Andrzej Sekula | 90 mins | DVD | 15 / R
The new cube set is bigger, shinier, simpler, emptier, always one plain colour, and devoid of traps. Consequently, but perhaps inadvertently, it seems to symbolise the film itself.
Despite this simplified set, the concept behind the new cube — or ‘hypercube’, so we’re told — and the plot that results from it is incredibly complex. In fact, it seems to be too complex for the writers to grasp, so the viewer doesn’t stand a chance. It’s not the only overdone element either: Sekula’s direction is frequently as inappropriately elaborate as possible, twisting the camera round for no reason other than some misguided attempt at (inaccurately) conveying this cube’s mixed gravity. He also feels the need to illustrate characters’ backstories, something the original left to the dialogue, which is probably because the ragtag selection of flat stereotypes here are far more generic than the lot in the first film.
And there’s loads of them too, though it’s hard to tell if this is to cover for them all being one-dimensional, or a transparent attempt to keep things moving by constantly chucking more people into the mix. As if to underline the point, several are cloned from the first film, but with much weaker acting, and almost none of them are granted a plot thread that actually gets resolved. In fact, nearly every character is entirely pointless. Eventually some of them do get killed off, but every death is too reliant on some middling CGI and abstract ideas. Not a single one is as properly inventive or scary as those found in the original.
Hypercube should at least be applauded for trying something new, when it might have been easier to bung a new group of people into the same cube and come up with new ways of killing them or new puzzles to solve. It dives further into SF territory, dragging in parallel universes and varying timelines, and largely avoids rehashing the first film’s mysteries. In fact, it more picks up where that left off, drawing out questions and providing some answers about the reasons for, origins of, and people behind the cube. Unfortunately, these questions don’t need re-posing and the answers certainly aren’t required. Like other elements of the first film not carried over — the clever deaths, the claustrophobia — it’s nice that they’ve not been duplicated, but equally they didn’t need changing, expanding or explaining.
Even worse, the writers seem to have spent more time mulling over the behind-the-scenes complexities of constructing the cube — and put in all their characters and ideas about this — and not enough time actually crafting a plot. The more the clock ticks by the more obvious this becomes, to the extent that they don’t even seem to have an ending. What minimal logic there was is thrown out the window in favour of some crazy different-timeline horror that barely resolves anything and certainly cops out of almost everything.
Where the original Cube felt like the smart little sci-fi indie it was, Hypercube feels like expensive tosh based on a faux-intellectual idea. Much of the original’s brilliance lay in its simplicity, but the sequel is more complex from the off — and not in a way that rewards the attentive viewer, or even in a way the writers seem to understand. Bigger and shinier, but simpler and emptier, it’s consequently less engaging, less interesting, and far less enjoyable.
For a brief overview of the Cube trilogy, please look here.
Cube²: Hypercube featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2008, which can be read in full here.