Cube 2: Hypercube
Posted by Holly
Cube is a little bit of a guilty pleasure movie of mine. It’s a fun, if deeply flawed, film that utilizes two rather interesting concepts: survival horror, and a sort of take on a “bottle episode” (minimal use of sets, and minimal cast, used to semi claustrophobic effect). It had a sense of creativity that its sparse narrative required, and was inventive with the way it killed its characters – while preceding the torture porn genre by several years.
However, it also suffered from a major lack of character development, most of its characters falling into mostly archetypal roles, with predictable arcs. My hope when going into watching Hypercube, the sequel film, is that it would recognize the strengths and flaws in the first film, and seek to improve on them. In this regard, Hypercube ended up being a big disappointment for me.
The plot of this film isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or anything: a handful of strangers wake up in a strange place, with no memory of how they got there. As they try to learn about and navigate the place they are trapped in, they quickly begin the realize the deadly consequences. As the group grapples for answers, a lot of their fear and anger turns inward, towards each other. It is more or less the same plot as the first film.
If anything, the flaws of the first film worsen in this iteration. Characters are even more flat and lazy than in the first, including a second use of one of my least favorite tropes: using people with disabilities as special snowflakes. The first film was guilty of doing this with an autistic character that had no real characterization or humanized qualities outside of being a math machine. This film gives us both a blind character, and one that seems to be depicted with Alzheimers – both of them are implied to be hugely significant, though it doesn’t really play out in detail. They’re portrayed somewhat more sympathetically, but the lack of any real characterization for them still gives me pause.
This movie ultimately tried to have its cake and eat it too. It wanted to have a more complex, intricate plot behind what is happening to our main cast, but it didn’t want to sacrifice its minimalist presentation to actually give us the story. Julia is a lawyer that is representing the company that may have created the cube? Max is a computer programmer whose game design included concepts used in the cube chambers? Mrs. Paley is a retired employee of this company? What could it all mean? Apparently nothing. Because they decided to raise those questions and never answer them.
The worst offender of this is Kate, our main character. Her story seems pretty innocuous at first; she’s a psychologist, who takes on the archetypal nurturing role as the group’s tensions start to escalate. It isn’t until the final moments of the film that you see what her storyline really is supposed to be, and it is not delivered in a satisfying way. I am not a fan of turning in a ‘twist’ at the end for the sake of a twist, especially one with very little support in the rest of the plot, and Kate’s story feels exactly like that. I will give them a crumb of credit for giving Kate the bulk of the plot development, but even that feels cheap. She’s portrayed in a stereotypical female caregiving role, until the very moment her real purpose is put forward to shock you.
That said, there are still some very cool moments in this film. The rooms that deal with time are fascinating to watch play out, especially as Julia and Max watch each other sped up or slowed to a crawl while in two separate chambers. The first viewing of ‘alternate dimension’ versions of the group is surreal and eerie in a good way. These are the moments that are resminiscent of what made the first Cube film successful, and it was nice to see them shine through every so often.
Also, since this was made in 2002, it quickly becomes obvious that in the five years since the first film, the people at the helm discovered computers. The sheer amount of bad CGI employed in this film is truly a wonder to behold. I don’t even know if I can count it as a negative, because it was so entertaining to watch a film so fully committed to dating itself. I’m somewhat convinced that at some point, they said to themselves: “You know what? Fire the screenwriters. Let’s save the money to do that thing where the screen goes all whirly.”
While this film isn’t a total loss, it’s not particularly worth your time. If you have a couple of spare hours, and enjoy the concept of the Cube films, you’re probably better off just watching the first one again.
Rating: 2 out of 5. Mehhhh.
Violence level: Much lower and less creative than the first film, but we do get a few deaths. By stabbing, neck breaking, and someone even gets shredded to death.
Scariness level: Hugely underwhelming. One or two eerie moments, but otherwise an attempt to be a more intelligent thriller than it actually was.
Bechdel Test: Passes! Sasha and Kate spend some time bonding, and very important information regarding the parent company of the cube is relayed between the two of them.
Mako Mori test: Technically a pass, with Kate’s story. As much as I didn’t like the story itself, Kate has an arc, and it plays out with the only other player involved being Sasha.