Cast your mind back to what I like to call ‘the before times’; the pre COVID-19 age when we could do what the hell we wanted and films were coming out in theatres ten to the dozen. At the very tail end of those before times, A Quiet Place Part II was set to be one of the big March releases of 2020. Of course, a pandemic and postponement or two later, and one of the first casualties of the COVID cinema shut down is finally ready to grace the big screen. I found the 2018 original to be a tense but not groundbreaking experience, so would the sequel be able to bring anything new and spicy to the table?
Ultimately, and unfortunately, I’d have to say no. After being treated to a ten minutes or so of ‘Day 1’ prequel action (hey, how you doing John Krasinksi?), A Quiet Place Part II picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of the first movie. In desperate need of help and supplies, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Evelyn’s unnamed newborn baby leave their home and embark on a journey that leads them to Emmett (Cillian Murphy), an old family friend who has set up camp not far from them. With her high frequency alien fighting discovery in hand, Regan commits to finding a way to spread her knowledge across the airwaves for whoever might be left alive.
Here’s the thing. At the end of A Quiet Place the narrative is left in such a way that it leaves a grain of hope for the survivors and a clear plan of action for the future, but the annoying thing is that this sequel fails to do anything of real note with that plan. The idea of Regan battling and journeying to share the important discovery made in A Quiet Place is a good one, but by the end of A Quiet Place Part II the audience is left with a sense that no real progress has been made in terms of the larger picture. It’s a fairly tight and economic film in terms of runtime, but you can’t help thinking that the picture feels like the middle episode of a much longer series rather than a fully fleshed out story in its own right.
I can imagine my reaction to this sequel being slightly more positive had it been released when intended, because in early 2020 I feel like the hype train for all things A Quiet Place was still very much rolling. With shorter time between instalments, this lack of any real punchy additions to the lore or the wider narrative might have been more palatable, but after such a long wait, this middle season episode feel really doesn’t cut it for me. The tension is still there, but I don’t think it is as effectively weaponised as it was in 2018.
One of my favourite things about the original was its sparse and calculated visual use of the aliens, but A Quiet Place Part II relies heavily on their full on screen presence, and the vibes just feel significantly different. If the first picture was a tension filled sci fi thriller, this feels much more like an an action movie. More bombastic in some of its set pieces, but the story is lacking a nuance that it managed to find in its first outing.
Everything I said about Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe in my A Quiet Place review remains true for the sequel. Each actor gives a solid performance here, lots of authentic reactions to what must have been acting opposite a CGI tennis ball stick so fair play all around! If anything, the direction of the narrative leaves Emily Blunt with not much to do, and I’m not sure the film uses her as much as it could/should have, choosing instead to focus on Millicent Simmonds as Regan. An understandable choice within the context of the movie, but definitely a bit of a waste of Emily Blunt’s clear star power!
The addition of Cillian Murphy as Emmett feels like a bit of a strange one, almost like the movie was just searching for a male presence and replacement for the loss of John Krasinski’s character in the original. Murphy is absolutely fine in the role, but there is definitely a version of this movie in which Emmett doesn’t exist, and I think just focusing on the original characters that we grew attached to in 2018 might have been more effective. To be clear, nobody does a bad job here, but to go back to the ‘middle episode of a TV series’ analogy, it really does feel like an episode of Lost where the story is desperately hopping from one set of people to another to try and get something wrapped up before credits.
Overall, I have to put A Quiet Place Part II down as a disappointment. It wasn’t a film that I had been eagerly anticipating post lockdown, but I had still hoped to be treated to a similar experience as in 2018. As it turns out, the story is flimsier, the vibe is far less tense, and the journey of the film as a whole just doesn’t go far enough to provide a satisfying sequel experience. Worth a watch if you are invested in continuing the A Quiet Place saga, but the original movie as a stand alone sci fi horror thriller is arguably the more rounded and complete feeling experience.