Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra – Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
In cinemas now!
Director Collet- Serra seems an odd choice for this family-friendly Disney fare, as his background is in horror movies, and those Liam Neeson revenge flicks (which seem to add a new one to their fold every other week at this stage). So he clearly watched a lot of similar family-friendly fare while looking for inspiration. Five minutes into this, I was thinking I had seen these characters before, and then I realised that Johnson, Blunt, and Whitehall are basically playing the Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, and John Hannah characters from The Mummy series.
Except here they are called Frank Wolf and Lily, and McGregor Houghton. But other than that, they are exactly the same characters – the brawny adventurer helping the extremely bright sister and her wimpish brother find an ancient artefact. In this case it is the Tree of Life, which is believed to possess great healing power that could be of great benefit to modern medicine. So the trio take off down the Amazon, pursued by a deranged German aristocrat (Plemons) who hopes to secure the Tree of Life for himself.
They are also accosted by the undead – no not The Mummy, although that wouldn’t have surprised me, as at that point, I was still sure I was watching a remake – rather a Spanish expedition, who have been cursed and imprisoned in the jungle since they set out to find the tree 300 years earlier. And then it all goes somewhat Pirates of the Caribbean, with a little bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark thrown in for good measure. As I said, Collet-Serra clearly watched a lot of similar fare in preparation for directing this.
And this is the biggest problem here. He doesn’t just pay homage to other offerings – he blatantly steals from them, leaving you with the feeling that you’ve seen all of this before. It’s not helped by the fact that Johnson doesn’t quite have the range or depth of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Nor does he have the chemistry with Blunt that Brendan Fraser had with Rachel Weisz in the Mummy movies. When their predictable opposites attract romance gets going, it is damper than the recent weather. Johnson may be the nicest man in Hollywood, but he is not a dramatic actor, and outside of the action scenes this is painfully obvious.
There is a also a big ‘coming out’ scene for Jack Whitehall’s character, McGregor. This is clearly Disney trying to tick an inclusivity box. However, it all feels a little bit awkward and forced, and isn’t quite the heart-warming and progressive moment they seemed to think it would be. Yet again, they fail LGBTQ characters. Following his ‘revelation’, it is never mentioned or referenced in any way again.
This is the kind of film that tries to hypnotise you with huge action scenes and explosions and effects, in the hopes that you won’t notice that underneath all this it has an extremely weak plot, accompanied by even weaker performances. It doesn’t deliver the thrills and spills you expect from this kind of film, and is actually somewhat boring.