a sleeper hit in 1994, speed is one of the best action movie of the 90s. three years later, hoping to start another die hard-like franchise, fox spent four times as much on speed 2: cruise control, one of the most notorious flops of the 90s, making three times less that the first movie. instead of die-hard-on-a-bus, speed 2: cruise control is die-hard-on-a-cruise-ship, which is appropriate since the script at one point was going to be the premise for die hard 3.
are there cruise control on cruise ships or is the title supposed to be mere witty wordplay?
since neo/mr. anderson turned down the sequel, they got jason patric (the lost boys, narc) instead. oscar winner sandra bullock returns under the condition that fox bankrolled her pet project hope floats, which eventually outgrossed speed 2. former cinematographer jan de bont also returns as director, killing time between twister and tomb raider 2. willem dafoe fills in for dennis hopper as the madman villain.
the unnecessarily long prologue tries to explain the absence of keanu reeves and set up the new relationship between bullock and patric. i’ve seen and love many inconsequential opening action sequences (i.o.a.s.™) in my life, this has to be one of the most tedious and boring one. it’s the equivalence of watching random motorcross clips. worse still, the patric action sequence is intercut with bullock’s driving test, with tim conway, in an attempt at humor.
things get slightly but not much better once they got on the cruise ship. like all disaster movies, it introduces the various passengers aboard the ship. the first wtf moment occurs with the group of overeaters on a cruise. i’m not sure what purpose they server since it can easily be replaced by any group of people. dafoe shows up by himself announcing himself as the villain by his mere appearance. though jason patric knew something’s up with his weird looking guy. you know the slogan, see something, say something. and he’s five years ahead of his time.
throughout the movie there are numerous references to the first movie. although i don’t think they intended it as a winking acknowledgement to the first movie as in haha look at us, this is the sequel. this only serves to remind audience of how much better the first movie was.
while speed 1 is a die hard type movie with a disaster movie trapped within, speed 2 unfortunately works the other way around. it’s a disaster movie with action movie elements thrown in. it took a long time for it to cut to the chase, which the first movie excels at. much like transformers 2, it made the mistake of thinking that we would follow the characters into the situations whereas in the first movie, the situation is always the foremost concern with character bits fill up the rest of the big picture.
much has been made about the fact that jason patric is bland and boring in the movie but i don’t know how much better it would have been if keanu was in it. he was pretty bland in the first movie too, it’s not like he was john mcclane to begin with. what makes keanu works in the first one was that the film wisely focus on the tense scenarios that happen to have keanu’s character in it. with the help of the bullock character. speed 2 feels like someone lets the air out of the ballon and goes through the required action sequences. it seems to me that it’s more the screenplay’s fault than patric’s, since he proves his talent a year later by producing and starring in neil labute’s memorable your friends and neighbors.
another wtf moment has jason patric’s character developing a relationship with a 13-year-old girl on the ship a la lolita. much like the shining reference in twister, it serves no purpose other than to announce the fact that jan de bont’s a kubrick fan. well good for him. i guess it does serve to remind you that you could be watching any of kubrick’s movies that you haven’t seen yet instead of watching speed 2. i am looking forward to the full metal jacket reference in the haunting or maybe a clockwork orange/dr strangelove reference in tomb raider 2.
though i have to say, the villain geiger, play by dafoe almost make the movie worthwhile. for a while in the 90s, the madman villain law requires that action movie bad guy has to be played by christopher walken, john malkovich, dennis hopper, willem dafoe, or gary oldman, who turned down speed 2 to do the die-hard-on-a-plane-but-not-die-hard-2-die-harder movie air force one. dafoe seems to be the only one realizing what speed 2 is, playing up the wtf looneiness of the action movie sequel villain. the screenplay wisely provides him with lines like “hey, come back here, you’re my hostage.” his motive is more or less a remnant of dennis hopper’s from the first movie, except with dafoe, he also gets support from leeches. wtf +1. it also prepares us for his later appearance in the boondock saints movies.
despite all that, the final act of speed 2 almost redeems the tedious first and second act. it’s here that the filmmaker seems to care the most. it’s the main course for the whole movie. the money shot that they couldn’t wait to show off. for about 15-20 minutes, the cruise ship, barely avoiding crashing into an oil tanker, steers itself right into the middle of a town. it’s obvious most of the time, effort, and budget went into this sequence. it’s rather unfortunate that it took so damn long to get there. this sequence is still one of the best of its type i’ve seen til this day.
speed 2: cruise control is not quite the flop and disaster its reputation suggests. it pretty much recouped its budget after international gross. it’s probably not the worst of jan de bont movies. as much as sandra bullock like to claim, it’s probably not her worst movie either. considering 1997 also brought us father’s day, batman and robin, alien resurrection, and turbulence, speed 2 is mediocre at worst (also the same summer: con air! face/off! the game! the fifth element! in the company of men! she’s so lovely!). it almost reaches that so-bad-it’s-good status. it’s just too bad that it bears the speed pedigree. it’s probably no better or any worse than any other disaster movies.
interestingly, james cameron’s at the time overbudgeted and delayed titanic, also from fox, was originally scheduled to be released a month after speed 2. and we all know how that turned out. nine years later, another european director, wolfgang petersen, would remake poseidon, and we all know how that turned out.
well that’s enough for me. more computer time and i may get copper poisoning and have to put leeches on me to suck out the poison.
they don’t do the narration in trailers anymore nowadays do they?