Lamas and his sub crew start running out of oxygen. They black out, and wake up aboard the Nautilus. Captain Nemo is the stereotypical madman with an urge to build an underwater civilisation.
It is 1914. Atlantis-obsessed Archaeologist Milo (Michael J Fox - Back to the Future ) is recruited by a friendly millionaire (John Mahoney - Frasier) and his hench-woman ( Claudia Christian ) to be the guide on an expedition.
Despite this being the era of the First World War, they have an amazing diesel-punk submarine that would make Captain Nemo or Jules Verne himself turn green with envy. The boss is Commander Rourke (James Garner - ), evidently a heroic member of the US Navy.
Naturally, every story needs some conflict for the climactic third act. The real clue is the year. Some villains want to sell the Atlantean power source to the Kaiser!
Milo (Michael J Fox - Back to the Future ) has been living in sin with the Princess ( Cree Summer ). Then his colleagues, the survivors of the first expedition, pay them an unexpected visit. They have anachronistic gyrocopters, which were developed at least a decade after this is set. However, in a cartoon about Atlantis the viewer can hardly expect accurate history.
Ships have been going missing in the Atlantic ocean. A Norwegian sea-monster known as the Kraken is blamed. The suspicion is that the Kraken is a robotic war machine created thousands of years ago by the Atlantean Chief. Milo and the Princess join the crew as they go looking for the legendary monster.
There is also a creepy old sailor who hangs around. He has obviously got something to do with the mystery. This makes Scooby Doo look subtle.
In the modern day, a rich man (Colm Meaney - Star Trek: DS9 ) hires a caver to guide an expedition into the disused mine. Unfortunately the expedition are all gangsters and they start to turn on each other, but that is to be expected with this kind of thing.
Meanwhile, one of the crooks stays with the caver's wife and teenagers. This allows for some good-old fem-jep.
Laura Linney is Charlie's ex-lover, and the ex-CIA trouble-shooter at his company. This gives her two good reasons to go looking for him. However, when her boss (Joe Don Baker - Goldeneye ), who is also Charlie's dad, orders her to go looking then she gets upset. His good business sense, which is to protect the jobs for FORTY THOUSAND employees, is deemed to be selfish and wrong.
Nearby, the nice-guy Doctor from Nip/Tuck has a friendly gorilla named Amy. He has taught her sign-language, and a thanks to a sci-fi device her signs are verbalised. Yes, this movie is more accessible to the low-brow audience because it avoided the necessity of subtitles. However, Amy's face may be well-crafted for animatronics courtesy of Stan Winston but it is nowhere as expressive as that of a real gorilla. As a result she runs the risk of breaching suspension of disbelief.
The Doctor and his sidekick (Grant Heslov - True Lies ) want to take Amy the gorrilla back to her birthplace in the jungle. Luckily they meet Herman Homulka (Tim Curry - Rocky Horror Picture Show ), who offers to pay for their expedition. Laura catches a ride with them to Africa. After all, it helps to have a massive corporation covering your expenses.
In Africa they meet up with their guide, Munroe (Ernie Hudson - Ghostbusters ). The expedition proceed by truck, while Munroe's sidekick Eddie (Joe Pantoliano - Matrix ) and the luggage hop ahead by DC-3. This may seem overly complicated, but it allows them to have a run-in with the local military commander (Delroy Lindo - The Core ).
As always in a modern Hollywood movie, there is a nod to racial politics. The colonel says that westerners care more about gorillas than they do about humans. Later on the guide points out that in the jungle, it is unusual for the leader to be a black man because they are usually given manual labour jobs. This illustrates the reverse hierarchy of privilege at work, which has only gotten worse in the following decades. The more disenfranchised and marginalised a group is perceived to be, the more concern is felt for them.
Despite being in the most remote and undeveloped part of the world, there is a lot of high-tech weaponry floating around. The border guards in Zaire have a plethora of stinger missiles, and they fire several of them at every passing airplane.
Once they parachute into the jungle, things get even worse. The Doctor, supposedly an expert in gorillas, does not know enough about them to avoid looking one in the eyes.
Eventually they discover that Homulka is after the Lost City of Zinj, which is reputedly the location of King Solomon's Mines . Well, it makes sense that if there is a large deposit of diamonds then someone in the last few thousand years would have discovered it. Unfortunately the city is built on an active volcano that is about to erupt.
This movie is based on a novel by Michael Crichton , so it has his usual science is bad schtick. In many ways it can be seen as a follow-up to Jurassic Park . However, it is nowhere near as good. Perhaps Spielberg could have done a better job, with better cinematography and pacing. If one compares the climactic stalk-and kill scenes they are just not as good as Spielberg's Velociraptor scenes. Then they humans set up sentry guns to protect their camp's perimeter. Again, this is nowhere near as good as the comparable scenes in Aliens . The director is Frank Marshall , who made his name as 2nd-Unit director on Spielberg's films but lacks his flair. The producer is Kathleen Kennedy, Marshall's ex-wife, who was recruited by Disney to run Lucasfilm after Lucas sold it.
The casting may seem to be imaginative. After all, the action hero is a woman and the Great White Hunter is a black man. However, the sad fact is that the actors (like the director) are the B-Movie equivalent of the cast of Jurassic Park.
All this is an excuse to get a bunch of people trapped in some underground tunnels. An alien beastie chases them, although at least it is prosthetic in most scenes. It bumps them off one at a time, so when it comes to Special Forces training things must have slackened by the time people landed on a planet in a different solar system.
The Final Girl, the best of the Special forces team, is Tank ( Nicole Alonso ) - a butch woman in skimpy sportswear and a blonde mohawk hairdo. We do not learn her name until the very end, so as you can imagine there is not much in the way of dialogue in this film. It is basically an extended chase scene, with the intention of creating a dark, suspenseful and claustrophobic atmosphere. However, this falls far short of the Polish black and white classic, Kanal.
There is a series of earthquakes and geological disasters. A rogue scientist (Luke Perry - Jeremiah ) argues that it will only get worse until it causes the world to end. US General Michael Dorn ( Star Trek: TNG ) sends Perry and a crew of nerds to the centre of the Earth. Naturally they have personal grudges, to add to the drama.
A scientist (Rick Moranis - Ghostbusters ) lives in suburban USA with his wife and two children. There is even a subplot of his feud with the neighbours - Matt Frewer ( Max Headroom ) and Kristine Sutherland .
The scientist invents a machine that can shrink objects. His children get accidentally reduced to the size of insects, and then thrown out into the back yard. They must make their way back across the law, dodging the occasional bee and scorpion, if they want to get returned to their former size.
Twenty years later, we meet the modern-day heroes. They are a mixed bunch of American High School kids who get detention together. This is a lot more like The Breakfast Club than their counterparts in the overly noirish Power Rangers (2015) . The kids discover the game, and when they start to play they get sucked in.
In their alternate selves, each is given an inappropriate pre-generated character. Gender is pre-assigned, so the hot girl ends up as Jack Black ( Tropic Thunder ) while the nerdy girl is uncomfortable as Karen Gillan clad in the skimpy costume of Lara Croft . Similarly, the nerd becomes Dwayne Johnson ( GI Joe: Retaliation ) and the jock becomes the reatively diminutive Kevin Hart.
The team meet Nigel (Rhys Darby - Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster ), who gives them some background exposition. The villain is Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale - ), an explorer who has become a magically enhanced Kurtz from Heart of Darkness. To defeat him they must return a magical gem to its rightful location in the jungle.
There is a nod to the original story, when the team discover Alan's camp-site. Strangely the rules of the game seem to have changed. When Alan was trapped in the game for decades, he ended up looking like Robin Williams ( Popeye ). But when the 1990s boy spent twenty years in the game, he only looks like he aged a couple of years at most.
The result is a well-made light-hearted action-adventure movie. The CGI is so impressive that it is either minimally employed or so good that it is impossible to see the joins. Likewise the cast all acquit themselves well, parodying their usual character archetypes.
In the first movie, the heroes were menaced by one T-Rex and some raptors. The second movie had TWO T-Rexes, plus raptors. The third time round it was a T-Rex, a Spinosaur (super-predator), plus the obligatory raptors. This time, mad scientist BD Wong (Oz) has cooked up something special. It has the size of a T-Rex, the claws of a raptor, the camouflage of a chameleon (or a cuttlefish), and other superpowers that nobody bothered to tell Security about. What could possibly go wrong?
Auntie is too busy with VIPs to look after the kids, so she lets her assistant ( Katie McGrath ) play nanny for them. They ditch her and go walkabout. What could go wrong? Auntie has to team up with Starlord ( Guardians of the Galaxy ) to rescue the kids. They start bickering like Han and Leia in Star Wars (a clichť for romantic pairings in Hollywood flicks), get lost in the jungle (Romancing The Stone), but eventually Auntie turns into a James Cameron Action Woman.
This is a better disaster movie than San Andreas , and it technically passes the Bechdel test (auntie has phone chats with her sister and her assistant about her nephews). However, it is just trying too hard. Every character is a blatant archetype, every dinosaur species must be allowed to steal a scene, and so on.
British Army officer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam - Pacific Rim ) is not content to stay at home with his wife ( Sienna Miller ), and instead wants to go out and have adventures. The Head of the Royal Geographical Society (Ian McDiarmuid - Star Wars: TPM ) sends him off to explore South America. He even introduces him to some travelling companions, including a newspaper reporter (Robert Pattinson - Twilight ).
The early exploration of the jungle seems reminiscent of Fitzcaraldo . In fact, there is an homage to that film when Fawcett encounters a rubber plantation owner (Franco Nero - John Wick 2 ) who has built his very own opera house in the middle of the Bolivian rain forest.
Finally, Fawcett focuses his obsession on a rumoured lost civilisation. He leads another expedition back to South America, to find the ruins he calls the Lost City of Z. He brings along an eager financier (Angus McFadyen - Saw III ), although this was not his smartest move.
The film starts by introducing us to four main characters. They are all criminals who end up on the run. Each is played by an actor who is recogniasble in his own country, thus making this an internationally sellable ensemble cast. That said, the American is Roy Scheider ( Jaws ), so it is a good bet who the last man standing will be.
The characters all end up in a Third World hell-hole, a tiny town in an un-named Latin American country. The only employer in town is an American oil company, which does not give a damn about worker safety. When the oil well is sabotaged by left-wing terrorists, many workers are killed. Worse, a violent riot breaks out when the families attack the police.
The only way to put the oil-well fire out is with explosives. The bad news is that the only cache of dynamite is two hundred miles away. The worse news is that the dynamite is sweating, and the cases are basically full of highly unstable nitro-glycerine. Worst of all, the cases must be transported on bumpy roads in out-dated trucks. In other words, it is a suicide mission. Luckily, there happen to be four foreigners who have nothing to lose.
In a modern-day movie, the inciting incident is about twenty minutes into the story. This movie, however, has already drawn out the introductory act to about an hour into the story. However, once the trucks get moving the suspense is almost non-stop. Much like Apocalypse Now, which came out a couple of years later, the story is all about the journey.
The trucking goes well, to start with. Our heroes decide to make things look a bit more exciting by deliberately driving as close as possible to the edge when it is clearly visible that there is plenty of room on the other side. However, later on there is a spectacular sequence involving a rope-bridge. Apparently it was a nightmare to film, but it is spellbinding to watch. As always in this film, things are pushed to the level of extreme. There is a rainstorm, and the river is in full flood. A cheesy disaster movie would have used a river of lava, but the torrential water in this scene is terrifying enough.
The scout-ship is destroyed, and the crew parachute down to the planet. They are injured, scattered, and attacked by barbarians clad in gas masks. Kate manages to get away, and goes looking for the Captain.
Captain Hunt cannot come and rescue the youngsters. He landed sixty kilometres away, and broke his leg. Yes, the square-jawed action hero is disabled so the Final Girl has to save the day. This may seem like a revolutionary new empowerment strategy, but it is actually a decades-old trope. In every horror movie since The Shining (1981) , the cop gets taken out before he can rescue the damsel.
Kate goes to save Captain Hunt. She has an AI that interprets its internal map of the local terrain, along with the radio-beacons for the persons involved, and delivers verbal instructions as to the best direction to take. Yes, it is like a personal direction-finder ap - but it does not have a GPS network or wireless internet to connect with.
Hunt and the AI provide dialogue for exposition. The barbarians do not have any dialogue in the extended chase scene, which means that the fights are seemlessly filmed with professional stunt personnel. This also allows the director to show off the landscape with some impressive low-level helicopter footage. Evidently the camera drone has come of age.
As well as the stuntmen there are CGI beasties, which are not too annoying to look at because they are used sparingly. The real villains are some mutants, which have very well-done prosthetics.
This was written and directed by one man. As always with auteurs, the result is quite uneven. The story is minimal, and serves to create opportunities for impressive visuals. However, the visuals are indeed impressive and make it worthwhile.