Judge Ryan Keefer wonders what kind of name is Gustave for a crocodile, anyway?
Our reviews of Primeval (published June 12th, 2007), Primeval: Volume Two (published October 8th, 2009), Primeval: Volume Three (Blu-ray) (published February 10th, 2012), and Primeval: Volume One (published December 1st, 2008) are also available.
Inspired by the true story of the most bloodthirsty crocodile…ever?
Aren't all crocodiles carnivores anyway, so isn't the sentence you just read the tiniest bit unnecessary? I realized it as I was writing it, I haven't heard about a crocodile hitting a South Beach or other carb-free type of diet lately, but I digress. You've got to hand it to the rest of the world; if you're going to pick a name for a ferocious killer, why not skip over the obvious Larry or Joe, and use Gustave, a surname commonly found in Austria? So it's here now on Blu-ray, how does Primeval stack up?
Facts of the Case
A group of people go down to South America and into the Amazon, along with their aged local guide, only to encounter a gigantic man-eating animal in an anaconda. Soon after, the group…wait, this isn't Anaconda? OK, well substitute South America for South Africa, specifically Burundi, and substitute a big-ass snake for a big-ass crocodile, and you've got the makings of a story that was written by Michael Ferris and John Brancato (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) and directed by Michael Katleman, who had primarily directed television in the past. Enter Tim (Dominic Purcell, Prison Break), a news producer who goes down to South Africa with a reporter (Brooke Langton, The Benchwarmers) and his cameraman Steven (Orlando Jones, Evolution) to cover a story on a man-eating crocodile who consumed a UN worker.
To be fair, I came into Primeval with a bit of a cynical eye. We're talking about everyone putting a lot of fear into something that you can turn into shoes, a belt, or a suitcase. It's hard to describe Purcell, other than he looks like that hump Jason from The Hills after taking some andro and aging about ten years, smoking every step of the way. But for whatever reason, he and Langton seem to be engaged in a contest to determine who could get away with the most cleavage without being caught (Langton, of course, won the battle as she was running in her bra at one point). And yes, that was the only thing that kept me involved in the film without fully re-enacting the discus throw with this DVD.
There were other moments of disbelief or disappointment that I encountered along this little journey. First off was Gideon Emery, who had done prior voiceover work in movies and videogames, and plays a nature respecting animal enthusiast who bears a minor resemblance to the recently deceased Crocodile Hunter. And both the character and the real life Steve Irwin both met their demise from rather unlikely circumstances. Then there's Jurgen Prochnow. This guy was in Das Boot, one of the best war epics of all time, and he's gradually ruined his career more and more by appearing in films that are beneath him and insult everyone's sensibilities. Judge Dredd? Beerfest? Someone's got to get this guy back in a U-boat, stat.
I give mad props to the filmmakers for a couple of things, specifically the decision to make a film around Gustave, the killer croc that really does exist in Africa. That story in and of itself is intriguing, and it would be nice to see some more background devoted to it. But the movie includes a well-meaning, but confusing subplot surrounding the African genocide, and specifically the massacre in Burundi. Horror films aren't really supposed to tell a convincing story of ethic cleansing, so instead of Hotel Rwanda, this was more like Congo, subtract a big-ass monkey and add a big-ass crocodile.
One thing's for sure, both in appearance and in sound, Primeval is a pretty thing. The AVC MPEG-4 encoded 2.35:1 transfer makes the film really stand out, much more than it probably deserves, with consistent blacks and an image that retains sharpness and clarity throughout, even with a ton of computer effects. The PCM soundtrack also does quite a bit of heavy lifting too, with ample surround activity throughout your 5.1 speaker system. Why, oh, why does this have to be as technically accomplished despite creatively stinking the joint up?
On the bonus material tip, Katleman and Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Linden join forces for a commentary. For whatever reason, Linden is a more active participant than Katleman is, but they both seemed to enjoy the production and the limitations it brought. I've got to reveal this, because it was one of the two most unique things I've heard or seen on a disc in awhile. In the opening scenes, the UN worker in question has to negotiate herself through some muddy swampland in the bush. Katleman and Linden reveal that, because since it's in South Africa and all, mud is at a premium, so boiled chicken excrement was used to throw at the actress, who was none too pleased with this revelation. I've got a sneaky suspicion that these guys know more about the production than they're letting on, so I'd love to give them to alcohol, or an eight ball, in a "truth serum"-like attempt to find out how everyone was down in the jungle. After that, the extras are pretty light, just three deleted scenes that are fairly boring, plus a 10-minute look at how the crocodile came together visual effects wise, and that's it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Far and away, the most enjoyable thing here is Jones. He says absolutely the right thing in equating Gustave to O.J. Simpson ("He made a mistake when he killed that white woman"), and other things that make him stand out as a comic valve for the film. The sad part is that when Tim sends Steven out to do, I don't know, something, Steven gives him that look, kind of like when the Star Trek extra gets to voyage out of the ship. Or to put it the other way, he knows he's going to die, Tim probably knows, although not so much, so the writing on the wall begins. Oh, the other thing I heard on this disc was everyone's thoughts about the film, and Jones said that "genocide has created this monster." Maybe it's me, but I think I knew what he was thinking, which was since we didn't do anything about Darfur, Gustave has been created. So aside from not caring about black people in Louisiana, George Bush apparently created a 20-30 foot long man-eating crocodile. Yeah. I get it.
Primeval does have good intentions, however the acting is overly pretentious and not very engaging, in fact the only guy who's at all funny seemed to ad lib most of his lines. Cut yourself loose from Primeval and rent the 1980 Robert Forster film Alligator, about a large man eating alligator in the sewers of Chicago. Both premises seem implausible, but at least with Alligator it's clear you're dealing with B-level material.
The filmmakers are clearly found guilty of the crimes they're accused for; however since everyone knows that they're not bigger or smarter than the room itself, they're sentenced to community service.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
• Commentary with Director Michael Katleman and Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Linden
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