Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe was a nice and tight little thriller that had audiences buzzing about the film upon its release in 2016. The film made over $150 million worldwide on a budget of $9 million. Of course, a film that should’ve been a one-and-done feature was greenlit for a second movie, though, given the obvious sequel hook in the first film, it isn’t much of a surprise that Don’t Breathe 2 exists. The real shocker is that the focus never goes back to Rocky and her daughter, it actually puts the Blind Man (aka Norman Nordstrom) in the protagonist’s seat, and he protects a young girl from a group of criminals trying to kidnap her. The film was panned by critics, though audiences were a bit kinder to the sequel. Still, Don’t Breathe 2 just didn’t match the quality of the first film and a good part of that problem was the fact that Norman was centered as the protagonist here.
To recall, Norman kidnapped a woman, put his semen inside of her, then forced the poor soul to live there until she gave him a baby. He was actually planning to do the exact same thing to Rocky after he accidentally killed the surrogate mother. There are a few things that people can do that are hard to overcome. A rapist and pedophile are two of the most disgusting and unredeemable things on the planet. With murder, there’s at least a way to get around that. Strong examples are self-defense or dealing with an abusive husband. Or in the case of John Wick or Kill Bill, living in a world full of assassins, who are at heart still good people as they never harmed children in either film. Norman was an unredeemable character. However, he was definitely the most interesting character in the first film. The mindset of a man going to such great lengths just to have a family again is intriguing and is something worth exploring. He’s a military veteran so maybe his time in the army has corrupted his mind? Obviously, the loss of his daughter comes into play, but no normal human being wakes up one morning and decides to kidnap and force a woman to have his baby.
The issue isn’t the fact that he’s the lead in the film. It’s because the film does everything in its power to make Norman seem like a good guy. The movie’s ending actually suggests that he would’ve made a better parental figure for Phoenix than her real family. Don’t Breathe 2 doesn’t even try to address the controversial twist of the first film by showcasing what got him to have such a warped mindset. It’s essentially the first film, but with Norman as the lead this time. Understandably, it wouldn’t be Don’t Breathe if it was more of a character-driven affair. However, studios should’ve realized that it having Norman being front and center as the lead wasn’t exactly the best idea unless that route was going to explored. Given the tease of a sequel of the first film movie, it actually would’ve made more sense to have Rocky return in the sequel. Though the young mother accomplished her goal of escaping the hell hole that she wasn’t currently living in, she did steal a huge, large amount of money from Norman. He had a justifiable reason to seek out his revenge, and it could’ve been a neat thriller with Rocky’s life in California is seemingly in turmoil because her past has come back to haunt her. The parental figure protecting her cub would’ve been perfect here, and despite Rocky being a thief, she was a likeable character so it wouldn’t have been hard for audiences to root for the young lady.
Maybe Rocky has been preparing for this moment since she figured out the Blind Man would be coming after her? There’s a good and pulpy revenge thriller that was perfectly set-up in the first movie. Whether Jane Levy was asked to return or not, the filmmakers could’ve simply recast the character of Rocky if the original actress refused to return. It’s Hollywood, so it’s not unheard of an actor being recast in a role. Just ask Janet Hubert of The Fresh Prince of Belair. There are several directions that Don’t Breathe 2 could’ve went to justify its existence, but Fede Alvarez and Rodo Savagues Mendez takes the less compelling route with a deplorable human being. The end credit scene suggests another sequel but given the lackluster box office return then the franchise is likely dead and gone.