Film Review: The Quake

2018’s The Quake. That shot of the building collapsing into the other was fantastic.

A sequel to a disaster movie is rather unheard of. After all, if a sequel was about rebuilding, that doesn’t make much sense since the appeal of the disaster movie is the disaster. If the sequel is just another disaster happening, whether it’s the same or different but to the same town or city, that seems more like a loose sequel or a standalone? And if in the case of the 2018 Norwegian film The Quake, a follow-up to 2015’s The Wave, and follows along with the same family, that seems rather silly, right? Natural disasters are, relatively, uncommon, and you’re telling me the same family faced once-in-a-lifetime disasters twice in a three-year span?

For the sequel, the same actors reprise their roles, the same writing team and the same cinematographer. The only difference is in the director’s chair, with John Andreas Anderson taking the helm from Roar Uthaug.

Despite seeming silly on its face, once I actually started watching the film, I was in love. I loved the premise of Kristian being hailed as a hero a year after the devastating events of the prior film, but that the trauma of what happened gets to him. We then jump ahead three years from the events of the first film and now, Kristian isn’t seemingly with Idun, and he’s even shunning his daughter Julia after she made him a delightful breakfast. After following in love with these characters in the first film, it was hard to watch this! Almost more than the destruction itself, the destruction of the family tore at me. They went through so much to survive as a family and now … they’re barely hanging on by a thread.

Like with most sequels, this one ups the death toll.

Kristian has become obsessed with disaster and as he said, he sees disaster everywhere he goes. It just so happens that, well, he’s right. Even so, his obsession with disaster and saving people has destroyed his family. He tells Marit (played by Kathrine Johansen), the daughter of someone Kristian knew, that there are some things more important than family or a daughter. Ouch. To him, that importance is warning people of impending doom.

This time, the doom is in the form of the Oslofjord Tunnel and the surrounding Oslo area, the capitol of Norway. And this time, when the rockslides happen, it creates a devastating earthquake, whose shockwave acts as a “wave” of sorts across the city in devastating fashion.

Rosenlund outdoes himself from The Wave with even more impressive-looking special effects, like essentially everything that occurs at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel where Idun is working. And Andersen outdoes Utahug on the tension, from the claustrophobia inside the elevator with Kristian and Idun to the unbelievable Titanic-like feel of the top floor of the hotel (the floor is tilted after another building crashes into the hotel), where Julia and Marit are trapped. There’s actually a scene that mirrored Titanic’s where a woman slides down the building and off the ledge, much like the many people who slid down the deck of the Titanic when it was tilted.

Imagine being in that building when it’s tilted like that. Goodness.

To be fair, similar to Hollywood, this Norwegian sequel received $8 million more to play with, from a $6 million budget to $14 million.

As before, Kristian tries to sound the alarm bells. Not only is he not believed again, but he’s also doubting himself. Like mentioned, he starts wondering if he’s only thinking he’s seeing disaster everywhere because of his trauma. And not only do the people manning the cameras similarly not believe him, but they think technology will save them. There’s no way a rockslide or an earthquake could happen without their notice. Yet. Even Idun doesn’t initially believe Kristian saying, “Surely someone would warn us?” Kristian is that someone!

I also love how Idun called Kristian out, though. He’s traumatized and she quips something about how it must be nice to put your feet up and have a breakdown. After all, she went through the same trauma and even had to kill a man. Yet, she’s also had to keep working and supporting two children. Again, she’s my favorite character, although Marit comes close. She is a stranger to the family, for all intents and purposes, and also is grieving the loss of her dad. However, when Julia runs into the hotel, Marit runs after her and throughout the events that unfold, she displays miraculous heroics.

Despite having the same writers, I do feel like some of the character choices in this film were maddeningly stupid. I was yelling at the television screen annoyed. For example, the professor lecturing in Sondre’s class doesn’t even react to the sirens, merely saying, “I guess we should evacuate?” And then when the sirens stop, he shrugs and goes back to lecturing. That’s absolute malpractice and he deserved his fate. Yes, I said it.

And Sondre’s girlfriend is no better! When he tries to get her to leave the building, she’s reluctant and smiling stupidly. Gah! I do feel like Sondre’s character was also more of an afterthought in the film and you almost could have done away with the university scenes.

Idun, noooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Julia’s stupid choice to leave the car with Marit is, well, stupid, but it’s rooted in psychological trauma, so it makes much more sense. In the first film, Kristian left her on the hill to go rescue his family. She didn’t want to be left alone again and follows Kristian into the hotel, unbeknownst to him and Marit.

Idun is, once again, a total bad-ass. She and Kristian get stuck in the elevator of the hotel when they try to escape. First, she plays that claustrophobia so well. Idun is irate at being stuck in a space again after being stuck underwater in the prior film. That’s a brilliant touch. After surviving the fall and then trying to get out of the elevator shaft, Idun has some sort of elevator cable take a CHUNK OUT OF HER LEG and she isn’t even phased. She guts through it. Despite the injuries, she manages to climb an elevator cable to try to get out. She almost gives up, but wills herself up the cable before slipping and dying. That killed me. I can’t believe they killed off my favorite character!

But to be fair, it resulted in the best shot of perhaps either film, where the camera pans up the elevator shaft and looks down at Kristian devastated, lying in the hole made by the elevator, the shaft drenched in red and his spot yellow light. Beautiful and stunning and sad.

From there, Kristian goes to the top floor and we get so much dang tension on that floor. Perhaps the wildest is when Julia slides down the building and face plants into the window and it begins cracking. She’s moments away from plunging hundreds of feet to her death. My hands are getting sweaty just typing that! Fortunately, Kristian and Marit are able to rescue her and make it out alive.

One minor criticism I have is that despite Kristian warning about an aftershock, we never get one or experience one. I’m surprised that didn’t come into play to add to the tension.

Overall, I said The Wave was one of the best disaster films I’ve seen and given the tension I felt watching this, I’d have to say The Quake is also one of the best disaster films I’ve ever seen. I’d still say the former is better, despite more tension and better special effects in this, as the first had more heart and attention to character.

Still, if you’re ready to have your palms turn sweaty, check this one out after seeing The Wave first.

I’m feeling the tension just looking at this photo, okay.

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