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Holloway: I think we have to ask the big questions. What does it want? What is it thinking?
Worth: "One down, four to go."
Cube is a Canadian science fiction/horror film series, consisting of Cube, Cube 2: Hypercube, and Cube Zero. The first movie is directed by Vincenzo Natali, the second by Andrzej Sekula, and the third by Ernie Barbarash.The three movies are each based on the same premise; there is a gigantic, mechanical, cube-shaped structure (the purpose and origin of which is almost completely unknown) that is made up of lots of smaller cube-shaped rooms. Each of these rooms has 6 doors, one on each wall and one on the ceiling and one on the floor, which lead into adjacent, identical rooms, only differing by color. Some of these rooms are safe, while others are equipped with booby traps such as flamethrowers and razorwire which kill a person who enters the room.In each case, a group of strangers wakes up in this mysterious structure, with no knowledge of how they got there or why they are there. In order to escape from the prison, however, they must band together and use their combined skills and talents to avoid the traps and navigate out of the maze, while also trying to solve the mystery of what the cube is and why they are in it. However, the pressure of being in the cube usually drives one or more of the characters insane, and they start killing the others.Cube Zero was slightly different from the original two movies in that it also dealt with some people on the outside of the cube whose job it was to control the cube and oversee those within. It also attempted to answer some of the questions of the series.Not to be confused with The Cube.
Audible Sharpness: Razor Wire in the first and third movie; The tesseract trap in Hypercube.
Big Labyrinthine Building: The Cube has to be traversed to find the exit before the prisoners die. The first one has 17,576 rooms in total and the hypercube over 60 million, both filled with boobytrapped rooms.
Closed Circle: The eponymous contraptions of the series are these. The protagonists are doomed to roam around a maze of cuboid rooms until they can figure out its particular structure and escape. Or not.
Dead End Room: The titular cube is a gigantic series of these. Some are booby-trapped, while others are safe, with almost no way of knowing until it's too late. Escape is made all the more difficult because the rooms move. Cube Zero implies that even if you escape, the monitors kill you, or worse lobotomize you and throw you back into the Cube.
Subverted in the first Cube, where the protagonists at first speculate that the government is responsible for the mysterious cubical death maze and putting unwilling people in there. A character who is revealed to have worked on it explains that there is no grand master plan behind it and it sort of grew by itself without any oversight.
Played straight by the sequels, where in Cube 2: Hypercube the hypercube is run by a secret cabal called Izon made up of military men and a Washington think tank, and in Cube Zero where the proto-cube is controlled by a future theocratic dictatorship.
A House Divided: Recurring plot point. In the original the booby traps only kill two of the seven characters. In the second it's the guy with the knife who goes on a killing spree, while the third has one character wirelessly "reactivated" as a supersoldier.
Industrialized Evil: The focus of the series is on a network of giant, mechanical Cubical mazes built up of thousands of smaller cubes, some of which are boobytrapped. It's inferred that they're some way of testing human behavior under stressful conditions, punishing dissidents of the regime and/or testing chemicals and other weapons, with one captive deciding that they have no purpose but were simply the product of a senseless, secretive bureaucracy gone mad.
Kill 'em All: Fitting with the series' deep cynicism and the utter lethality of the eponymous mazes, nearly all characters usually die, either by the cubes or by their own hands. The survival rate in the series' entries is, successively, 1:0:2.
Mind Screw: The first movie intentionally gives no explanations for anything. The second and third movies do, but as they were written and directed by different people, they can't get the internal logic straight. The DVD commentary on the first one states in no uncertain terms that the world outside the cube does not exist. It doesn't withhold explanations as much as erase every possibility that explanations could exist.
Hypercube: "The first one had rules."
Minimalism: There are fewer than five sets in the entire first film. The other two to a lesser extent, although they also use a very minimal number of sets and locations.
Mobile Maze: The Cube, is a highly malicious non-sentient (we hope) one.
Near the end of the first movie the characters discover to their horror that all the rumbling machinery they've been hearing are rooms shifting around and they've been jumping from multiple locations the whole time. The Cube is only escapable when a specific room reaches the outer edge before the entire things locks and the room makes its next days-long journey through the maze. It's in fact the very room they started out in.
Further complicated in Cube 2: Hypercube. The hypercube has been built in an alternate dimension of non-Euclidean space. The rooms instantaneously move around and loop back on themselves. It's revealed at the end to have essentially been one room duplicated countless times in different dimensions and points in time.
Ontological Mystery: Aside from being a basic survival story this is the major plot point of the movies, particularly the first one, although the sequels adhere to this progressively less and less.
Razor Floss: Grids of such wire are used in the series to kill off the first character we see in Cube. Many traps in the movie are like this.
Room 101: While never specifically revealed, there is some speculation that the cube is one of these. Even if you manage to live through the deadly deathtraps of death, the massive psychological horror experienced within might make you wish you hadn't. And that's only if the people outside the cube don't immediately kill you.
Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: Each film takes place in a huge prison with several cube-filled rooms. Quite a few of them have deadly traps that activate as soon as they enter.
In the original Cube, characters are repeatedly set up as heroes in an escape for their lives from a mechanical maze, but they all end up dying or being killed by another character, except for The Rainman character. He would be the only person who could sound the alarm or summon help, but would not be able to communicate the situation, assuming he understood it at all.
Cube Zero shows that his survival is even less likely, as people who have managed to make it out of the Cube are then asked whether they believe in God, and are killed if they answer that they don't. Kazan, being severely autistic, is extremely unlikely to be able to comprehend the question, much less give a coherent answer.
The sequel Hypercube is even worse. After many perils, the main heroine manages to escape the maze but once her superior has received what she was sent in to find, he has her unceremoniously executed for no apparent reason. Her facial expressions indicate that she knows what's coming, but she does not try to resist or escape.
Cube Zero, a prequel to Cube shown from the point of view of the maze operators, reveals that the savant was in all likelihood killed by the operators moments after the first film's ambiguous ending due to a cryptic line near the start of the movie. It also turns Rains manages to escape, but will continue to be pursued until recaptured. Wynn is lobotomized and thrown back in the Cube like many Cube "Operators" before him. Everybody else dies except for the villains.
World Limited to the Plot: Deliberately invoked in the series. The inconsistent internal logic from movie to movie is designed to eliminate the possibility of a wider world beyond the Cube.
You Wake Up in a Room: All the victims of the cube wake up in a cube-shaped room with no memory of how they got there.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Holloway and Quentin both during their discussion of each other's pet theories on the origins of the Cube. She believes that the military-industrial complex created the place, but he points out that for the most part, government organizations are just composed of people like him, whose goals in life are to "buy big boats", not conspire. Quentin's theory is that the structure is a rich psychopath's entertainment, and the two argue over this.
Big Brother Is Watching: Discussed and actively defied by Worth. He reveals that he worked on the construction of the Cube, but when the other characters question who is ultimately responsible and secretly controlling and watching their lives, his theory (also very likely) is that the Cube no longer has a purpose or an owner, and is nothing more than somebody's forgotten project, being used simply because it is there, and nobody wants to admit how pointless it is. He caps it off with "Big Brother is not watching you."
Bizarrchitecture: The film is set in a building made up of a three-dimensional moving matrix of cube-shaped cells, most equipped with various booby traps that will kill the prisoners inside.
Canada, Eh?: A Canadian film, although probably the only hints would be a single mention of Saskatoon and the way Leaven refers to the letter "z" as "zed".
Cardboard Prison: There is a character nicknamed The Wren who has escaped prison 6 times. Sadly, he's not so lucky in the Cube.
Chekhov's Gunman: The film includes a seemingly detrimental character, Kazan, who turns out to be an idiot savant, and critical to solving the formula needed to escape.
Clean Cut: In the teaser, a character is in one room when something happens. The character freezes in shock, and seconds later falls apart in neatly diced cubes. The something turns out to be a moving grid made of razor wire.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Alderson (who serves no real purpose in the film other than serving as a Decoy Protagonist), enters a red-lit room from an adjacent one. When he takes a few steps, a loud sound is heard, and for a while, he just stands erect and in place. He then collapses into a loose pile of bloody chunks that fall to the floor. It is only then the audience sees a razor-wire trellis silently folding up and realise how he has been killed.
Cut-and-Paste Environments: All of the rooms look the exact same minus the colours, justified because it's a maze. The set of the first movie actually is the same room over and over, with different color lights. (They didn't even have the budget to use six different colors, so it gets somewhat repetitive.)
Dead Star Walking: The guy billed as the star of the movie and pictured on the poster gets diced five minutes in.
Decoy Protagonist: Alderson. Most of the other characters also fit this trope at one point or another; one of the selling points of the movie is that the viewer's perception of the characters is meant to change as the movie progresses.
Diabolus Ex Machina: The chances of Quentin being in the room right next to the bridge room where the other characters are is about 20,000 to 1, considering that the rooms move around.
Diagonal Cut: The first trap seen seems to do nothing except go "schinggg" — until the hapless victim collapses into a pile of meat dice.
Fade to White: At the end, when Kazan exits the Cube and enters the white void beyond.
Gorn. Many of the traps have extremely gory results.
The Government: At the end, one character declares that the eponymous deathtrap was built by the government, but no one in the government really knows why; it just sort of organically grew out of too much red tape and "boundless human stupidity".
Hanlon's Razor: The left-wing doctor's assumption that the Cube is part of some maniacal government plot is immediately shot down by the revelation that it's just a senseless project that no bureaucrat had the cojones to pull the plug on. Which, once the truth sinks in, she admits is actually worse.
Hollywood Acid: One of the characters meets his end when a trap splashes acid in his face.
Idiot Ball: Holloway continuing to insult and argue with Quentin after the point it has become blatantly obvious he has become a violent psychopath. Generally speaking going out of your way to mock such a man is fairly counter-intuitive to your own survival which she unfortunately finds out to her cost.
Idiot Savant: Kazan, a severely mentally handicapped man who, to the rest of the people trapped in the Cube, is a nuisance at first, constantly banging his head against the walls, making weird honking noises and babbling about gumdrops. But later on it's discovered that he could find the prime factors of huge numbers in his head, and he ends up as their savior.
Infant Immortality: There's an example of a mentally handicapped adult being the only survivor of the nastiness. If one takes Cube Zero into account, it's very likely he too was murdered.
Inventional Wisdom: Worth believes that the only reason they were put into the Cube was because it had been built, rather than to admit building it was pointless.
It Can Think: Applied to a structure instead of a monster, but it still fits the purposes of the trope. The protagonists openly wonder if the Cube is actually watching them and calculating. According to the sequels, there are human operators.
It Was With You All A Long: The prisoners/subjects of the deathtrap-filled Cube start out in an unnotable cubical room that happens to be the room one door away from the exit (after some shuffling), at the very end.
Kick the Dog: Quentin trying to rape Leaven after Holloway's death.
Laughing Mad: Worth, briefly, upon rediscovering Rennes's dead body.
The Load: Kazan starts out this way. He's an autistic who is somehow able to survive in the Cube long enough to meet the other characters, especially given his knack for springing traps. Near the end it's discovered that he has a very useful skill, as he can perform the arithmetic required for navigating the cube extremely fast.
Location Theme Naming / Meaningful Name: All the characters are named after prisons. Quentin is named after San Quentin State Prison in California, Holloway after the Holloway Prison in London, Kazan after the prison in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. Rennes is named after a prison in Rennes, Britanny, France, Alderson after the prison in Alderson, West Virginia, and Leaven and Worth after the prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. The characters themselves reflect the prisons in their traits. Kazan (the autistic man) is a disorganized prison. Rennes (the "mentor") pioneered many of today's prison policies. Quentin (the policeman who eventually goes Ax-Crazy) is known for brutality. Holloway is a women's prison. Alderson (who is killed before even so much as seeing another human being within the cube) is a prison where isolation is a common punishment. Leavenworth runs on a rigid set of rules (Leaven's mathematics), and the new prison is corporately owned and built (Worth, hired as an architect).
Potential Fridge Brilliance here: There are two prisons at Forth Leavenworth: The civilian United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, and the military United States Disciplinary Barracks.
Meaningful Echo: Partway through the movie, Quentin says "Trust me on this. It's my job to read people like an x-ray." This is later echoed as "Try and see what I see. How my mind works. The flash when I look into someone's head like a fucking x-ray!", turning a previously innocuous line into proof of just how crazed and delusional he really is.
Mind Screw: The film intentionally offers no real explanations to what the Cube is and why the characters were placed in it. It just developed by itself, with one architect behind it saying "Because it's here. You either use it, or admit it's pointless" (which, in and of itself is pretty mind-screwy).
Minimalist Cast: Only seven people. One of them appears only in the first scene and doesn't interact with the rest.
Moral Event Horizon: Quentin crosses it in-universe when he allows Holloway to drop to her death, then goes even further along when he tries to abandon Worth and Kazan, tries to rape Leaven, and violently beats Worth with a boot. It is after this that Leaven refuses to go anywhere near him.
Nobody Poops: Averted, as at least one character takes a leak in a corner.
Offscreen Teleportation: Quentin, now insane, gets pulled down into a cube room and left by the other survivors, who have to use the composite of their knowledge and mathematical prowess to figure out how The Cube works and avoid the traps. They manage to get to the exit but then he shows up, kills Leaven and mortally wounds Worth. How he managed to get there without their aid to avoid trapped rooms and to figure out the final pieces of The Cube's puzzle is unknown. Even if he did somehow get there by sheer blind luck, Leaven and Worth also don't notice him opening the door, which is quite loud and clunky.
Prison Escape Artist: Rennes is a french escape artist known for getting out of jails. Subverted when he triggers a fatal booby trap shortly after he's introduced. There'll be no easy way out of the Cube, folks.
Punch Clock Villain: Although there are no direct examples, it's implied that the builders of the Cube were of this nature.
"Have you ever been to the Military-Industrial Complex? I have, it's not that complex. It's made up of guys like me. Their desks are bigger, but their jobs aren't. They don't conspire, they buy boats."
Right Hand Versus Left Hand: Discussed. It's eventually revealed that the giant death maze which the protagonists find themselves trapped in was—bizarrely—built without a genuine purpose. One of the architects who worked on the project concluded that there wasn't a malevolent master plan behind it, but was the result of a bureaucratic mix-up with separate agencies all working on different parts of the structure and putting people in it without knowing about each other's existence. Whether he's right is ultimately left up in the air.
Sir Swearsalot: Quentin. While the amount of profanity in the movie as a whole isn't particularly remarkable, the fact that about 90% of comes out of his mouth certainly is.
Quentin: You fucking fuck!
Sarcastic Devotee: A good part of the film is spent establishing Worth as a villainous character - and he is indeed eventually revealed to have some relation to their predicament - but in the end, he proves to be more heroic than de facto The Captain Quentin.
Scary Black Man: Quentin — a police officer — starts out as the potential hero and leader of the victimized group. However, by the end of the film, he slowly turns into an evil scary black man. He ends up becoming the film's biggest threat, besides the dangerous Cube itself.
Take My Hand: Subverted. As Holloway is lowered into the unthinkable abyss outside the cube by the other characters, using a rope made of their clothes, the structure shakes and everyone drops the rope. She begins to fall and Quentin is the only one who quickly manages to grab the slipping rope, almost getting pulled down himself. He then manages to pull back all of the rope and grab Holloway's hand, but just as she lets out a sigh of relief his smile turns to a psychopathic stare and he drops her.
Traitor Shot: In the beginning, Worth gets a fairly extreme and suspicion-raising closeup. About halfway through the movie, he confesses that he helped design the cube the characters are trapped in.
The Un-Reveal: The movie ends just as the lone survivor has found the exit and manages to escape. To twist the knife further, he's The Rainman, and so severely mentally disabled that he would be unable to tell anyone what he discovered. Then, according to Cube Zero, Kazan started the incident as one of the Cube operators, meaning he's known from the first second just how fucked up the monstrosity was.
Unusual Euphemism: Averted, as most characters will drop F-bombs when adequately frustrated, but as for Holloway...
Holloway: Cats! Holy, holy cats!
Where It All Began: In a cruel twist of fate, the test subjects learn that the exit room was the very room they started out in, making their trek through the titular deathtrap dungeon a pointless waste of time and human life.
The World's Expert on Getting Killed: The group of people trapped in the death maze is quickly joined by Rennes aka "The Wren" a notorious escape artist who has gotten out of six different prison around the world. He introduces the idea of checking trapped rooms by throwing their boots in, advises the others to focus only on getting out lest they turn on each other and promises to get them all out of there if they can keep up. He dies minutes after being introduced due to a molecular-chemical sensor he didn't notice.