Ahead, in this review, I mention that ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ is “basically nonstop tension and dread.” I saw this movie On March 5, 2020. I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last movie I saw in a theater for 14 months. Eleven days after I saw this movie, New York City would completely shut down. I wrote a good portion of this review back then (which will explain the kind of out of nowhere dig at ‘The Rise of Skywalker’) and, now, I wonder how much of the fear and dread I was feeling came from the movie or came from real life. But it’s weird I didn’t even mention any of that. I’m not one to, uh, not insert some personal anecdotes or angst. (See this whole paragraph.) My best guess was I was just trying not to think about it. But it was a weird screening. It’s still, to this day, the last time I’ve seen some good friends. I remember there were conversations about handshakes and if we should do that or not. (This was back when we all thought you had to rub someone else’s spit in your eye to get sick, not just be near someone and breathe.) After the movie, someone mentioned going to a bar, which, even then, sounded like a bad idea. But I do remember leaving A Quiet Place Part II and my stomach was so tied in knots, it really did hurt. And whatever subconscious anxiety I was feeling at the time, watching this movie made my body react physically to all that. Now, on with the review!
It’s pretty remarkable that A Quiet Place did what it did. Here’s a movie about aliens who can only hunt by detecting sound, that has very little dialogue, that cost next to nothing (as far as studio movies cost anyway), and grossed $340 million worldwide. It’s the kind of thing that just rarely happens anymore for movies not part of some sort of pre-existing franchise. But, yet, on one hand, it’s still surprising that there’s another one now because the first one felt like such a complete story. But, from a business standpoint, there was absolutely no way there wasn’t going to be a second movie. Paramount hit gold and, in the age of franchises and IP being king, the chance to make a brand new franchise was too good to pass up.
And, according to director John Krasinski, Paramount was going to make another one whether he decided to come back or not. Which set us up for something that probably looked a lot like Predator 2 – a movie set in the same universe, with a whole new cast and setting, that isn’t as good as the first movie, even though some people swear they like it. Which most likely would have still made a lot of money. And would no doubt of “expanded the Quiet Place universe,” but that phrase always makes me really nervous.
There’s a scene in A Quiet Place Part II that, at first, made me whisper to myself, “oh no.” Not to give too many details away, but there’s a scene where Millicent Simmonds’ Regan Abbot and Cillian Murphy’s Emmett (the Abbotts’ neighbor who has lost his entire family to the aliens) are ambushed by a group of marauders. Now, here’s where I started worrying about “expanding the universe.” I started envisioning what a lesser movie would do: these marauders taking Regan and Emmitt back to their lair and that’s where we learn all about this band of bandits and their entire, most likely boring, backstory. (I also started having The Matrix Reloaded rave party flashbacks.) Instead of just focusing on the characters we learned to like from the first film.
Thankfully, this is not what happens because A Quiet Place Part II is not a lesser movie. What made the first movie so interesting is that it’s about this world-changing event, yet the story we see is small. It’s about one family. A mistake so many franchises make is the assumption people want to see more about this new world, as opposed to just spending time with the characters we already like. Even something like Star Wars falls into this trap – building all these fantastical worlds when, in reality, most people just like hanging out with Han, Luke and Leia. (Or even Rey, Poe and Finn – but, instead, the latest movie decided to give us a weird story about Palpatine cloning himself instead of just focusing on the characters we like.)
A Quiet Place Part II starts with a short flashback that, yes, shows a brief glimpse of the aliens arriving, but mostly serves as a way for John Krasinski to still appear in the movie (RIP, Lee Abbott) and shows us happier times for both he and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), And it introduces us to Cillian Murphy’s Emmett before everything goes to hell. The film then picks up shortly after where the first movie left off. Again, the first movie didn’t really leave much open for a sequel, but Krasinski was smart to keep the story small while, still, “expanding the universe.” Basically, yes, we meet new people and learn more about how people are surviving in this world where no one can make any sounds, but it’s all within the realm of reality. It’s that old rule of movies (for the life of me I can’t remember who said it): we can accept a radioactive spider gave Peter Parker powers, but once an alien just happens to land on him at the beginning of Spider-Man 3, we as an audience begin to cry foul. In the A Quiet Place universe, the rules are established and as long as the characters adhere to those rules, these movies work. (And, if the ending of this movie is a hint, we probably have at least another one of these movies coming our way.)
As a bit of an aside, one thing I really appreciate about these two movies is that they both clock in at around 90 minutes. Not that I’m inherently opposed to longer movies, but these movies, in particular, are basically nonstop tension and dread. There’s a scene where Emily Blunt’s Evelyn has to leave the family’s hiding spot to find medical supplies. I remember thinking, well, maybe nothing will happen this time. But then I remembered they wouldn’t be filming this scene if nothing was going to happen and my stomach started twisting in knots. By the end of A Quiet Place Part II my stomach literally hurt. There’s no way I could have done another 20 minutes because it is too intense. That’s one of the best compliments I can give it.
‘A Quiet Place Part II’ opens in theaters on May 28th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.