** (out of 5)
January 12, 2007
Dominic Purcell as TIM MANFREY
Brooke Langton as AVIVA MASTERS
Orlando Jones as STEVEN JOHNSON
Jurgen Prochnow as JACOB KRIEG
Gideon Emery as MATTHEW COLLINS
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
Directed by: Michael Katleman
BY KEVIN CARR
You just can’t trust Hollywood, can you? And they never seem to understand why we distrust them so much.
Case in point: the film “Primeval.” If you watch the trailers, it paints a picture of inhuman terror and premeditated murder. It talks about a serial killer in the heart of Africa, which has claimed over 300 victims. In this wake of the “Saw” films, it’s not surprising that the film is marketed this way.
However, that serial killer they’re talking about? It’s a crocodile.
Before you get your panties in a bunch, you have to understand that this isn’t a spoiler. This is a given fact of the film in the first scene. It’s not even that the film presents a possible serial killer that turns out to be a crocodile. Instead, it opens with a crocodile attack.
So why is Hollywood so reluctant to tell us this? After all, no trailer mentions a crocodile at all, and the ones running on television only offer us a brief glimpse of one. Why are we led to believe that the film is about a human monster instead of a reptile one? Is it because films like “Saw” and “Hostel” do better than films like “Anaconda”? Is it because they don’t want it compared to “Lake Placid”?
Whatever the reason, “Primeval” is presented in its marketing completely different than it is as a film. The movie patterns itself after “Anaconda” with a news crew traveling to Africa to document the capture of a 25-foot croc named Gustave that has reportedly devoured more than 300 villagers over the years.
However, as the team zeroes in on Gustave, they face a deadlier enemy – militia rebels and an unstable Burundi government. The croc becomes the least of their worries when the cameraman videotapes the execution of a local family. Soon, the team is on the run from a man-eater and the rebels.
“Primeval” is your basic “Jaws of the Jungle” sort of film. It relies heavily on violence and action sequences. The problem with these moments is that the camera is jolted around so much that it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on. That’s okay for a movie trailer, but it becomes unwatchable for a full-length feature.
The characters are forgettable – even more forgettable than those of Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube in “Anaconda.” We’re set up with your basic team that has been formulaic since the 1950s. There’s the good-looking male leader (“Prison Break’s” Dominic Purcell). There’s the book-smart and opinionated – yet totally gorgeous – female member of the team (Brooke Langton) for him to butt heads with.
Other stock characters include the croc expert (Gideon Emery) who feels the giant reptile is more important to save than its potential victims. Let’s face it: Oliver Platt did a better job in this role for “Lake Placid,” a far better croc movie. And even though most of the film takes place in Africa, they couldn’t resist the token black guy (played by Orlando Jones, who actually happens to be the best part of the film).
Like several films in the past years (e.g., “The Last King of Scotland,” “Blood Diamond,” “The Constant Gardener” and “Tears of the Sun”), the biggest message isn’t that we’re destroying the environment and mother nature is exacting revenge through killer crocodiles. Rather, the message is that African politics are horrifying. These movies aren’t exactly an endorsement of these countries’ tourism trade.
“Primeval” has some decent scares, and if you go into the movie expecting a crocodile instead of a Hannibal Lecter type story, it’s not terrible. Let’s face it, in January, the new films in the theaters are never very good anyway.