Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Gary Ross
The 1954 original Creature From the Black Lagoon is considered a watershed film for Universal’s golden age of horror films. It featured what is still one of the most impressive monster designs to be seen on screen, a story that shows the dawn of intelligent script writing in horror, and characters that were actually believable. Fans of classic horror know that it’s pretty much the be-all end-all of monster movies, and it’s pretty much untouchable in the cannon of Universal’s films.
So of course, now that it’s the 21st century and digital technology is making the once unthinkable now immediately possible, they’re going to remake it. For a long time Spanish wonder Guillermo del Toro was attached to make it happen. Since he’s just a big geek who also happens to be a fantastic director, fans were more than happy to let him have his chance. Due to schedule conflicts, and most likely a rush by Universal to get the film done before horror starts loosing money again, del Toro has moved on. Enter a script by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasentville) that, instead of setting the story during the exploration of the Amazon as Del Toro had intended, takes place in the present time and features an excessive amount of modern day technology.
Unfortunately that’s only one of many, many problems with the script for the remake of Creature From the Black Lagoon. The story opens with a preview piece of what the Creature is capable of, as he kills some natives searching for gold. The scene, like so many other aspects of this script, there for no reason other than to throw a scare at the audience right off the bat. Not a bad idea, considering almost nothing even remotely scary takes place within the next 50 or so pages (roughly 45 minutes of film time). And when those “scary moments” do come into play don’t worry, there’s nothing scary about them at all outside of cheap jumps.
So on with the story; a married couple has hired a boat to take them up the Amazon to spend some time in a tree top resort, the sort of thing only rich people can do. The husband, John, is a psychiatrist and the wife, Carrie, is apparently a former patient (though this is never said explicitly) who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. In other words, she got tired a lot. So now she’s all better and wants to travel up the Amazon, but John is still overly concerned about her well being, so much so that for the bulk of the script he’s yelling at her to not to do something crazy or whining that she’s leaving him behind when she’s doing the crazy stuff. The both of them are annoying and useless for the most pat and have no point in this tale save to serve as the “normal” people in the mix and an excuse for everything to be explained to the audience.
John and Carrie’s boat has problems and they’re left behind by their guide, but luckily for them a high-tech barge is on its way up the Amazon to search for new plants to utilize in pharmaceuticals or something, so they’re quickly picked up. They’re shown around the boat, with special attention given to the features on it that will later factor into the plot (such an overused Hollywood plot device it made me want to chuck the script across the room), and told to make themselves at home. The barge features all the comforts of home, including temperature controlled facilities, a rec room, lab and a full kitchen and is staffed by a division of corporate types (the “evil” ones) and university students (all the morality) who luckily for the American couple are all English-speaking Anglos. Both groups have co-funded the construction of the boat so there’s constant bickering as to who owns what, which ends up coming across as a way of building up useless tension between the crew members. It would’ve been more effective if said tension came from the impending monster attack since this is a monster movie.
For no discernable reason they decide to park the boat in the titular lagoon, which they utilize the diamond saw on the front of the boat to get to, cutting through all those plants they insist they’re there to study. Once in the lagoon we finally start getting those trademark underwater POVs that made the original Creature so creepy to audiences of its time. The issue I had with that method is we already know what’s down there, it is a remake after all; why not build the tension by having crew members disappear? Or showing the creature stalking them from a third person perspective? They’re trying for the big reveal, which does come eventually, and good thing is that if the Creature is anything like I picture it being from the description in the script, it might be the best thing about the movie. Actually, it had better be the best thing about the movie since the original design was spot-on and needed no improvements.
This time out they decided to go heavy on the evolutionary theories behind the Creature, as the rest of the jungle around it has evolved “differently” than everything else. Why? Because it’s the only unexplored area of the Amazon? Is that even valid in this day and age, that any part of our planet is still untouched? Who knows, but that’s what’s used to explain the fact that no one’s ever seen the Creature aside from the locals, who of course have legends about it, and increases the greed of the corporate types who want to get this new form of DNA patented and make all the money the can off it.
Eventually the ship is stuck in the lagoon and all those evolutionary jumps come back to bite the crew in the ass as nature decides to take over the boat from the inside out. A leaf brought back from one of the mangroves re-grows the tree it was once attached to and pretty soon they’re without all those amenities they’ve gotten used to. During this time, of course, the Creature is stalking the newcomers but not really doing much. He does take the time to save Carrie when she’s attacked by a snake while swimming in the lagoon. This shows that finds her attractive, or at least mate-able, which holds with the original, but that’s pretty much as far as they go with that plotline as Carrie ends up hiding in the trees with the University students eventually.
Chaos ensues, people (finally) start dying and, of course, the ones you think are going to survive, do. I’m sure you’ll figure out who will make it out alive within the first 20 or so minutes of the film, but we’ll see.
My biggest problem with the script overall is that it’s so cookie cutter, so Hollywood archetype, that there’s just simply no reason to make this with a big budget. Give it a different title, set it in Romania, and hand it over to the Sci Fi Channel to make. It won’t piss off nearly as many fans of the original as this hackneyed, stereotype-riddled remake would, and might actually be a tad more entertaining because of the bad CG that I’m sure will permeate it. Better yet, scrap this whole idea all together, put it on the proverbial back burner, and wait for Del Toro to have the time to make it. It’d be well worth the wait and wouldn’t waste nearly as many fans’ time or money when it comes out.
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