Today’s feature is yet another truly reviled, unnecessary sequel: “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
“Speed 2” was directed, produced, and co-written by Jan De Bont, who has had a significant career as both a director and a cinematographer, working on such films as “Roar,” “Twister,” “The Haunting,” and “Leonard Part 6.” The screenplay writing credit for “Speed 2” was given to two other people: Randall McCormick (“Titan A.E.,” “The Scorpion King 2,” “The Scorpion King 3”) and Jeff Nathanson (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Rush Hour 2,” “Rush Hour 3”).
Character creation credit for “Speed 2” was given to the writer of “Speed,” Graham Yost (“Mission to Mars,” “Justified”), who was apparently bumped from the creative side of “Speed 2” early on in the project due to a difference of vision from De Bont.
The cinematographer for “Speed 2” was Jack N. Green, who also shot such movies as “Unforgiven,” “The Net,” and, more recently, “Hot Tub Time Machine.”
The musical score for “Speed 2” was provided by Mark Mancina, who has composed music for such films as “Space Mutiny,” “Con Air,” and “Twister.”
The editor for “Speed 2” was Alan Cody, who has cut a number of comedy movies like “Corky Romano” and “Inspector Gadget.”
The massive special effects team for “Speed 2” included Mike Reedy (“Daredevil,” “RoboCop 3,” “TRON”), Tom von Badinski (“Epic Movie,” “Waterworld”), Al Broussard (“Mimic,” “Volcano”), Paul Stewart (“Tango & Cash”), Bruce Robles (“Lethal Weapon,” “Virtuosity”), Al Di Sarro (“Predator”), Craig Barnett (“Deep Blue Sea,” “Congo”), David Eland (“Cellular”), Mike Sasgen (“Torque,” “Demolition Man”), Timothy Vierra (“Small Soldiers”), Michael Tice (“Toys,” “Jaws: The Revenge”), and many, many others.
The visual effects team for “Speed 2” included numerous members of Industrial Light and Magic and Rhythm and Hues, two highly acclaimed effects studios. The film’s team thus had common elements with such productions as “Minority Report,” “Congo,” “Small Soldiers,” “Hudson Hawk,” “Titanic,” “Avatar,” “Pacific Rim,” “The Golden Child,” “Antz,” “Shrek,” “Deep Blue Sea,” and “Star Wars: Episode I.”
Aside from Jan De Bont, the other producers for “Speed 2” were Mark Gordon (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Speed”), Steve Perry (“True Romance,” “Road House”), Michael Peyser (“Hackers”), and Glenn Salloum (“Twister,” “SLC Punk”), who was also De Bont’s longtime assistant.
The three art directors for “Speed 2” were William Ladd Skinner (“Rocky IV,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “1941,” “Rollerball”), Daniel Ross (“Casino,” “Jingle All The Way”), and Dan Olexiewicz (“American History X”).
Astoundingly, due to the amount of shooting necessary for “Speed 2”, the production necessitated a first assistant director, a second unit director, a first assistant director for the second unit, a second assistant director, a second assistant director for the second unit, and two second second assistant directors. Try listing all of those credits three times fast.
The cast of “Speed 2” is headlined by Sandra Bullock (“The Net,” “Demolition Man”), Willem DaFoe (“Shadow of the Vampire,” “Mississippi Burning”), Jason Patric (“Sleepers,” “The Lost Boys”), Temuera Morrison (“Star Wars: Episode II,” “Green Lantern”), Bo Svenson (“Walking Tall Part II”), and Brian McCardie (“Filth,” “Rob Roy”).
The story of “Speed 2” picks up with Sandra Bullock’s character a number of months after the events of “Speed.” Keanu Reeves is long gone, and she is well into a new relationship. The new boyfriend, in an attempt to propose to her, decides to surprise her with a cruise vacation. Unfortunately, their ship is highjacked, and it is up to the couple to save the passengers from a raging computer genius with an axe to grind with the cruise line company.
Keanu Reeves was initially supposed to return and reprise his role from “Speed,” and the screenplay was written with that in mind. However, he turned it down, choosing specifically to not do another action movie. Bafflingly, there were almost no changes to the script after he declined, making the central romantic plot thoroughly confusing throughout the film.
Keanu’s departure also meant that the production was thrown into a bit of a casting pickle. Before Jason Patric was settled on, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bon Jovi, and Christian Slater were all apparently considered for the lead role.
One of the key differences between “Speed” and “Speed 2” is the amount of attempted humor, which is apparently something that Jan De Bont specifically pushed for to differentiate the film from “Speed.”
The dramatic finale sequence, in which the cruise ship runs aground through a coastal town, reportedly cost $25 million on its own, making it the most expensive stunt in history at the time. The entire town was built from scratch, and the entire front of the ship portrayed was real (it was run on an underwater rail), with only the back half being filled in with computer generation for the sequence.
Sandra Bullock has gone on record as saying that “Speed 2” is “the biggest piece of crap ever made,” a claim that many critics and audiences might agree with. The reception for “Speed 2” was incredibly poor, earning Rotten Tomatoes scores of 3% (critics) and 16% (audience), along with an IMDb rating of 3.7. However, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both surprisingly gave the film positive reviews, going against the popular grain.
The budget for “Speed 2” was an outlandish (for the time) estimated $160 million. Through its theatrical run, it managed to pull in a tiny profit, grossing $164 million total. Interestingly, over 70% of the total gross came from foreign markets, and it was considered a major disappointment domestically in spit of making some money.
My biggest issue “Speed 2” is that Bullock’s character is immensely unlikable. The problem is primarily due to how much the screenplay tries to use her for comic relief, which she rarely pulls off. Part of that is on Bullock, but most of it is definitely the fault of the writing, which provides awful stilted dialogue throughout the film. That bad writing also negatively effects the relationship chemistry between Patric and Bullock, which the fans of the first movie are mostly already pulling against due to their attachment to Keanu’s character.
Unfortunately for the film, the absence of Keanu Reeves is constantly evident. Jason Patric, shockingly, lacks the same on-screen presence and charisma that Reeves provided, and Keanu isn’t exactly an inspiring figure to start with. If the movie hadn’t been a contractual obligation, Keanu’s decision not to return should have killed it before filming ever started.
“Speed 2” clocks in at roughly 2 hours, much longer than most would be willing to devote to a movie about a boat slowly inching towards a stationary object. The film could clearly have been cut better, and the pacing throughout the finale feels like the team was afraid to cut anything because of how expensive it all was. Frankly, the whole ending sequence seems to drag on indefinitely, with numerous false conclusions that make “Leviathan” look like a masterpiece.
One of the most baffliing aspect of “Speed 2” is how many people supposedly fail to see a gigantic cruise ship bearing down on them. The film features water skiers, sailboats, and pedestrians not noticing the presence and roar of a cruise ship until it is literally feet away from them, which is asking a little much from the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Speaking of which, the unspoken death toll from the events of the film must have been massive, given the number of buildings and watercraft crushed beneath the ship.
Overall, “Speed 2” certainly isn’t a good movie. Ironically, its biggest sin is being too slow, but the writing certainly didn’t do it any favors. The finale is a spectacle I suppose, but one that drags on a little too long for my taste. That said, Willem DaFoe hams his role up immensely, and livens up his segments.
When it comes to making a recommendation on “Speed 2,” I want to leave readers with a quick excerpt from Roger Ebert’s positive review. Despite the film’s flaws, he has a good point here:
Is the movie fun? Yes. Especially when the desperate Bullock breaks into a ship’s supply cabinet and finds a chainsaw, which I imagine all ships carry. And when pleasure boaters somehow fail to see a full-size runaway ocean liner until it is three feet from them. Movies like this embrace goofiness with an almost sensual pleasure. And so, on a warm summer evening, do I.