Saturday, 15 August 2015

Congo (1995)

Two years after the amazing success of Jurassic Park (1993), another of Michael Crichton's novels gets the movie treatment. I don’t know who is to blame, distributors and producers looking to jump on the Jurassic-Crichton bandwagon, scriptwriter John Patrick Shanley, or director Frank Marshall. Probably all of them had a hand in this boring, excruciating and generally bad film.

Frank Marshall’s IMDb page says he is known for Back to the Future, The Sixth Sense and both Raiders and Last Crusade. As a producer. As a director his portfolio is rather less glamorous. Arachnophobia was alright wasn’t it? Can’t really remember. Similarly his direction of Congo is alright, just uninspired given some of the locations the characters go to.

The cast are largely ineffective, and no real dynamic exists between any of them in the expedition. OK, that’s not strictly true, Laura Linney’s company persona is set against the altruistic outlook of Dylan Walsh’s scientist; but unfortunately that is lost amongst red shirts and terrible accents from Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson. The worst offence is killing Bruce Campbell after only five minutes.

The story is very rambling, slow and boring. Sure there’s the overarching stories of returning Amy (gorilla) to the wild and Dr Karen Ross’ mission to find a research team who mysteriously vanished (including her fiancée), but there is 90 minutes of journey and non-events until killer gorillas are found. By which time I was more interested in watching the clock to go and make dinner. I haven’t read the book, but reading the brief synopsis on Wikipedia, it sounds like most of the details were recreated in the movie. I couldn’t help but think that the experience would have been more fun if it had been more of an Indiana Jones adventure into the jungle.

The final criteria of my rating is for specific details in the film, such as cinematography, special effects, music or sets. Well, I guess the film contained all of these elements because indeed a film did get made, but none of it stands out. I didn’t notice Jerry Goldsmith’s score at all. Not even the fact that Stan Winston and his studio did all the effects for the gorillas counts for much. Amy and the killer gorillas are no T-rex, Terminator or Queen alien, they’re not even a Thing/dog (yup, that was Stan Winston too).

A terrible beige affair from beginning to end, no sense of character, excitement or threat (unless perhaps you demanded a clause to say “Hail to the King baby” at some point). If I see this film ever again in my life it will be too soon. But, you know, that's just, like, my opinion man.

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