Sunday, September 28, 2014

Film Review: Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda (Review)
United States/Brazil/1997
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...hindered by a contrived plot, stupid characters, and a lack of reptiles."

A documentary crew searching for a long-lost tribe on the Amazon River bump heads with a stranded hunter and the world's largest anaconda...

Anaconda follows this film crew -- mostly director Terri (Jennifer Lopez) and cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube) -- as they are kidnapped by a deceitful snake hunter, Serone (Jon Voight), they picked up earlier. At first, Serone seems like an honest and helpful hunter, but he quickly shows his true intentions: to catch the world's largest anaconda. The crew will face the anaconda here and there, attempt an escape, and... that's it, actually. Not much actually happens in this thin plot. The third act is the worst, though, and the ending was cheesy.

Anaconda really feels like a cheesy 90s b-movie. Unfortunately, it's not very entertaining, though. The first act of the film feels like a waste of time -- it doesn't efficiently buildup up the premise and it doesn't do much otherwise. It gets interesting when Serone shows his true intentions, but it also piles on many flaws. The film packs many, many plot contrivances from this point forward. "Did he say stay still? I better sprint away!" "Curse these butterfingers, I dropped my knife!" "I'm going to kill you, but not really!" These plot points are not only contrived, but, as you can see, the characters are blatantly stupid.

Aside from the lack of buildup, the plot contrivances, and the stupid characters, the film also fails to use its main attraction effectively: the anaconda! At one point, I had to ask: is this film about an anaconda? Or, am I watching an Ice Cube and J Lo music video? This problem is most blatant during the first half of the film. It does recover a bit during the latter half, though. There is some mild suspense, too. The entire film, though, has a refreshing sense of adventure. Maybe it was the great environment or some of the set-pieces, but Anaconda has a this unexplainable sense of adventure -- it's like something I'd like to see as an attraction at Universal Studios.

The acting is all-around decent. Jennifer Lopez, who stars in The Cell, is good. Ice Cube plays Ice Cube, so he's right at home. (why are you always mad, Cube? What did I ever do to you?) Jon Voight was great, though, he was scarier than the anaconda. The cinematography is good, it captured the environment well. The music is standard for a thriller. Some of the practical effects are decent, but most are outdated; the computer effects especially stick out like a sore thumb, they did not age well. Director Luis Llosa does well in building up some decent suspense here and there, and the sense of adventure is refreshing; however, Llosa is held back by shoddy writing, and the severe under-utilization of the titular reptile.

Overall, Anaconda is a mediocre film. It's an interesting concept and has a few great moments, but it's mostly hindered by a contrived plot, stupid characters, and a lack of reptiles. I didn't expect the anaconda to be on-screen at all times, but I was hoping its presence would be in the atmosphere -- something you don't have to see, but you can feel. I revisited for nostalgia's sake, but I am leaving disappointed. Stream or rent, if you're interested.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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