The first outing of Taken literally spanked cinema. Literally. Everyone was pretty much blown away by Neeson in this all out, ‘I will find you, and I will kill you’ grit (even enough to spawn some memes revolving around music in browsers. No, you wont get any hidden music at Flikgeek!). It signalled a new action hero, the one who was going to win. No doubts. No struggle. No downfall. Literally is going to tear the world apart to set things right. Unsurprisingly, Taken was a smash hit. It’s release saw the quickest rise to cinema hall of fame in recent years. And arguably rightly so. It was so slick, clever. Straightforward and full of genre clichés, but somehow, new and exciting.
So why they had to balls it up with Taken 2 baffles me.
Taken 2 is effectively Taken. The first half of Taken 2 is Taken but with the daughter donning the ‘I will find you and I will kill you’ crown. Which to me seemed brilliant! Liam Neeson was taking a back seat, guiding his daughter to save him and her mother. Predictable, yes, but exciting and new. So why did they then change their minds half way through. Slap bang in the middle of the film is a scene which can only be described as ‘Right you’ve had yours, do one’. Liam Neeson takes over, and were back to Taken. The daughter then effectively written out of the film at the midway point. To me this was a huge mistake. We’ve seen rafts of strong and dangerous women in cinema recently (Kick Ass, Hanna) so why couldn’t we have a suspension of disbelief with his daughter? Yes, the likelihood is that she probably will be struggling with a moral battle about whether to blow these guys heads apart, yes she doesn’t know how to align satellites to create a hologram map of terrorist and trafficking cells and yes, she probably doesn’t know half the acronyms in her dad’s ‘I will find you and I will kill you’ manual. But damn it would have been cool to see her do it all! I don’t really care that she realistically isn’t able to do that stuff. The whole premise and tone of Taken is ‘balls to reality, here is some really cool stuff’.
And that is where Taken 2 went wrong. It was the same old cool stuff, no ‘I will find you and I will kill you’, more listening to bombs and counting (which unfortunately is as cool as it gets, which if you haven’t guessed by now, not very exciting). In a weird way Taken 2 has actually managed to badly rip off it’s own theme. It feels cheap and empty. And boring. To a certain extent I could overlook the tacky racial typecasting of the first one. In the world of Taken everything is black and white, there is no inbetween. You’re either evil or your wonderful, in this case your either of ethnic minority or Caucasian.
Taken 2 relies heavily on audience presumptions that it’s going to be as good as the first one, one of the trends I hate in modern cinema. It tends to be now that if a film has a opening weekend, within 24-48 hours of the release, there will be an announcement that a sequel is to follow. Now I could be naïve here, but there is no way that a plot has been soundly developed in that time, (unless of course it has?) but it screams of ‘this is making money, we need to do this again and make more money’. And unfortunately Taken 2 just feels so flat and damp. It’s the bare bones of a story which takes the wrong direction when presented with narrative opportunities.
There are elements of Taken 2 which work, the mere fact it’s returned to the original trajectory and similar plot to Taken means it does work on one level. It’s coherent and fairly straight forward. But unfortunately, once you see a film which completely changes action films, it’s not going to have quite the same impact as it did first time round. Ultimately Taken 2 didn’t need to happen, we could have coped quite well if it hadn’t of been made, were also coping quite well now it has been made. I suspect Taken 2 will be confined to the Saturday night slots on Sky movies and eventually Channel 4 as the ‘well, apart from The X-Factor and Take Me Out, there’s nothing on. Shall we just watch Taken 2 instead?’ gap filler film, which is a shame really, because Taken smashed Hollywood, and shook up the action genre.