Raptor Island (2005)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Lorenzo Lamas, Steven Bauer, and a lot of poorly computer generated raptors
Directed by Stanley Isaacs
Lorenzo Lamas vs. velociraptors – a main event in any arena in the country. Raptor Island should have been a slam dunk. Woulda, shoulda, coulda... The Sci-Fi Channel strikes out yet again.
Had the Toronto Raptors basketball team been mutated by radiation and transformed into a pack of cannibalistic zombies, that would have proved more menacing than the embarrassing computer generated raptors in this movie.
Living, breathing commandos and living, breathing international arms dealers end up stranded on a partially computer generated island overrun with computer generated raptors that they shoot at with computer generated gunfire and hide out from inside of computer generated caves until a computer generated explosion causes the computer generated volcano to begin erupting computer generated lava that consumes all the computer generated life on the island except for the last remaining living, breathing commandoes that escape via computer generated helicopter and the main living, breathing international arms dealer that gets devoured by a computer generated Carnotaurus just before one last computer generated fireball consumes the computer generated island in a computer generated holocaust. The end.
Sam Neil's character in Jurassic Park referred to velociraptors as the "bad raptors". That phrase also applies here. No, not the raptors in the movie, but the movie itself. Whereas Jurassic Park established that velociraptors were highly intelligent and voracious by nature, Raptor Island portrays raptors as an unorganized pack of undomesticated dinosaurs from "The Flintstones" with about as much intelligence as that TV family's famous pet.
Virtually every raptor encounter in the movie plays out in exactly the same manner. It starts with someone either standing around or walking about when a couple raptors appear a few yards away. This is followed by a brief stare down. The soldier(s) continues to stands there seemingly unsure of what to do next as the raptors do the same, but swaying their heads back and forth and squawking a bit, looking quite happy-go-lucky prehistoric predators. The soldier(s) finally opens fire, and despite being a highly trained mercenary with a heavy firepower, he still has trouble hitting stationary targets not that far away. Even when getting shot, the raptors continue to stand there not even showing any signs of being startled or alarmed by the hail of gunfire. When shot, a computer generated squib is animated over the one-dimensional computer generated raptor. The raptor generally does not react to these wounds save for a little more head swaying and squawking. After a few more seconds of this, either one or more of the raptors will pounce on the victim resulting in some poorly computer generated maiming, or the raptors will just drop dead. In the case of the latter, the other raptors will then casually flee, and the ones that are wounded will show little or no sign of having been injured. This is hardly the sort of action sequences that generates suspense or excitement.
If Raptor Island had been about commandos and arms dealers finding themselves on an unknown island where a Sega Dreamcast light gun game about dinosaurs had suddenly come to life and was hunting them down then the computer generated raptors and wounds they inflict on each other would be fully acceptable. Obviously, that is not the case.
I fully understand that this is a very low budget movie, but the CGI isn’t just cheap looking, it’s poorly animated too. I can only assume this was all a problem brought on by the fact that they really couldn't afford much variety in the computer animation department so the CGI raptors only had a select set of movements: walking, running, standing, turning their head, opening and closing their mouth, hopping, and falling dead. Well, now that I think about, that's really not all that different from the raptors in Jurassic Park, but at least they seemed to have personality and a serious mean streak and didn’t look like jerky, one-dimensional images 90% of the time.
I’m also a little iffy on exactly how the raptors came about. A plane crashed on the island 40-years earlier containing atomic waste and they claim the radiation caused a lot of the life on the island to devolve back into something prehistoric. I think that was the explanation they come up with. It really made no sense. The female lead even said something about the island still being radioactive. Does that mean that even if they survive the raptors and escape they’ll still end up dying of lymphoma? This is one of those cases where they probably would have been better off just claiming it to be an unchartered island that just happens to have dinosaurs still living on it instead.
And then there’s Lorenzo Lamas in a role that will not go down as one of his prouder moments. Every single line Lamas delivered came across as a guy who was just annoyed with everybody and everything. When he commands his troops - annoyed. When he confronts the bad guy - annoyed. When he converses with the female lead - annoyed. When they try and theorize why there are dinosaurs on the island - annoyed. When he's confronted by dinosaurs - annoyed. Fear, anger, and determination are conveyed through varying inflections of annoyance. The louder he utters his lines, the more annoyed he seems. Was Mr. Lamas displeased with his paycheck or the script or something behind the scenes? If not, then this is one of the dopiest movie performances I've ever seen because no matter what the situation is, he comes across as a man extremely annoyed, as if everything that's going on is just a great big inconvenience. I've seen a lot of one note performances but this is the first time I've seen a one note performance of perpetual annoyance. The only other emotion he ever comes close to registering is that of bored indifference, which wouldn’t have been an improvement.
But performances don’t matter in a movie like this because it’s all about the dinosaurs and that’s why Raptor Island fails miserably. There is no illusion; therefore, there is no movie. The raptors don’t look real and they don’t even behave like living creatures, and the unintentional humor of the truly awful computer animation quickly gives way to (Coincidence?) annoyance and bored indifference.
If truth be told, this movie could have just as easily replaced the raptors with big chickens or ostriches or emus. I wish it had been emus. Now that would have been cool if this movie would have been called Emu Island about an island where emus are being bred to be sold as meat but radiation causes them to turn the tables on mankind by becoming savage man-eaters. Lorenzo Lamas has to lead a team of commandos to stop the savage emus. I'm going to have to begin working on the script right now.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to sit back and wait for the being filmed as we speak sequel, Raptor Island 2: Raptor Planet. No Lorenzo Lamas this time, but Steven Bauer is listed as one of the stars. I’m assuming he’ll be playing the same character he did in this one, and if that is the case then it will be worth tuning in just long enough to find out how they explain his character surviving getting chewed up by a great big dinosaur followed by a fiery holocaust that erased the island from the face of the earth. I’m sure that explanation will be a doozy.
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