Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Quake: Norway Takes Another Hit

You might think after their experiences in The Wave, Kristian Eikfjord and his family would have moved someplace flat, dry, and stable. Alas, they are still in the geological death trap that is Norway, but post-survival stress has ruptured their family unit. Eikfjord the geologist has become paranoid and anti-social, but that certainly does not mean he is wrong about the big shake he predicts in John Andreas Andersen’s sequel, The Quake (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Denver and San Francisco (where they know their earthquakes).

Eikfjord was a hero in The Wave, but he still has some serious PTSD to work through. His wife Idun Karlsen has been willing to give him time and space, but he is pushing it. She is particularly annoyed when Eikfjord cannot handle the scheduled visit from their eight-year-old-ish daughter, Julia (we’re not particularly impressed either). He forces himself back to Oslo to make it right, only to get sidetracked by the research papers of a recently deceased colleague who was even more paranoid. Of course, his prophetic warnings are only too accurate, but Eikfjord cannot convince his ultra-bureaucratic former colleague to pay attention.

Seriously, how many times can you look at ominous seismic charts and dismiss them as vibrations from construction sites? What are they building there anyway, mammoth particle accelerators? In downtown Oslo? You would think he would eventually say, “okay, let me take another look at this,” but no, not until it is too late.

That is the main problem with The Quake. Far too much time is devoted to Eikfjord howling in the wilderness and being a terrible parent. Anderson and screenwriters John Kåre Raake & Harold Rosenløw-Eeg keep their powder dry, saving the earthquake until the third act, but when it comes, the cataclysm is pretty impressive. In the previous film, they often teased viewers with potential dark tragedies, but always took the safe way out at the last minute. Not to be spoilery, but they do not always opt for the sentimental cop-out this time around.

Kristoffer Joner was rather blandly likable (in an aptly Scandinavian way) portraying Eikfjord in The Wave, but this time around, he is such a miserably sullen jerk, viewers will want to hit him over the head with a plywood plank to snap him out of it. As Karlsen, Ane Dahl Torp also seems much less interested in him and the film this time around, but her character has a right to be short on patience. On the other hand, Sondre, their now college-aged son played by Jonas Hoff Oftebro, is more responsible, proactive and just generally less annoying to spend time with, so at least one member of the family is maturing.

In the future, the Eikfjords have to figure out a way to avoid hotels during times of natural disaster. Regardless, the big catastrophic centerpiece scene is definitely memorable. Viewers who have not seen The Wave will still be able to navigate The Quake just fine. Frankly, the distributor is not marketing it as a sequel. It is just a showcase for buildings getting all shook up. Worth seeing (eventually) for its effects, but not so much for the drama, The Quake opens this Friday (12/14) at the Mayan Theatre in Denver and the Opera Plaza in San Francisco.