Ring 2 (1999)

Class: Staff
Author: Anthony Romero
Score: (2/5)
December 19th, 2002 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Making a sequel to a film is never an easy task. There are many aspects one has to juggle in doing so, such as creating a picture that reminds the audience why they loved the first while at the same time crafting a story that isn't simply a reinvisioning of the plot from the first. Spiral (1998), the Ring's first sequel, certainly accomplished the latter, but trampled all over what the first had established in doing so to the point that it was written out of the continuity entirely. Ring 2, now seen as the series' true second entry, reunites director Hideo Nakata with the series he first made famous. So how does Nakata's sequel fare? Well, unfortunately, not very well at all. Across the board, this film flounders pretty hard, lacking the scares or intelligence of its predecessor, while the characters are generally uninteresting. In fact, about the only genuine praise that this project deserves comes from composer, and series veteran, Kenji Kawai who conducts another pleasant, and appropriately eerie, soundtrack for the film.

In terms of plot, the movie starts off right where the first left off, as in the wake of Ryuji Takayama's death, Mai Takano begins to attempt to uncover what led to her boyfriend's untimely demise. Quickly she begins to piece together the legacy of Sadako's curse, a young girl who died years ago and had tied her revenge to those who viewed a VHS tape; unfortunately, her powers are no longer confined by the tape, as she begins to attack survivors. To complicate matters, her powers are also slowly appearing in Yoichi, Takayama's son, as it becomes a race with time to try and solve this new dilemma before Mai and the young boy are killed in the process.

The story, to put it simple, goes for the age old approach of raising the stakes and making the danger more of a threat than in the first entry. Predictably, this is also where most of Ring 2's faults lie. In removing Sadako's connection to the tape, most of what the previous film had set up is thrown completely out the window, while this film makes little effort to try and explain what type of shape her new powers have taken. The first film was as much a horror picture as it was a mystery, as the audience joined in while the cast of characters attempted to uncover how they might save themselves from Sadako. This film follows a similar approach, but gives no satisfactory resolution to why they end up escaping from Sadako (in a sequence that more or less spits on the terrifying climax from the first) or exactly how she is attacking those who haven't seen the tape. True, there are some generally frightening moments in this film, but these feel simply like an “aftermath” from what was established by the first, and the general atmosphere is crushed as the pictures grinds to its end.

In fact, the film unravels in such an incoherent fashion, with sloppy pacing and plot holes aplenty, that it also raises the question if director Nakata had simply gotten lucky with the first entry in the series? Regardless, the main point of Nakata's film seems to be that Sadako, regardless of precautions, will live on, as hinted at when she appears to have possessed the dead girl's body near the end of the picture. It's a nice concept, but one that's poorly explained here, and almost seems like a counterstatement to what was established in the first when it set up rules for who she was able to kill.

Sadly, the faults of the movie's story only seem amplified by the weak characters that inhibit it. Gone this time around are Ryuji Takayama and Reiko Asakawa, who only have fleeting roles and the latter of which is killed by running out into traffic of all things, while Mai Takano takes center stage. Thankfully, she is more inline with what was seen of her character in the first movie then she was in Spiral (1998), but still doesn't end up being very interesting or complex enough for the audience to care. Consequently, that's really the problem with her character. Where as the audience generally wanted Reiko to survive in the first movie, they only feel indifferent about Mai which causes for the audience to simply shrug whenever she is placed in danger as opposed to being placed on the edge of their seat interested in what might take place. The rest of the cast is all secondary here, although the movie ends up weaving far too many of them into the picture over all, and doesn't give a clear view on which of these other participants might become important to the story later on.

Thankfully, the acting in Ring 2 is stronger than the character development, but that's saying next to nothing as it still falters to make the movie any more enjoyable. Unfortunately, the principal actor of this entry, Miki Nakatani as Mai, ends up giving a fairly unconvincing portrayal of the character. Oh she can scream all right, but ends up doing very little else of interest with the material she was given. To be fair, Nakatani is not a bad actress, but her talents seem inappropriate for a leading role. To look at the rest of the cast, Rikiya Otaka as Yoichi, Ryuji and Reiko's son, takes the main supporting role for the film and, for all intensive purposes, is fairly awful in the part. Granted, his portrayal in the first movie was perfectly creepy and unnerving as he let little emotion show, but it's quickly discovered that, sadly, that's about all Otaka is good at. To that point, it's actually embarrassing to watch him attempt to act frightening or the least bit concerned about the events transpiring around him in this film. In regards to the rest of the cast, none of them really stand out in anyway, either positively or negatively. It's nice to see Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada reprise their roles from the previous film, but, as previously mentioned, their characters don't get to do much.

Fortunately, the film does have one light at the end of the tunnel, which is Kenji Kawai's wonderful score for the picture. Granted, Kawai's music does have some slight repetition with his Ring (1998) score, but it still manages to heighten the fear factor on this normally timid movie. There aren't any cues that are all that memorable, with the exception of the Main theme and the return of Sadako's theme, but the score does enhance the viewing experience a lot and isn't a bad stand alone experience either.

Overall, this sequel is best left forgotten. It answers questions asked from Ring (1998) that never really needed answering, while adding even more questions, this time in a clumsy and confusing fashion, to the Ring legacy. The only thing to make this film stand out in any positive way is that it's certainly a much better successor to the throne than the first sequel was.