves them with an empty stomach either. Though I agree with writer/director Krasinski about this world being a fun place to play (for a storyteller, not so much his characters), I’d argue that there’s not room for all that much variety going forward unless he’s willing to invest in greater narrative infrastructure and a vastly greater budget.