The only people who wanted a sequel to Speed were the ones who benefited from the surprisingly large amount of money that it made. The star of the first film, Keanu Reeves, took one look at the script and bolted, while Sandra Bullock decided to return so she could help finance a movie she really did want to make. The first film’s director, Jan de Bont, returns as well, maybe because he was bored or needed a paycheck as well. Or perhaps he really did want to make an unrelated sequel to the best movie he ever made, helping to tarnish its reputation.
In order to write-off Reeves’ character, Angie (Bullock), explains to us that she left him because his dangerous lifestyle is something she can’t live with. She’s found a new boyfriend, Alex (Jason Patric), who is not at all like Jack. Except that he is. He hasn’t told her, but he’s employed in the same position as Jack, and not on beach patrol like he said. when she finds out, she’s none too happy, but after he waves tickets to a cruise, she turns around. I wondered if that scene mimicked the studio waving money in Bullock’s face to tempt her back to this project.
Of course, the cruise can’t go as expected. There’s a man on-board, one John Geiger (Willem Dafoe), who has decided to ruin everyone’s fun. Equipped with leeches, golf clubs, a computer, and a bomb or two, he decides that he’s going to go through a very complex plot involving the theft of millions of dollars worth of diamonds and crashing the cruise ship. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that Alex is going to try to stop him, while Angie is going to act hysterical for a while.
The difference between Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control is fairly basic. In the first film, a bus was loaded with explosives that had to maintain a velocity of 50 MPH, or else the bomb would go off. In this one, a cruise ship is being controlled by a mad man, and it needs to be stopped. The former of these gives us a great premise for an action movie. The latter winds up as a generic disaster movie. Except it’s not even as good as your average disaster movie; instead, it’s just boring. That’s the worst thing that this kind of film could be.
Speed was so exciting that it would be hard to top it. But not even keeping with the same premise makes me question who was the mastermind behind the decision to make a sequel. And was the screenplay written as a sequel, or was it written and then later adapted to work with the Speed property? That’s what I guess, as there are so few connections that it would have been so easy to make this film separately and not have it suffer.
If that were to have happened, though, the budget would have been a concern. Speed 2 ended up costing around $110 million, which for an unproven property is a pretty big risk to take. Tack on “Speed,” and you’ve suddenly got a lot more interest. The risk is that there are a lot of expectations associated with “Speed,” and if you don’t even come close to meeting them, you’re going to disappoint a lot of people. Such is the case with Speed 2. On its own, it’s a mediocre film. As a sequel to the very fun Speed, it’s a massive failure.
There isn’t any fun here, which is the biggest problem. The trouble with being on a cruise ship is that the fastest you can go is pretty limited — or at least it feels that way given how large it is and how large the substance it’s floating in is. And since the main characters are trying to slow it down, fighting against any logical or illogical obstacle that might be thrown at them, we constantly lose speed and lose hope that we’ll eventually see something worth watching.
Admittedly, the last twenty or so minutes are spectacular, if only on a spectacle level. There are explosions and one of the most realistic crashes you’ll probably ever see in a movie. It doesn’t exactly resonate or make you feel anything, as the narrative and characters fail to draw you in, but on a pure “Did that really just happen?” level, it ranks up among the best. If the rest of the film was on this insane level of unbelievability, I might have had a good time overall. Instead, it plays out like a poor version of The Poseidon Adventure, lacking the thrills, tension and characters from that film.
Perhaps the only fun that’s to be had in the first two acts is the over-the-top villain the Dafoe plays. He’s perfect for this kind of character, and seems to be having a good time — much better than everyone else, anyway. He’s so enjoyable to watch that it’s a shame his antics get pushed aside so that water and other obstacles can be thrown at the characters and their hopes to survive. He mostly just sits back and pushes a few buttons on his computer in order to dissuade them from steering the ship clear of everything that it’s approaching. I didn’t like how the filmmakers tried to complicate him by giving him a silly motivation, but it’s secondary anyway.
Speed 2 is simply not a whole lot of fun. It picks up in the final twenty minutes, but chances are that you’re going to be clocked out by then anyway. It’s not exciting, it’s not funny, and it’s not thrilling. Like a real cruise can be, it has moments of pleasure but is on the whole far more dull than you might expect going in. When Keanu Reeves decides a script is too bad, you’re going to want to avoid the movie that comes from it.