When a company such as Disney chooses to make a movie based on one of the rides in their theme parks, the requirements for a successful adaptation are different than another IP. The writer(s) are only limited by their imaginations. However, there must also be some adherence to the original context, even if it comes out of an unorthodox direction.
The new Disney movie, Jungle Cruise premiered this weekend on DisneyPlus. Taking place during World War I, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) desperately wants to be accepted by the scientific community. But because she is a woman, her work means nothing. Wanting to prove the naysayers wrong, Lily and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) travel to the Amazon. Her goal is to prove that a centuries-old curse is not a myth, but the truth. Their guide is the smartass Captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), whose boat looks like it could sink at every turn.
As they get deeper into the jungle, the secrets and dangers slowly reveal themselves. On their heels is Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who has his own reasons for wanting the magic that is supposedly promised in the stories.
This film is an interesting hybrid of The Mummy and The African Queen. Blunt and Johnson have decent chemistry. I appreciated that Blunt’s character. She certainly breaks the mold in terms of how women in his genre are seen and treated. I also appreciated that one of the main characters is LGBTQ and while they may seem to neatly fit into a stereotype, they don’t.
Overall, it was enjoyable. But I wouldn’t call it completely memorable. For an action/adventure, it was decent, but not as thrilling as it could have been.
Do I recommend it? Maybe.
Jungle Cruise is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
The purpose of a sequel is to take the narrative of one IP and then build on it by adding additional characters and stories. While this task may seem simple, the reality is that it is complicated. Especially when its predecessor is well regarded.
The Mummy Returns (2001) takes place after The Mummy (1999) and before The Scorpion King (2002) and. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) are now happily married and living in London with their son. They are still in the archeology game and believe that Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) will never enter their lives again. But when an artifact emerges and Imhotep’s remains arrive in the city, they will again have to send him back to the world of the dead.
I appreciate the addition of a precocious, troublemaking child, Evelyn’s growth as more than a damsel in distress, and the backstory set in ancient Egypt. It adds depth, allowing the audience to see Imhotep as more than just a generic villain. But my main problem is that Evelyn still needs Rick to rescue her, even when she claims to have learned some form of self-defense.
Hollywood has a dirty little secret. When one movie is successful or one genre becomes the genre of the moment, the good people in Hollywood will continue until that movie or that genre has hopefully run it’s course.
In 1999, Hollywood brought back the monster/action genre with The Mummy. Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) is an English librarian who has become interested in the ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra. Rick O’ Connell (Brendan Fraser) is saved by Evelyn from death. Rick joins Evelyn and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah) at an archeological dig, but they are not alone in following the results of the dig. Another group is interesting in the results and resurrecting the mummy of a high priest who has the power to unleash a powerful curse.
This movie harkens back to the 1930’s and the era of the black and white monster movies of the era. While it is escapist entertainment at it’s best, I can’t help but think that Evelyn is just a little too much of the damsel in distress for my taste.
Three years later, after a sequel to the Mummy was released, a sort of prequel entered movie theaters. The Scorpion King, an off shoot of a character that was seen briefly in The Mummy Returns was presented to audiences. Mathayus (Dwayne “The Rock Johnson) is a desert warrior hired to assassinate Cassandra (Kelly Hu) the sorceress who evil King Memnon (Steven Brand) is using to predict the outcomes of battle. What seems like an easy capture will become much more than the hero can imagine.
Again, this movie, at best, is escapist entertainment. While it’s not completely intellectually stimulating, it’s fun ride and an enjoyable film.