Can you feel the acting?
After a few moments of viewing this virtually unheard-of follow-up to the great original film, it was plain that something went horribly wrong. The interesting bit is that 2's problems are of a different sort than what one would expect. Given the end of the original, this is not an attempt at a sequel, but rather a prequel a couple years beforehand. It's even helmed by the same writer/director, Roger Kumble, so in theory the material should be treated with the proper respect.
Of course, this was an attempt at cashing in on the original's success, but the biggest problem was that the intent was to create a television series. We can feel it in the pacing, the sheer number of characters, and a lower caliber of acting. Like Mulholland Drive, they've retooled things to feature form, but David Lynch is both a master of his material, and benefitted much from the indirectness of his writing.
This was a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Take a look at the characters. Both Kathryn and Sebastian start the original as fairly despicable sorts, but Sebastian is changed for the better by the end of the film, which results in the tragedy of his death and the inability to do a sequel - at least under the theory of giving people more of what they've already been given. I personally think a sequel could have been more interesting - what happens to our remaining characters? They have to make Sebastian the sympathetic one here. He's just transferred from another school, just meeting his stepsister for the first time, and Kathryn takes an instant dislike to his apparent good-boy nature.
Under different circumstances, I'm sure we would not have met the parents, the servants, and the other peripheral characters here. But here they are, and they provide another level of unreality to the story. Where Intentions 1 was largely about maintaining a semblance of respectability, while situations were carefully manipulated behind the scenes, here nearly everyone is corrupt to begin with, and nobody fares any better than their starting position by the end. Thus the action becomes fragmented, and fails to ulimately support any particular idea at all. I could get into the individual peripheral characters here, but it seems almost pointless to bother, when we'd almost rather not have them there at all.
The characters are pale imitations of their former selves, trying to achieve the same level of smarminess, but only rising to a delusional affectation. Where the first installment was a brazen exploration of dark impulses, here someone seems to be telling me to be shocked. Many of the same situations, in some cases exact lines, are repeated from the first film, but with less sincerity. Most audiences, I'm sure, will find themselves identifying strongly with the New Yorker who yells "Bite me" back at Sebastian one fine morning.
There are some clever bits, and there are undoubtedly some sexy bits - more than I would have expected for a television show, but I imagine most were shot well after that possibility had evaporated. The problem, even with the better scenes, is that there seems to be very little at stake. A series needs to be careful not to "jump the shark", but the lack of importance to the action can't be explained by the tv-to-feature transformation - if this were a pilot, it would fail on the same grounds.
I am sympathetic, though. I'm sure everyone, from Kumble on down, saw what a train wreck this was going to be, well before shooting was complete, but filmmakers have to fight to get what they can, and while the fact I was even able to see this relates a lot to the bankability of the title, it's says something about these folks to press on, despite the circumstances.
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