Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Taken 2’ better as a standalone than a sequel

By Herb Scribner

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There is nothing wrong with “Taken 2” as a standalone film.

Compared to its predecessor, though, it’s kind of flat.

“Taken 2” is the story of Bryan Mills, an obsessive-compulsive everyday guy with a background in kicking ass and taking names. Mills, once upon a time, saved his daughter Kim (played by Maggie Grace) from an Albanian sex-trafficking group within 72 hours using his experience from years working for the CIA and a handful of now-classic one-liners. Now, he lives the easy life of washing cars, teaching his daughter how to drive and protecting international political figures.

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It’s when Mills heads abroad to Istanbul and invites his family over that things turn sour. A group of Albanians, family members and friends of the men killed by Mills in the first movie, set out for revenge to capture Mills and his family.

Unlike other sequels of the past, “Taken 2” doesn’t follow the direct same pattern as the first movie. Instead, the plot is fresh and new with Mills and his wife Lenore being captured instead of their daughter. In fact, his daughter is the one helping him out.

The plot feels different and isn’t the same movie in any sense. Writers Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen do well in establishing this new scenario for the characters. They make it into somewhat of a standalone film, and less of a sequel.

Liam Neeson’s acting is typical. He doesn’t have the great awesome monologue he had in the first movie – no “I will find you, and I will kill you” moment – but he does deliver the harsh and direct lines that have made the actor into the modern-day action legend that he is.

Grace, as Mills’ daughter, does a much better job in the sequel than in the first movie. She runs a lot, similarly to the prequel, but she actually has lines that matter. She’s a joy to watch on screen.

Framke Janssen, as Lenore, lays on the ground and groans for the majority of the movie. Similar to Grace’s role in the first film, she’s the one that needs to be saved.

Many of the scenery shots in the film of Turkey are exceptional. Sunsets in Istanbul are a mark of beauty. But when things get closer to street level and Neeson is seeking out his wife, it’s confusing and hard to follow where he is.

There’s also a very strange opening to the film with flashing blue lights, a sharp and uneasy sound and the opening credits. It looks very much like pieces of a movie trailer, only without images of characters or the story. It’s very odd.

Leaving the theater, viewers won’t feel as fulfilled as they did with “Taken.” The first film was something completely new and unprecedented. No one really knew what they were getting into when they saw the 2008 hit. You felt on edge throughout that entire film, even after leaving the theater.

But “Taken 2” gives this feeling of comfort. Viewers are comfortable with Neeson’s character, knowing he’s going to, most likely, make it out alive. There’s no uneasiness or suspense like there was in the original movie.

So when the two are compared, it’s tough to really enjoy “Taken 2.” The sequel doesn’t shine as brightly when considering how well the first one was made. When you remember all those moments that made your stomach drop, the sequel just looks ordinary.

Don’t fret, though, it’s still a good film. It’s nice seeing Neeson snap some necks and break some arms. He’ll take down anyone that comes his way.

But that terror, that suspense and that worry, dumbs down the film.

“Taken 2” is its own film more than it is a sequel. Sure, the stories are connected as the plot of the sequel would never have happened had it not been for the first film. But it still feels like its own movie.

Those who haven’t seen the first movie should definitely see this film. There are enough flashback sequences to give someone who hasn’t seen the first film an idea of the original’s plot. Those viewers will certainly be on edge.

But for us who have seen the original, “Taken 2” just doesn’t grab full attention.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected]

 

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