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Film: Cube Zero

Cube Zero is a 2004 Canadian science fiction/horror film and the third film in the Cube series, although it's a prequel to the original.

Two technicians, Wynn and Dodd, are observing the occupants of another Cube. Having to oversee all the deaths inside on a daily basis, they're both resigned to their permanent jobs and afraid of ending up in there themselves. Things change when Wynn becomes interested in one of the captives and discovers that her use as a lab rat wasn't properly authorized. He heads down to the lower levels to help them, upon which the higher-ups in charge of the Cube project send down their own team to extract Wynn.

This film provides examples of:

  • Armies Are Evil: The army consists only of brainwashed super soldiers who work for the evil government behind the Cube.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Wynn has the ability to visualize and rapidly analyze complex systems in his mind. He uses this both to easily win a chess game by calculating all the moves and to figure out a safe route through the Cube when he's inside by mapping all the rooms.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Jax and the other villains win. Wynn is lobotomized and thrown back in the cube and Rains is on the run until she'll be recaptured. Everybody else dies.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: The Cube occupants are covertly monitored by the mysterious controllers of the Cube, but the film plays with this by making the two observers the focus characters.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: The two main characters are the Orwellian observers of the Cube's occupants and perform its day-to-day operations. At the same time they also have people to answer to and are inferred to be under constant surveillance themselves, as their masters throw the technicians into the Cube if they become too much of a nuisance. This is because the technicians are actually another level of the Cube experiment — observing the observers and such.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: This movie is noticeably gorier than previous installments, with people being blown up, dissected, burned alive, melted into a bloody puddle or rotting away from a flesh-eating virus onscreen.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Haskell is remotely reprogrammed by activating the military chip placed into his brain from when he was a soldier. He tries to kill Wynn and Rains before they escape him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Jax is very effective at his work, but has a highly unusual personality.
  • Condemned Contestant: All the people inside the Cube are condemned criminals who have signed an agreement to be used as lab rats in the Cube. Their crimes are whatever the evil government deems them to be, however. The Cube technicians are themselves also guinea pigs.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The minute Jax shows up onscreen he shows his efficiency in eliminating the entire experiment. When Dodd swallows an irreplacable power coupling, Jax simply paralyzes the guy and cuts it out of him. He refuses to accept that the heroes are dead until he can confirm it with his own eyes, figures out that they can reprogram Haskell as a super soldier and sends a military team to capture the escaped heroes even after the clean sweep evaporated everyone still inside the Cube.
  • Electronic Eyes: Jax lost one of his eyes due a mechanical mishap and had it replaced with a robotic one. It's only a Red Right Hand however and he never uses it for superhuman feats.
  • Episode 0: The Beginning
  • Evil Is Hammy: Michael Riley is completely hamming it up as Jax, the main bad guy the controllers upstairs send down. He's basically an over-the-top caricature who just revels in his evil and is clearly enjoying himself thoroughly.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: At the end of the titular Death Trap filled labyrinth any survivors are asked if they believe in God. If they say "no", the Cube's operators press a button marked "No" which causes the survivor to be incinerated. When the new operator asks what the button marked "Yes" does, the other much older operator says he doesn't know: no one has ever said "Yes".
  • Food Pills: The technicians seem to be provided only with food pills containing specific meals.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jax behaves like a jolly enforcer of the government and maintains a pleasant but scornful demeanor while he murders people and hunts down his human lab rats.
  • Fate Worse than Death: By the end, staying in or around the cube becomes this to Wynn. He actually tries to get himself executed by making it clear that he chooses death over the cube, but he doesn't get a choice in the matter - he already waived this right a long time ago, which he simply doesn't remember. He's lobotomized and thrown back in.
  • Feel No Pain: The Cube soldiers as part of their programming. After Haskell is 'reactivated', he is impaled on a spike by the escaping heroes and shrugs the injury off. When the Cube then undergoes a clean sweep (every occupant inside being vaporized at once) he looks with bemusement at his scorching hand until he's gone.
  • Good with Numbers: Wynn. At the end, he is lobotomized and put in the cube, suggesting that Kazan was once a Cube Technician as well, or even that Kazan actually IS Wynn, since Jax sentenced him to "Two more lifetimes", which would make him the only character to have escaped the cube more than once.
  • Gorn: The movie opens with a character getting sprayed with a liquid that turns out to be a fast-acting form of necrotizing faciitis. The skin of his hand peels off, and he proceeds to melt into a bloody puddle.
  • The Heavy: Jax is the most palpable human threat in the film as the evil organization's field man who directly cleans up after their experiment goes awry when one of the technicians revolts. He's shown receiving orders over the phone from people higher up in the chain, but they're never seen.
  • Heel Realization: Wynn slowly begins to realize that the Cube masters are putting innocent people in the Cube who fall afoul of the state instead of death row inmates. After being forced to carry out his orders to kill one of his former colleagues he turns on them and tries to help the Cube prisoners.
  • Idiot Savant: Creepily hinted at with Wynn as having become this at the end. He's lobotimized, thrown back in the Cube, and found by some other prisoners, mirroring Kazan's introduction. The last shot of the film settles on his tapping fingers as a computer interface is softly heard in the background...
  • I'm Melting: The unlucky bastard in the opening enters a room and is sprayed with a substance which he thinks is water, since it is odorless and doesn't do any immediate harm. It takes a minute before his body tissues suddenly begin to dissolve into a bloody pile of bone and liquified guts.
  • Instant Sedation: Jax paralyzes Dodd by blowing some kind of dust in his face through his pen. The victim drops to the ground instantly.
    Jax: Ooh, instant paralysis. They weren't kidding, were they?
  • Just Following Orders: Dodd has resigned himself to his job of overseeing the deaths of countless people trapped in the Cube by just keeping his head down and obeying the orders sent down to him without question, in the hopes they won't throw him in there as well.
  • Kangaroo Court: All the people thrown in the Cube have been selected after show trials condemning them for crimes "against their country and their God", i.e. opposing the dictatorship. Jax even holds a mock trial before Wynn where he just passes down the sentence.
  • Lobotomy: A man who managed to escape the Cube was recaptured by the people running the Cube project and given a lobotomy, and put back in the Cube.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: At the end, Wynn gets two more life sentences added to his existing sentence.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Jax keeps deliberately misnaming Dodd with names such as "Mr. Codd", "Mr. Clodd" and "Mr. Wad" to assert his authority and contempt for the 'button guy'. He only adressed him by his proper name when Dodd shows he's not entirely a coward and purposely sabotages his plans.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: The mind-controlled soldiers have green eyes whenever they're "activated".
  • Oh Crap: Dodd hears the elevator outside moving a short while after Wynn left to abandon his post and enter the Cube. With relief Dodd calls him out as a stupid jackass, only to stand face to face with the Orwellian guys from upstairs running the Cube. His expression should be obvious.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The Cube technicians are tasked with running a giant death maze as part of their permanent jobs. Their affection varies: one is sickened by everything he sees and questions their authorities while the other one is paranoid about ending up in there himself and keeps his head down. Quite literally in fact — Dodd actually clocks out when he signs off and goes to sleep.
  • Rage Within The Machine: The two protagonists are a division of a vaguely theocratic government responsible for monitoring the declared enemies of the state who are thrown in the Cube to be experimented on. They're both resigned to their horrifying jobs at first, but one eventually realizes what he is part of and tries to rescue the people inside, only for the scary men from upstairs to come down and track him down.
  • Redemption Equals Death: After Dodd has aided the Cube puppeteers for a long time and ignored all the people he's been ordered to kill, he helps Wynn escape from the Cube by sabotaging the Cube's power supply, knowing that this would mean certain death. Dodd is then murdered by Jax for his troubles.
  • Red Right Hand: Jax has a cybernetic implant fitted where his right eye used to be. It's never shown or explained what abilities it gives him; it's only ever used to identify him as a villain and explain his hatred for machines via a Noodle Incident.
  • Scannable Man: The Cube prisoners have bar codes tattooed onto their arms.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Wynn is prominently shown playing chess with Dodd and beating him at every turn, to show off his advanced mental faculties.
  • Super Soldier: The government soldiers are implanted with a chip and "reprogrammed" to become the perfect soldier, feeling no pain, getting superhuman strength and obeying orders without question.
  • Surprise Checkmate: Wynn keeps beating Dodd at chess with moves he never anticipated. This is partly explained by Wynn being able to visualize entire chess games mentally.
  • Swallow the Key: Dodd tears out a power coupling to prevent the villains from killing his colleague Wynn and swallows it when their leader Jax confronts him over this. Subverted, as Jax simply paralyzes Dodd and personally cuts it out of him.
  • The Theocracy: The omniscient dictatorship controlling the Cube is strongly implied to be a theocracy. "Crimes against country and God" is a notable transgression and anyone who survives the Cube is asked whether they believe in God — if they answer "No" they are incinerated. No one has ever anwered "Yes".
  • Tomato in the Mirror: After Wynn is captured at the end, Jax reveals that Wynn is NOT an employee overseeing the cube. He's just as much a lab rat as the Cube residents, as another layer of the Cube experiment to "observe the observers". So were his colleagues. He can't even choose execution over staying in the cube, as he already waived this right long ago... he simply doesn't remember because the real operators removed this information from his mind.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: The soldiers shoot tranq darts at the escaping prisoners, as their mission is retrieval, not elimination.
  • Unusual User Interface: The advanced programmers from upstairs use an alternate keyboard connected to their mechanical gloves to use the Cube's operating systems much more efficiently.
  • The Virus: Another strain of necrotizing faciitis is injected into a character, who, in her death throes, claws at another character, which infects him with the same condition.
  • Where It All Began
  • Wingdinglish: The Cube computer systems and written orders use both the latin alphabet and a strange alien one to display English. The characters can read both just fine.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Averted, where the Cube is shown to basically be a last-chance experimentation chamber for death-row prisoners. At least until one of the operators helps someone escape and ends up with a forged "confession" and a lobotomy before getting thrown in himself, with heavy hints throughout that that's basically how everyone ended up in there. Then we find out that what we see in the prequel is basically a first generation prototype compared to the later Cubes, which seem to have less and less of a plausible reason to exist.
  • Your Head Asplode: Meyerhold
  • You Won't Feel a Thing: The Cube surgeon at the end falsely assures Wynn that he won't feel anything of the lobotomy they're going to give him. The first thing Wynn does when they cut into his brain is scream out in terror.

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