Norwegian disaster movie sequel The Quake feels every bit as passably entertaining, threadbare, and unnecessary as its bigger budgeted American and Asian counterparts. A follow-up to the 2015 smash hit (in its home country, anyway), The Wave, The Quake brings back its predecessor’s primary cast of characters to survive a different natural disaster with similar beats and cliches. Belonging firmly to the “if you’ve seen one of these, you’ve seen ‘em all” category of blockbusters, The Quake won’t damage what many loved about The Wave, but it won’t leave viewers clamouring for a third entry in a series that has already turned somewhat ridiculous by having a sequel at all.
Three years after a, 85-foot tall tsunami caused by a crumbling fjord devastated Norway, geologist Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) is having trouble readjusting to life after the large scale disaster. Kristian’s marriage (to a returning Ane Dahl Torp) has imploded, and he does everything humanly possible to keep a safe distance from his young daughter (Edith Haagenrud-Sande) and university attending son (Jonas Hoff Oftebro). After being inundated with questions from the media about the next impending global disaster on the horizon and being forced to relive his traumatic experiences, all Kristian wants is to be left alone and conduct his ongoing, obsessive studies in private. His solitude is upended when he gets wind that a colleague has died while investigating the structural integrity of one of the country’s many crumbling traffic tunnels. Looking over his fallen comrade’s findings with the help of the dead man’s surviving adult daughter (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), Kristian discovers a pattern of seismic activity that suggests Norway could be due for the most catastrophic earthquake of the past hundred years. While those monitoring the country’s tectonic activity don’t see any cause for alarm, it will only be a matter of time before Kristian is proven right and disastrous history will once again repeat itself.
Director John Andreas Andersen (who has a background in cinematography that serves The Quake quite nicely) takes the reigns from The Wave director Roar Uthaug (who recently made the jump to Hollywood with the Tomb Raider reboot), working from a script by returning writers John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg. All of the primary cast has returned, with basically the same amount to do, and with Joner given a little more to play with on an emotional level thanks to layers of survival guilt. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that The Quake moves and feels like the same movie as The Wave, only less inspired and more tired. It’s definitely a lesser sequel, but not a bad one, and disaster movie aficionados will find plenty to like here.
The Quake is one of those movies that cautions human beings to stop blaming the Earth for all their ecological problems, and start blaming humans who don’t want to open the eyes of the populace because they fear any emerging panic. It’s also one of those movies where the person everyone says is wrong will finally be proven right, and said person will have to save the lives of the family he or she has grown apart from during the film’s climax. Once the earth shaking action arrives in the film’s second half, one could make a diabolical drinking game out of the number of times and various ways people say any variation of the phrase “we gotta get outta here.” In summation, The Quake is basically every disaster movie ever made, but it’s a well made and executed one that takes itself just seriously enough to be believable. It’s not pretending to be anything it’s not, and it also isn’t poking fun at itself.
Much like The Wave, The Quake focuses more on character and human relationships than the spectacle. That’s partially because the modest budget only allows for only a handful of large scale set pieces (most of it saved for the great looking climax played out in a creatively crumbling high-rise), but it’s also in an effort to make one care about the characters more. It’s admittedly a little ridiculous to watch a similar plot play out among the same characters from the first film a second time, but there’s enough development here to make The Quake a breezy bit of fun.
Compared to the refreshing nature of The Wave, The Quake is a bit disappointing, but not without merit. As a popcorn movie with a side of ecological awareness and messages about corporate responsibility, The Quake does everything it has to in a bid to remain sufficiently entertaining. It’s memory will live on as long as a hiccup, but it’s fine enough for what it is.
The Quake opens in Toronto at Carlton Cinemas on Friday, December 14, 2018. It’s available on iTunes in Canada the same day.
Check out the trailer for The Quake: