Hollywood is suffering from a real identity crisis. The pandemic really showed just how valuable entertainment really is, but at the same time, it showed the weakness of the theatrical experience when no one can get out of their houses. And later when no one wants to leave them. The result of such an event has basically put Hollywood on a risk-averse trend, even more than usual, and their obsession with having IPs roll out content for both film and television is already starting to wear thin.
R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned is a film directed by Paul Leyden and stars Jeffrey Donovan, Penelope Mitchell, and Richard Brake. The film is based on the popular series of comic books and serves as a sequel and a prequel to the 2013 film starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. The film tells the story of Sheriff Roy, who dies in a shooting days before his daughter’s wedding and is sent to the R.I.P.D. a department in heaven that deals with demons who are terrorizing Earth.
The original R.I.P.D. flopped hard at the box office, and it was a signal for Bridges to stop doing all the work he has been doing in genre flicks. Which often ended up being quite generic and poorly constructed films. The film also marked the end of an era for Ryan Reynolds before he would come back with Deadpool on his back. The movie was plagued with a poor script and poor character writing, so when the series didn’t continue, very few people were disappointed.
That film was made at a time when every single studio wanted to create its own Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there were countless efforts that were not meant to be. So, when R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned is released directly to video-on-demand, it feels not only like we have gone back in time to when the first movie was a potential franchise. But also to the time when unwanted sequels ended up directly on DVD. R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned is a sequel to a movie nobody wanted and very few remember.
R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned is clearly produced on just a fraction of the budget of the original, and because of it, the production values have gone out of the window. It is still a very solid movie from a technical standpoint. It even showcases some solid visual effects and cool creature design in the third act, but it is just a shadow of what the first movie had to play with. The cuts have not only been made in the VFX and production design departments, but also when it comes to the actors.
Jeffrey Donovan is a fine actor, he kills it every time he is on-screen, and while he might not be a huge star, he works his ass off in every single project. He is a familiar face to anyone who has enjoyed film or television in the past 20 years. However, it is clear that he is way cheaper than any of the actors from the original movie, and sadly, Donovan is trapped in a movie with the same poor script as the first movie. The same can be said for Mitchell. She is a fine actress, but the script doesn’t really help her at all.
The writers of the movie are clearly trying to imitate the formula that has made the Marvel films so successful. They are trying to create an action comedy, where the characters have solid arcs, there are cool action set pieces, and there are also many jokes throughout the entire runtime. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t have the money to create amazing action sequences, the arcs are put together in a very sloppy way, and worse, the jokes are not funny.
The Old West setting is one where their dialogue needs a certain quality that makes it feel authentic but also fun to listen to. This doesn’t happen in R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned. Here, in this movie, every single character talks in a way that feels like someone trying to imitate the way people sounded in the Old West, but without having any idea of what that actually sounds like. The results are jokes and lines of dialogue that feel way too modern for the characters’ mouths.
There are also some very modern sensibilities thrown around involving social commentary. This is perfectly fine, but the universe within the movie suddenly falls into these modern sensibilities a bit too quickly, and they sound fake after a short while. The entire social commentary feels more like a checkbox that needed to be checked than an actual idea that was thrown around and put into the script.
In the end, R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned arrives on our screen with very low expectations. The final result is a movie that feels lost in the sea of content we have nowadays. Who wanted to see this movie, and who will want to see it? It will definitely find its audience, but as an effort to revive a property that was already dead, this feels like quite a miscalculation.