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A Quiet Place, Part II

I don’t like John Krasinski.

I know I’m in the minority on this, but the man lost a lot of points with me for his “Some Good News” side project in 2020. He made a YouTube series with celebrity cameos and inoffensive fluff, raising millions of dollars for charity in the process. All well and good. But then he sold the series to Viacom after a heated bidding war, adding onto the millions he already had because the series “wasn’t sustainable.” With no plan for any further involvement with the show.

Yeah, tell that to the umpteen million YouTubers who’ve spent literal years editing and uploading videos. The ones who’ve spent their entire adult lives honing their craft, vigilantly adapting to the ever-changing whims of the YouTube algorithms. The ones who have to beg for sponsors and Patreon backers because they don’t have representation with a huge Hollywood agency, much less millions of dollars and celebrity connections. These social media filmmakers have the work ethic, the ingenuity, and/or the desperation to keep a show going on for longer than two freaking months, while Krasinski simply threw up his hands and sold the show off to a global conglomerate because he couldn’t find any other way of making it profitable.

I’ll grant that Krasinski raised $2 million for various charities, and I’m sure that money did a lot of good. But I have to wonder how much money a famous Hollywood A-lister (and his wife, who’s arguably even more successful and famous) might have directly donated out of his own pocket, rather than asking their viewers (many of whom were probably unemployed or put deeper in debt by the pandemic) to pass the hat around.

Furthermore, I realize that SGN was specifically meant to be light and inoffensive by nature, and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who found any kind of enjoyment from his show in a godawful year when enjoyment was very badly needed. But it’s worth asking how Krasinski might have used his platform to talk about the Brooklyn bus driver who refused to help the police transport protesters to jail. Or the police reforms prompted by the summer of “Black Lives Matter” protests. Or the news that for the first time in 130 years, U.S. consumption of renewable energy surpassed coal. You know, something that was both uplifting and constructive, to show that our efforts toward a better world actually mean something despite all depressing evidence to the contrary.

With all that being said, and despite all my misgivings about SGN and the subsequent impression that Krasinski is a fraud more interested in his own bottom line than in making a tangible difference, I still can’t bring myself to hate the guy. For that matter, I’ve been a fan of Emily Blunt since Edge of Tomorrow. They’re both wonderful actors, they seem like a perfectly lovely couple, and there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that either one of them are overt assholes.

It also helps that I really liked A Quiet Place, an immersive, innovative, and heartfelt work of sci-fi/action/horror. And I’d say it deserves bonus points simply by virtue of being a horror franchise with not a single goddamn thing to do with that fucker Jason Blum. That in itself makes it a novelty unlike anything else in the marketplace right now.

So here’s A Quiet Place Part II, which takes place immediately after the first entry, following a prologue that chronicles the first arrival of the invading aliens. The prologue serves as a convenient excuse to get John Krasinski in front of the camera, as his character is too dead to appear after the events of Part I. The prologue also retcons in a friend of the family (Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy) whom we’ll meet later on.

Though it’s worth mentioning that even after the events of Part I, none of the characters will ever shut up about Krasinski’s character. I get that these kids lost their father and they need time to grieve. I get that he was a prominent character in the first movie and it’s only right that he should be a prominent off-screen presence in the sequel. That’s all totally fair. But when he’s mentioned this many times in such glowing terms, and the characters will take so many thinly-contrived excuses to circle every discussion and argument back around to him, it becomes a matter of the writer/director’s ego.

Then again, it’s not like the script is any great shakes. So much of the dialogue falls flat, and it’s tragic how many people act like total idiots. In particular, Marcus (played by Noah Jupe) must have taken a couple dozen blows to the head with an Idiot Stick for all the boneheaded plays he makes here. More importantly, for all the experience that humans have had with these aliens by now, it’s depressing how many of them get to screaming and frantically running from the monsters who depend solely on their hyper-developed hearing.

I might add that Djimon Hounsou is wasted to the point of outrage here, and Scoot McNairy’s character didn’t even get a name or a line! As for Cillian Murphy, his prior history with our main cast doesn’t amount to much and the character himself is sadly unremarkable. However, it’s worth noting that Emmett has lost his wife and children, which gives him some pathos for our main characters to connect with. Also — unlike our main family — Emmett doesn’t know ESL, and that language barrier makes for a neat new dynamic between the characters.

Which brings us to our returning characters. I’m happy to report that Emily Blunt’s character is just as badass as she ever was, and I was genuinely thrilled to see Millicent Simmonds take center stage. She’s a bright young up-and-comer and this movie thoroughly proves why she needs more work ASAP, hearing disability be damned. Alas, while Noah Jupe does the best he can with what he’s got, his character is sidelined due to an early injury and he’s brought down by the aforementioned litany of bad calls.

It’s noteworthy that the sequel takes the step of splitting up our family, with Regan (that would be Simmonds’ character) doing everything that advances the plot while the other characters more or less sit around and watch the baby, mind the homestead, etc. The family dynamic is such a crucial part of this franchise that I don’t know if I agree with the choice to send them on different paths. But on the other hand, the editing is loaded with some fantastic cuts that keep the plotlines on parallel tracks, especially during that crackerjack third act. Perhaps more importantly, if the last film was about parents stepping up to take care of their kids, this film is about kids stepping up to return the favor, and that’s made abundantly clear in the satisfactory arcs given to Regan and Marcus.

Otherwise, everything that was great about the first movie is still great here. The film is 97 minutes long, and it moves at a breathtaking pace. The sound design and score are astounding, and the film sets a whole new bar for visual storytelling. The horror and action are bolstered by the premise, such that even the cheapest jump scare raises the tension in a way that couldn’t be done in any other horror franchise. And the cherry on top is that this time, we see a lot more of the aliens, and they look fantastic. We still need a decent in-canon name for them, though.

The bottom line with A Quiet Place Part II is that Krasinski is far more talented as a director than as a writer. Much as I appreciate Simmonds’ character given such a central role (and Simmonds herself knocks it out of the park), that didn’t mean half the cast had to sit around with nothing constructive to do. And while most of the dialogue is either ESL or nonexistent, the brief lines of spoken dialogue pretty much all land flat on the floor.

Yet the actors all deliver phenomenal performances when they only have expressions and gestures to work with, and the visual filmmaking as a whole is sublime. Hell, the film is a technical marvel in pretty much every regard, and the film works impeccably well as a work of horror unlike anything else in the industry.

For all its faults, the film is absolutely a worthy sequel and anyone who liked the first film would do well to check this out. I’m on board with where the franchise goes from here, on condition that Krasinski checks his ego at the door. If he tries to shoehorn his character into the third movie somehow, I’m out.

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