When it was announced that Gore Verbinski was going to direct a remake of Hideo Nakata's excellent Ring (I refuse to call it Ringu because I'm anal like that, but that's how it was released straight to video in North America) I was a little hesitant about it. How would he handle the subtle horror and suspenseful build up? Would he be able to pull off this story using an American setting and American actors? There were a lot of questions about it, but most of them were answered with a resounding yes once the movie started, as it turned out to be a very well made, creepy little movie that did nothing at all to diminish the power of the original. In short, it was a good movie. A couple of years later when it was announced that Naomi Watts was going to return for a sequel directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Japanese Ring that inspired Verbinski's film, I was stoked. I figured this was a win-win situation. They could expand on some of the cool ideas from Verbinski's film and put Nakata's unique spin on things. "What a cool idea!" I thought to myself. Sadly, I was wrong. Very, very, very wrong.
This film picks up more or less where the first one left off. Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son Aiden (David Dorfman) have moved from Seattle to find a quieter life in the lovely seaside town of Astoria, Oregon (It's a lovely place - I've been there a few times). She takes a job at the local newspaper run by Max (Simon Baker) but soon becomes concerned when a death occurs in the small town that is eerily reminiscent of how things played out in the first movie. She ends up finding the cursed tape and burning it, but when she does we hear all sorts of silly creepy noises come from the fire, signifying that Samara hasn't died with the tape and is in fact whipping around the town haunting poor old Aiden. We know this because Aiden and Rachel get attacked by deer shortly after all of this.
What? Deer? Our heroes get attacked in their car by deer? And poorly rendered CGI deer at that? Deer aren't scary. They're cute and timid and unless they're involved in some sort of mating ritual, they usually don't want anything to do with people. Making one of the key scenes in the film a CGI deer attack scene is just a bad idea all around.
At any rate, Rachel has to hunt down the keys to Samara's past and Rex is bound and determined to help her with all of this and save her kid from certain doom because, dammit, he cares. Off they go to save the day and blah, blah blah… who cares. By the time the movie is half way over it's really hard to be concerned with the characters, despite their plight. The development goes nowhere fast, Simon Baker's character adds nothing, and the plight of Rachel and her son is handled quite haphazardly so as to sufficiently remove whatever emotional investment we made with these people during the first half hour of the movie.
The Ring Two is one of the biggest cinematic disappointments I've ever sat through. I had really high hopes for this one as it seemed to be in very capable hands but it failed to deliver either scares, suspense, or even an interesting story or interesting characters. The film doesn't stay within the mythological confines of the first film and instead of concentrating on the spread of the curse through the mysterious tape (a cool idea) it turns into a pretty much by the numbers evil ghost story. It isn't a bad looking movie – the sets are good, the color scheme is gloomy enough to do a good job of capturing the Pacific Northwest's mood, and there are a couple of stand out scenes here and there (a moment where Aiden is approached by Samara in the men's room of a fair is pretty intense) but the film just can't hold together long enough to really work. Naomi Watts, who is usually really good, more or less sleep walks through the film and her co-stars do nothing to help matters in terms of performances. We're seeing nothing new here, it's all too familiar and as such, uninteresting.
The Ring Two hits DVD in what should be a fantastic 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer but what in reality is a pretty poor 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The first thing you'll notice if you're paying attention is the heavy line shimmering and edge enhancement, which is problematic throughout the entire film. The black levels vary, they're not consistent at all (in some scenes they're quite strong, at other times they're muddy looking) and the entire picture looks very unnatural. There's some moderate grain in some spots (some of that might be intentional, either way, that's easy to look past) and the color reproduction also seems to vary from scene to scene as the movie plays out. The entire picture looks very digital, not film like at all and the movie does suffer from these distracting problems.Sound:
You've got your choice of watching the film in English in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound or in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. There's a French dubbed track included here as well, and it's also in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Optional subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish and an English closed captioning option is also available.
In comparison to the poor job that Dreamworks did on the video transfer, the audio on this release is handled very nicely. The low end rumbles nicely out of your subwoofer, there are more than a couple of creepy scene that are made slightly more intense by some interesting directional effects that come at you out of the surround channels, and dialogue stays clean and clear and perfectly coherent. The score sounds nice, as do the sound effects, and the levels are properly balanced. There's not much to complain about in terms of the audio presentation on this DVD – it has been handled very nicely.Extras:
You want extras, huh? Well, Dreamworks does deliver on that front for this release and many of the supplements are far more interesting than the feature film itself is. Here's what you get…
First up is Rings, a neat seventeen minute short film that explains the origins of the teenage boy who was killed in the opening scene of The Ring Two. While it doesn't really add a whole lot to the story, it does setup the beginning nicely and this is well worth your time to check out as it follows the week before his death and is actually a little more suspenseful than the feature is. There's also an introduction supplied by Walter Parkes that runs just shy of a minute that plays before this if you want it to.
Up next are four brief featurettes that explore different aspects of the film itself. The first one is entitled Faces Of Fear: The Cast and it gives us a six minute look at the casting decisions made for the film. Most of the performers get a chance to discuss their characters, however briefly, as do the producers of the film. The second featurette is Fear On Film: Special Effects and, as the title implies, this time out the focus is on the effects set pieces used in the film. We get a five minute and forty five second peek at how a lot of the CGI was done, and some of the organic effects set pieces as well. Samara: From Eye To Icon is up next, and it's just under six minutes worth of material, most of which involves make up effects technician Rick Baker discussing his work on the Samara character with a few bits and pieces from others involved in this aspect of the movie. The final featurette is The Power Of Symbols. At just over five minutes in length, this is the shortest of the four pieces and it examines the various pieces of symbolism used throughout the film. Although this is the shortest of the four segments, it's also the most interesting and this portion did up my appreciation of the film however slightly as it points out a few things you might not catch the first time out if you get hung up on things like stupid CGI deer attacks like I did.
Also included here is the thirteen minute long HBO First Look: The Making Of The Ring Two documentary that was shown on TV before the movie came out. This plays out very much like a promotional piece and it's a lot of talking head footage but there are a few snippets of interesting behind the scenes clips here and there that make it worth watching once, even if you never go back to it.
Despite the fact that there was a bit of footage added into this director's cut DVD release of the film, there was still just over eighteen minutes of deleted scenes that weren't reinserted and we get a chance to check those out here. None of them really altered the film so much and I'd guess they were removed for pacing reasons but they're here anyway. If you enjoyed the film, you'll probably find it worthwhile to sit through these but be aware that they're presented from a work print, they're non-anamorphic, and there is time code present on all of the material which is a little irritating.
Rounding out the extra features are some text biographies for the key cast and crew members, some relatively useless production notes, and a few trailers for other Dreamworks DVD releases.Final Thoughts:
This one was a big disappointment. Hideo Nakata would seem like the sure fire man to direct. but Verbinski's film is far stronger. There's some irony there, but it's not the good kind. At any rate, The Ring 2 has a few stand out moments but overall suffers from poor pacing, lack of atmosphere, and a story that feels played out before it even really gets a chance to being. The Dreamworks DVD sounds great and the extras are interesting, but the transfer is sub-par when you take into consideration how good other recent releases have looked on DVD lately. Rent it if you're curious, otherwise, find something else to watch – I wish I had. Blah!