A couple years ago, the Norwegian disaster film The Wave proved to be an entertaining hit and the success of the film propelled its director Roar Uthaug to Hollywood where he’d helm this year’s Tomb Raider. The Wave was only the beginning as the horrific disaster of the first film comes roaring back with a vengeance in The Quake, a sequel which sees John Andreas Andersen taking over directing duties. Despite trying to deliver a bigger disaster, The Quake disappoints because it’s disaster is postponed until the final third of the film. At least when the eponymous disaster hits, The Quake delivers the goods even though it is too little too late.
The Quake starts off on a really interesting note. The hero from the first film Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) appears on a television show where he’s honored for his heroism in recusing the lives of so many. Just a few short years later, Kristian’s life is in ruins. His wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) has left him. He rarely sees his young daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande), and when he does see her he pushes her away. Fears of another natural disaster have left Kristian a shell of the man he once was. These early scenes are a fascinating look at lingering trauma and the sense of helplessness in the face of nature’s brute strength.
After a fascinating opening, the screenplay by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg begins to spin its wheels, and it spins them for a long time. Kristian fears that the next natural disaster is around the corner, and his studies make him conclude that a massive earthquake, larger than the one that struck Oslo in 1904, is coming and the city isn’t prepared. His warnings, though, fall on deaf ears as he’s not believed by his colleagues who have witnessed him lose a grip on his life after the previous disaster. There’s one person willing to listen to Kristian’s warnings, and that’s Marit Lindblom (Katherine Thorborg Johansen), whose father recently died while trying to study seismic activity. Will anyone listen before it becomes too late?
It becomes frustrating after a while as The Quake continually teases its impending disaster but continually delays unleashing the disaster. You enter a film called The Quake knowing full well what’s going to happen, so it’s incredibly underwhelming when so much of the film is the main character warning of an impending disaster and characters just shrugging him off. The disaster film fails to toy with audience expectation or genre tropes, it’s just needless filler to stave off the inevitable.
When The Quake finally delivers its disaster, the film really picks up but it really reminds you just how ineffective the prolonged setup really is. The action is big and suspenseful as Kristian, Idun, Julia, and Marit are all trapped within a glass-covered hotel. It should be noted that these character are only on the 34th floor of the hotel because Julia wanders in there in what has to be some of the worst writing for a child character ever, basically making this kid a reckless moron despite the fact her father has proclaimed rather loudly and repeatedly that a horrible earthquake is on the horizon.
John Andreas Andersen flexes his directorial muscles in the disaster scenes, and it’s here that The Quake finds a bit of wit in playing with tropes and dangling its character in harm’s way. One particular segment is a blatant rip off of one of the best sequences in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, as Julia is held up from a deadly fall by cracked glass that begins to crumble under her weight. But hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Sadly, this all comes so late in the film that you can’t help but feel let down that The Quake was unable to craft any palpable tension until its final third.
As someone who enjoyed The Wave, I found The Quake to be disappointment because it spends so much time preparing you for a disaster you know is coming. The action works when it arrives but it comes far too late. Too much of The Quake is a set up for what everyone knows is coming, and it’s frustrating to sit there waiting and hoping that the rumble will finally arrive. It does eventually arrive, but there’s not enough moving and shaking within The Quake to make it worth your time.
A disaster film that takes its time getting to its disaster, The Quake features an incredibly long set up before finally delivering a few moments of thrilling action.