Anaconda (UK - BD)
Chris Gould tries to think of an amusing joke involving J-Lo and and giant snake
While shooting a documentary about the long-lost Shirishama Indians on the Amazon River, director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) and her crew—anthropologist Professor Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz), cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube), production manager Denise Xalberg (Kari Wuhrer), soundman Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson), and upper-class twit Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde)—happen across stranded Paraguayan snake hunter Paul Sarone (Jon Voight) and offer him a lift. This turns out to be a huge mistake, as Sarone deceives the group into thinking that he can lead them to the Shirishama, when in reality he is attempting to track and capture a giant anaconda. During the hunt allegiances are switched and several members of the crew are killed before the final showdown with the mother of all snakes.
What could be better than a film featuring a sneering Jon Voight, an unconscious Eric Stoltz, a pre-mega-stardom Jennifer Lopez, a fresh-faced Owen Wilson, and ex-rapper turned 'stereotypical black character for hire' Ice Cube? Well, quite a lot as it turns out. Anaconda follows in the traditions of the old creature features, but apart from a wonderfully over-the-top performance from Voight it falls flat on pretty much every level. Dialogue is laughable (save for a few one-liners), and Voight aside the performances are universally dreadful. There’s very little tension because every death is telegraphed, but you pretty much know which characters are going to make it through to the end in the first five minutes anyway. The giant animatronic snakes (‘voiced’ by Frank Welker no less) don’t look too bad, but the late-nineties shoestring CGI leaves a lot to be desired. There are a few unintentionally hilarious moments (the sight of a character’s legs kicking furiously as he’s eaten head-first by a snake), but on the whole I couldn’t help but compare the film unfavourably to Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising, an altogether more enjoyable B-movie romp.
Anaconda is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen (1080/24p AVC) and looks about what you'd expect from a catalogue title of this vintage—competent, but unspectacular. Detail isn't particularly bad, but neither is it particularly impressive. Facial close-ups aren't as revealing as I'd have liked, but wider shots look reasonable. I seem to remember that the film was always a little on the soft side (although I can't really substantiate that), so I wasn't really expecting it to look razor sharp anyway, but it' possible that there could be some filtering at work. Colours are quite muted, but seem to be consistent with the intended look of the film. Black levels aren't what they could be and the darker scenes are quite noisy, which is problematic given that here are so many of them. To be honest the whole image looks a little dab (for want of a better word), but it's clearly a step up from the DVD so fans should be happy enough.
The primary soundtrack is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 affair that's actually fairly engaging. There is plentiful use of the surrounds, with some nice discrete touches here and there (such as the snake attacks and gunshots), but the subtle sounds of the jungle are also very atmospheric. Bass response is also pretty strong during the action scenes, with the thunderstorms providing some of the meatier moments. The melodic, flute-filled opening fills the soundstage nicely and gives way to suitably foreboding score that remains the strongest element of the mix. Dialogue is well-rendered and balanced throughout, which is a bit of a mixed blessing in this instance. Still, I have to admit to being quite impressed with the track, which sounds better than it has any right to.
The disc includes the film's theatrical trailer and a BD-Live link to unrelated content, so there's nothing to get excited about here.
Perhaps the best thing I can say about Anaconda is that it's mercifully short at only eighty-nine minutes in length. Other than that, it doesn't really have a lot going for it. The disc itself fares a little better, with the strong TrueHD track a particular highlight. Even so, I can't bring myself to recommend this one to anyone other than die-hard fans and masochists.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 19th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 French, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Czech, Dolby Digital 5.1 Hungarian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Turkish
Extras: Trailer, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luis Llosa
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Eric Stoltz, Jon Voight, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer
Length: 89 minutes