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The Ring Two

The Ring Two feels like it desperately needs to be The Ring, too. Yet it lacks some of the fundamental aspects that made Gore Verbinski’s remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu so popular with American audiences in the first place.

It’s no doubt that Ringu is a superior film compared to its stateside incarnation. The film had a depth to it that brought out more than just the gimmick of victims being found dead seven days after viewing the contents of an underground style videotape. The film introduced hints of the arcane ranging from psychic abilities to telekinetic powers all at the disposal of a very fragile and unstable youth.

Sure, there was a sprinkle of The Omen type vibe thrown in for effect, but it worked. Verbinski’s adaptation isolated the more commercial aspects of Ringu, namely the videotape phenomena, and ran with them. Truth be told, the concept is a publicity dream, and the team over at Dreamworks had a field day.

Countering this more vacant approach to the adaptation was Verbinski’s touch as a music video director. Verbinski’s film was steeped in cyclical symbology, taking the whole thing a step further than its predecessor had. This is not to overlook the manner in which the world of The Ring glistened through the lens of cinematographer Bojan Bezelli, whose framing and composition made the film look and feel larger than life.

The one constant thread stitching The Ring and The Ring Two, production-wise, is screenwriter Ehren Kruger. His barebones approach to adapting the first Ringu may have worked largely because of what else was brought to the table in other aspects of production. Who can forget those wonderful nods to Alfred Hitchcock, and the infusion of circles at every turn?

This time out, Kruger is less successful, and the minimalist approach is beginning to show signs of strain. After Verbinski and a slew of other directors came and went, Dreamworks finally turned their focus back to the man responsible for the first incarnation of the Ringu novels on-screen, Hideo Nakata. This is all well and good, but a return to the roots of the series was definitely not the studios first intent. Judging by the marketing campaign it would seem that they wanted more Gore, and frankly it appears that he wanted no more.

So with Nakata on board we are delivered a sequel that does what a sequel is expected to do, sputter and struggle its way through a runtime that feels more like a prison sentence. Reading a synopsis for Nakata’s Ringu 2, for which he also shares a screenwriting credit, it would seem that Kruger’s original approach to adaptation was put into play with the sequel. Kruger takes one element from the original sequel and expands it into a full length feature, excising all else for sake of that good old Hollywood feel.

What results is a hollow film, devoid of any feeling, emotion, or scope. Sure, we get to follow Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) and her son Aiden (David Dorfman) as they seek to restart their lives in a quiet town outside of the big city. The problem is, every other suggested plot thread from the first film, however muted they may have been, is completely ignored here. Instead of including the struggle by periphery characters to understand the events transpiring, Kruger keeps the focus solely on Rachel and Aiden, and the attempts by Samara (Kelly Stables) to possess young Aiden.

The “how’s and why’s” behind Samara’s ability to haunt without even viewing the tape are strewn together with little or no logic to them whatsoever. These were plot points which were originally set up in Ringu, then ignored in The Ring, and now rushed into acceptance.

This is where the film falls flat on its face. You can’t build up a set of rules in one film, and then completely ignore those same rules without adequate explanation as to why. In The Ring we learn about the cycle and the sickly twisted manner in which the curse can be broken. The conceit was simple; Samara, by way of the tape, forces victims to choose between their own death and the selfishness of condemning someone else to die in their place.

Yet when Rachel investigates what appears to be a Samara-related death, she somehow provides Samara access to her son Aiden, whom Samara wishes to become. The problem is, the closing sequence in The Ring already setup the necessary connection with Aiden, and foreshadowed his eventual possession adequately. Did Kruger simply forget the ending to his original film?

Nakata’s subdued approach to framing his sequences, via cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, mixes perfectly with the original Ringu series but sticks out against the polished high gloss imagery of the original remake. Add to this a cameo by none other than Sissy Spacek, her role retained to avoid spoilers, feels completely wasted.

“Original remake.” Perhaps this oxymoron is evidence as to where the series took its first wrong turn. American films are huge all over the world, without suffering extensive remakes. It feels self-righteous and wrong to bury the filmic efforts from places other than the U.S. in exchange for supercharged re-do’s.


Mario Anima

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