New Cube, New Me

Image courtesy of Simply Legendary Publicity

Every genre fan has a list of the films that made them into the fan they are today or at least those overly nostalgic films that hold a special place in their heart. Films like The FacultyEvent Horizon, and Scream shaped me into the genre fan I am today. The films that would be on TV on a Saturday afternoon, the ones where you know they cut the best stuff out for TV, those are the films that made me. One of these films, maybe not breaking the top 10, but definitely, the top 15, was Cube. Every time I saw it on Channel 10, our TV Guide channel (remember when the TV Guide had a channel?), I would immediately switch to that channel. Something about Cube always gave me shivers. Was it the ambiguity of what the hell is happening? Is it the dumbed-down, but still academic sounding, math thrown at us? I couldn’t tell you what it was about Cube except that I just really enjoyed it.

When I heard Cube was getting a remake, though after watching it I think it’s closer to a reimagining, I was skeptical. We already know the basic premise, we know about the prime numbers, we know things are going to go even further south than they’ve already gone. Even though I kept a heavily skeptical mindset, I was still excited to see it. Cube was like Halloween for me. My excitement level for this kind of paralleled the excitement other felt for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake or Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake. What I did like when I first heard the news was that it was going to be a Japanese remake.

Everyone stands in a cube lit by white lights
Image courtesy of Simply Legendary Publicity

The whole idea behind Cube is more of a character study, rather than a flat-out murder box movie. As an idea, throwing a group of strangers in a box hoping that they pick up some semblance of the mathematics behind it is interesting, and it works just fine. Where the horror really comes in is in the characters and their specific interactions, which is where I think Cube ’21 shines. There are some issues with Cube ’21, but is substantially better than every other Cube film to date.

To start, the cast of Cube ’21 is fantastic. We have Takumi Saitoh (Shin Ultraman13 Assassins) as Hiroshi Ide. Saitoh is spectacular, Hiroshi Ide is well-written, but complimented by Saitoh’s stellar performance. It’s a toss-up as to who has a better performance between Takumi Saitoh and Masaki Suda (Assassination Classroom) as Yuichi Goto. Both characters are fairly deep characters, but it’s the relationship between Yuichi Goto and Chiharu Uno (Hikaru Tashiro) that adds much-needed depth to this story. The original Cube has character conflicts, but the characters really seem stale in hindsight in the original Cube. Masaki Okada really just chews up the scenery as Shinji Ochi. Okada takes the character into some places that I don’t think necessarily work within his range, but I appreciate the chances he took with the character.

Where the characters lose me a bit is with Asako Kai (Anne Watanabe), and Kazumasa Ando (Kôtarô Yoshida). Asako Kai is a quiet woman who sits in the background and says something of importance when it’s needed. I get that that’s the character, but it just feels a bit…strange? We go three or four scenes just seeing a side profile of her, and then she pops back in with one line and then disappears for the next 15 minutes. Kôtarô Yoshida handles his character just fine, but the character itself is just one note. There’s really no revelation or turn of character. Ando’s flat arc just feels very out of place in this film, as they really focus on the arcs of Hiroshi Ide, Yuichi Goto, and Chiharu Uno. It’s almost as if it isn’t one of those three main characters, then you’re just there for either plot exposition or to fill with dialogue. I personally wouldn’t have minded a more dialogue-heavy Cube remake if there were more well-written characters and deeper moments.

Goto sits in between two cubes, while debating whether or not to go into the next room
Image courtesy of Simply Legendary Publicity

I really appreciated the redesign of the cube itself. As much as I love the original Cube, upon a rewatch it does feel and look fairly cheap. The cube for Cube ’21 feels sleeker, scarier, and the traps are more elaborate than the original. At the end of the day, isn’t that really why we love Cube? Kidding. But also not really. The original cube is Patrick Bateman’s business card, and the new cube is Paul Allen’s. I think the best way I could describe the new cube, is it’s what it feels like when the people in Silicon Valley decide to rise up and torment us low folk for their entertainment. As I said the trapped rooms are amped up to a whole new level in Cube ’21. I think a lot of times people are fair to question, “why remake that movie now,” when it comes to remakes. Cube is a film that is overdue for a remake. The effects in the original Cube really don’t hold the test of time, but with all of the technology that is available to us now, why not remake it?

Kôji Tokuo’s script has more pros than cons. As I stated earlier there are some issues I have with a few of the characters. With the film being 1 hour and 48 minutes, I think they had more than enough downtime to really flesh out, or include more, a few of the characters. Overall though, the three main characters I referred to (Hiroshi Ide, Yuichi Goto, and Chiharu Uno) have great characters and do a majority of the lifting through the film. There are a few things I’m surprised Tokuo changed, or flat-out removed, from the original story that I think may have acted as a detriment to the remake a little. Ultimately Tokuo created a fairly tight script based on Vincenzo Natali’s original story. Yasuhiko Shimizu’s directing really does this film wonders. For someone who doesn’t have the biggest filmography, it’s actually quite impressive what they pulled off. Taking on a film like this early[ish] into your career is a bold choice, and in this case, a fairly successful choice.

Ide holds Yuichi up against a wall, Ide's arm covered in blood
Image courtesy of Simply Legendary Publicity

If you’re a fan of the original Cube I think you will find enough similarities in Cube ’21 to keep you entertained, and enough differences to keep you guessing. I appreciate the chances everyone took on a project like this, and I think audiences will be fairly receptive of this film. It’s also nice to know Vincenzo Natali acted as an Executive Producer on this project, and that it has his stamp of approval; letting someone take his story in a whole new direction is really cool to see. I think everyone should give this film a chance, and let the madness of the cube engulf your brain.

Cube ’21 will be available streaming on Screambox April 11 and will be available on VOD platforms via Cinedigm and Bloody Disgusting on the same day.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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