James’s review published on Letterboxd:
Monthly franchise April 2023: Cube
What a mess.
The film follows a group of people who find themselves trapped inside a cube that seemingly has the ability to alter the rules of reality.
Well, after enjoying the first one, I did hope that the second one would be okay at the very least, but the drop in quality here is immediately obvious. Pretty much everything here has been downgraded, particularly in the direction. Andrzej Sekula is on directing duties here, and his direction is completely off. Gone are the trap rooms (some rooms decide to kill you after a few minutes, some don't), the interesting cube designs (this new cube has a very clinical white look that gets dull very quickly, they also seem much larger than the ones from the first), the practical effects (replaced by the most early 2000s CGI imaginable), the rules for survival (they just go room to room with no real consequence), and, generally speaking, the plot. This movie is just plain uneventful, as the various group members just go cube to cube, never really looking for a way out, just sort of exploring, trying to understand the number they keep seeing. It's really dull.
Another area that has seen a significant downgrade is the acting. I know many are quick to say the acting in the first was rough (I think it was pretty good for a low budget B-movie), but the acting there is Oscar worthy compared to this. None of the characters have any sort of chemistry, any sort of interesting backstory (outside of two guys whose backstories are copy/pasted from the first film), and they're all completely forgettable. They even try to throw in a twist for a couple of them, but you'll probably see it coming a mile away. Sadly, the cast isn't helped by the script, so not all the blame can be placed on them. The script here copies over a lot of the same moral and philosophical themes of the first, in some cases almost word for word, leading to the film feeling like a retread of the first, but then again, the first had an actual plot and a reason for the characters to constantly move forward and fear every cube they entered, so a lazy retread feels more apt.
Still, there are a couple of decent things here. I think some scenes are pretty well done if you excuse the god awful CGI. One of the first "trap" rooms is actually pretty well done all things considered, and I liked some of the ways the hypercube altered time and space. There are some creative concepts in here that a better writing team and director could have made a decent to good movie out of. Sadly, the ideas run out quickly, and the rooms start to get repeated or skimmed over with no time to fully explore the concept. There are some cool ideas here, it's just the execution that lets them down.
In the end, this movie definitely could have been much better with a more experienced team on board, but what we got is a bit of a mess. Here's hoping the prequel, Cube Zero, will be a return to form, but given the torture porn vibes I've gotten from the poster, I doubt it will be.