Directed By Johannes Roberts
Starring – Sophie Nelisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju
The Plot – The film follows the diving adventure of four teenage girls (Nélisse, Foxx, Tju and Sistine Stallone) exploring a submerged Mayan City. Once inside, their rush of excitement turns into a jolt of terror as they discover the sunken ruins are a hunting ground for deadly Great White Sharks. With their air supply steadily dwindling, the friends must navigate the underwater labyrinth of claustrophobic caves and eerie tunnels in search of a way out of their watery hell.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language
– Storytelling attempt. In comparing the two films from this franchise, I give this one the slight edge because of the attempt at world building from below, which gives the setting a bit more depth than the spontaneity of the first film. Throughout the first half of the movie, we are given tidbits of information about this Mayan city that came undone once the surrounding waters submerged their once peaceful homes, leaving thousands to drown in suffering. Not only is this a creepily documented setting, but it’s also one that sets an already established level of suffering within the history that plagues the area, setting the stage accordingly for the perfect showdown with our predators. As to where the first movie was entirely in a cage, this film’s volume in space to constantly elevate scenario’s is one that pays off immensely for where the visual storytelling needs to pace itself through in 84 minutes of screen time.
– Proper lighting. Another cured aspect from the clumsy production of the first movie was the addition to arm these girls with flashlights to better explain why there’s so much lighting in an area so dark and deep beneath the sea, and while this still doesn’t explain the green glow that follows the girls everywhere, it is at least attempting to explain its own careless flaws. Likewise, the blood effect on the flashlights, while nothing new to underwater cinema, crafts a reddish tint that gives candid reminder of our protagonists being in the environment of the blood-hungry. Aside from this, it also maximizes the tension during chase sequences, that make it slightly more difficult for the ladies to see, which in turn leads to some pretty intense jump scares in the form of some well-chosen P.O.V angle lenses.
– Continuity in direction. Roberts returns once again to helm the sequel, and in addition to all of the gifts that I previously mentioned, it’s his amplification for traumatic events that proves he’s grown in such a short time. “Uncaged” isn’t just paced better than the original film, but it’s also one that knows exactly what kind of a movie it should be, instilling a sense of light cheese to the character’s and dialogue, that emit the fun from summertime cinema. Beyond this, it’s his collaboration again with musical composers TomandAndy that brings forth this air of anxiety-riddled panic that echoes so vibrantly in their ominous tones. Beyond just a vibrating musical score however, the film also uses some of its budget to sample popular songs like Roxette’s “She’s Got the Look”, as well as “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters, to give the scenes a cool factor of humanity that better grounds it in reality.
– Fresh-faced cast. The performances aren’t anything special in the scream queen capacity, but it’s still interesting that two of these women are the daughters of Jamie Foxx and Sylvester Stallone, respectively. What these four ladies lack in audible blessings, they more than make up for in dramatic depth, properly channeling the intensity and vulnerability associated with such a traumatic experience. I certainly liked them more than Mandy Moore’s incessant rambling in repetition during the first film, and I only wish the exposition would do them a favor in rendering them a little smoother backstories, particularly that of Nelisse and Foxx, who play step-sisters. Even still, for mostly first time starring roles, these ladies have a presence in personalities that make them easier to accept the longer the movie progresses.
– Rating limitations. Aside from the already jumbled camera work in such a crowded space, the PG-13 material clearly limits death sequences and depicting thrills in such that makes them virtually bloodless. With the exception of the final five minutes of the movie, which is easily the climax for the whole movie, the blood is used as more of a lighting trick that I previously mentioned, instead of wounds on an open spicet of human flesh. You don’t really see anything of detail except for a quick swim-by grab that happens far too often. For my money, the death scenes are what makes a shark movie great, and “Uncaged” has nothing of originality or artistic value to sell its violence to hardcore audiences.
– Things that don’t add up. As is the case with the first movie, this one as well has no shortage of head scratching moments that made it difficult to swallow. The first is the oxygen tank, which loses 70% of its stock in a ten minute swim down to the Mayan city, yet only loses 25% for the last 65 minutes of the movie. There’s also a scene near the beginning where the girls drop their purces on the edge of a cliff to jump down, yet their phones and things are with them in the next scene. If they jumped down into the water, where did they hide it that allowed the objects not to get wet? There’s also the convenience of them finding scuba gear from a company that is just sitting on a raft where anyone could steal it, and thank God the four chests just so happened to feature wetsuits that were precicely the sizes of the ladies in tow. There’s also a scene where a huge stone pillar underwater gets knocked over by a human character being shoved into it, and the law of gravity underwater starts to weigh heavily when already heavy objects are placed underwater to give them more weight, are so easy to move. There are many more, but I think I’ve made my point.
– Horrendous A.D.R. The post production in audio is arguably the single worst aspect of this movie, offering a slew of unintentionally comic situations of which there are no shortage of. Character’s being heard audibly without their mouths moving, mouth movements not matching what is being heard aloud, and such clumsy stitching in audio deposits that you can practically hear the edit button being clicked before the pasting fixed a horrible line read. This is where Hollywood Studios really shows its inferior product the most obviously, as the noticeable flaws start to add up in ways that took me out of nearly every scene, and constantly reminded me of post production, which always overstepped its boundaries on the integrity of the picture.
– Predictable. Once you understand the outlines of the characters in the opening ten minutes of the movie, it’s easy to understand who will survive this chapter of the franchise. For me, I made a prediction five minutes into the film, stuck with it for the entirety, and was a hundred percent accurate by the end of the film. I commend the production for giving us more character’s in this movie to obviously throw at the shark, but 90% of them are nothing more than body count padding, making what little screen time they have a temporary borrowing before the air of inevitability catches up to them. I was also bothered by how late the movie waits to start getting rid of them, making the last half hour feel like a catching up period for how common it repeats as opposed to the previous hour that came before it.
– Uninspired C.G. If you thought the sharks looked lifeless in the first movie, the second ones noticeable drop-off comes in the form of computer generation that made the sharks look like something out of an Asylum or Syfy channel movie of the week. The movements of them aren’t so bad, really just the design and texture that doesn’t replicate vibration movements or gills believably enough so that their incorporation adds weight to the dimensions of the scene. These sharks look so weakly manufactured that I started calling them zombie sharks, for the way they look like someone already harpooned them, stuffed them, hung them on their wall, and brought them back to life Jason Voorhees style. Truly unappealing in every definition of the word.
– One dimensional characters. I mentioned this earlier, so I should elaborate on it. Beyond the two sisters who are polar opposites in the high school popularity factory, there is absolutely no complexion given to any character in this film, which in turn makes it more difficult to buy into their conflicts and conversations. Because this is a movie that features a high school for a scene, we have to have a group of mean girl bullies, whose soul intention towards the film is to be completely rude for no reason what so ever. The protagonists are nothing different, as the two additional girls who join our sisters on the expedition are nothing more than stereotypes. I seriously couldn’t make a list of three things between them that I learned about them, despite spending so much time on-screen with them, and it’s a testament that this is a movie that doesn’t value character importance in the slightest.
My Grade: 4/10 or D+