Wanted by Judge Clark Douglas: A better nature documentary than this one.
In search of one of the world's largest snakes!
I'm generally a fan of nature documentaries. I've seen quite a few them both as a DVD Verdict Judge and as an occasional Discovery Channel viewer, but I haven't seen many as poorly conceived and poorly executed as Wanted: Anaconda. Oh, Wanted: Anaconda, how do I find fault in thee? Let me count the ways.
1. Wanted: Anaconda is a terrible, terrible, terrible title. Seriously.
2. The packaging on the DVD case makes a big deal about how Anacondas have been portrayed as savage killers in popular Hollywood films (most popularly Anaconda, in which a figure no less esteemed than Jon Voight was swallowed by one of the giant reptiles). It then asks the question, "Are anacondas really dangerous to humans? How much is fact and how much is fiction?" Seems like a perfectly reasonable question to ask, but the weird part is that the documentary never answers it or even brings such a question up.
3. We follow a crew of explorers searching for the world's largest Anaconda. We spend even more time focusing on the various James Bond-ish gadgets this team is using than we do on learning about the Anaconda. Despite this, the explorers themselves are never allowed to say much or exhibit any of their personality.
4. There are plenty of overhyped potential battles between Anacondas and other beasts in the film, all of which never come to fruition. The breathless narrator will say something along the lines of, "And now the anaconda creeps up on the helpless mammal, ready to strike and have a meal! Ah, but the anaconda is not hungry right now, which means that the mammal has survived." This happens over and over again.
5. Do we really need all of the extended close-ups of vultures eating bits and pieces of Anaconda flesh? I know it's a fact of life, but the film seems to linger on such sights with merciless glee.
6. When we see a giant anaconda-orgy in which 12 males are attempting to force themselves upon a massive female, the narrator describes the sight as, "very tender and touching." Sure, whatever, man. Snake orgies just don't give me the warm fuzzies.
7. There are several laughably hokey "re-enactments" of experiences South American natives claim to have had with various anacondas. I kept expecting Jon Voight to turn up during these moments.
8. The entire point of the film is to find the largest anaconda in the world. At the end of the film, the explorers come across a pretty massive anaconda. They have all of their measuring equipment right there with them. We're thinking, "Okay, we're about to find out if this is the biggest." The narrator then says, "Suddenly, measuring the anaconda does not seem important anymore. The explorers are merely overwhelmed to be in the presence of what just might be the world's largest anaconda." Then the credits roll. If that isn't a rip-off, then Citizen Kane isn't a better film than Anaconda.
9. The transfer is solid enough, capturing all of the icky detail with clarity and depth, but the disc is obnoxiously presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Additionally, the narration is too loud in contrast to everything else in the audio department. The original score is also a nuisance; a third-rate Hans Zimmer knock-off that grates on the nerves after a while.
10. Unlike many similar documentaries which offer making-of pieces to compensate for the short running time of the main feature, this disc has no supplemental material.
In short, Wanted: Anaconda is a film that lives up to its title. At the end of the film, we're still wanting to learn more about the anaconda, because this one simply doesn't have much to offer in that department. This documentary plays like one of Steve Zissou's later, less inspired films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Smithsonian Channel
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