The Cube trilogy is one of those lovely anomalies in the realm of SF cinema- a series of flicks made on small budgets that actually maintained some sense of a compelling story, even in the sequel and prequel that followed the original. That first Cube film is a monumental film in the annals of independent movie-making. The concept is simple, and its execution is ingenious.
The fact that on that first film, the whole set consisted of one fully realized cube room and one extra wall. Add different lighting and some clever cinematography, and the film looks like it contains hundreds of those rooms. It's a classic idea for a story- stick some strangers in a room and see how long it takes them to freak out at each other. The Cube trilogy has become a much appreciated series since that first flick landed, and while the two that followed that first film had little of the original's impact, they did serve to add some interesting elements to the Cube mythos.
In CUBE, the sense of claustrophobia and tension is superb, helped along by a strong cast featuring the likes of Nicole De Boer (aka Ezri Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and a ton of other good stuff, like that classic 90s outer Limits episode 'The Quality of Mercy') and some tight direction. That first film was a mini masterpiece, the claustrophobia and fading energy and patience of the prisoners boiling over repeatedly into violence and venom. Clever, gripping and extremely well constructed, CUBE is one of the finest modern science fiction films around, and its power remains untainted by the sequel and prequel.
CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE followed soon after, with the tagline "The First One Had Rules". Yes, and the first one also had a better plot and a better cast, and effects that didn't slap you in the face with cheap CG oddness. That said, I do like CUBE 2, as there are some excellent ideas in it, and it has a much more impressive ending than the sombre final act of the original. The cast are largely forgettable, but there are enough twists and turns to keep you entertained, even if the rendering of the effects takes you right out of the action in some scenes. Pretty good.
A third outing emerged in the form of CUBE ZERO, a prequel that was supposed to offer some answers to the origins of the cube and its machinations. Did it do that? Erm, sorta. Again there's a cube, again there's a bunch of people trapped inside, but this time around we get to see some of the people watching the cube from the outside. The story largely follows the exploits of two lowly workers involved in monitoring what's going on inside the cube, but when one of them finally grows a conscience he ends up trapped in there himself. It's dark and dirty, and while it does work as a prequel and as a film in its own right, it looks a little cheap and a little rushed. The idea is great, and the execution is valiant and very creative, but it falls short of true greatness by a large margin due to some hammy acting and pedestrian direction.
The first CUBE movie is an essential addition to any collection, and the sequel and prequel are worthy too, if not brilliant. The idea is genius. The first film carries it off the best of all, and while the other two aren't perfect, if you're a fan of the first film you'll find something to enjoy in the other two. Now, how do I get out of here? ;)