Adventure films have a long and rich history spanning back over 100 years, from The Three Musketeers to Robin Hood to The Goonies. After being reimagined and rewritten on-screen in all its variations you’d think by now this genre would’ve run its course. Sure, it had its share of highs and lows, but none as drastic as its hiatus after the late 2000’s where adventure films as we know them essentially evaporated from the cultural zeitgeist. Treasure hunt flicks like the National Treasure films had sunk away from popularity and were replaced with more grounded storytelling after the arrival of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). And right on time, the arrival of Marvel Studios Iron Man (2008) was armed and ready to fulfill audiences desire for that casual mix of action, fun, and adventure.
Years later and there’s still no end in sight of the dry spell, audiences are being fed entertainment at an alarming rate, with fantastical computer generated worlds being a commonality among summer blockbusters – if anything, it’s harder than ever to sell audiences on adventure when there’s such a rich abundance of explosive fun in other places, like the superhero genre. Enter Jungle Cruise, a pure, undiluted adventure flick about a group of zany characters on the hunt for a hidden treasure – it quite simply doesn’t get any more true to the genre than that.
Yet again, Jungle Cruise can be added to the list of films that are carried by Emily Blunt’s charming performance. Blunt play’s the role of a quick-witted adventurer by the name of Lily, a stubborn young woman that has been ostracized by society for simply being a woman adventurer. Much to the writer’s credit this isn’t Lily’s defining feature, instead it’s her fiery personality that bounces off the character of Frank (Dwayne Johnson). Frank is a dry-humoured muscle-bound skipper that is hired by Lily to take her and her brother (Jack Whitehall) along the river to their destination. Throughout this film we see Lily and Frank constantly butting horns with one another in order to outplay each other – this playful chemistry works, until the limitations of Dwayne Johnson’s romantic charm falter, inevitably resulting in a somewhat lukewarm pairing as a romantic interest. Regardless, this film is simply chocka full of fun characters that make the experience worth the ride.
Bearing a $200 million budget price tag, Jungle Cruise seemingly invests the majority of that in its set-design, costuming and make-up. The CGI is abundantly poor through many of its action sequences and glaring where it breaks any sense of immersion that the other pieces are excelling at. For the most part, the green screen effects and CGI transitional pieces all look the part of a high-budget Disney film. The CGI on animals, creatures or monsters stick out like a sore thumb to the point where Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest sea monsters in 2006 are more realistic and better rendered. The film shines in its more naturalistic environment, utilising practical effects where possible and helps to balance things out.
Thankfully, there seems to be a genuine effort by the filmmakers here that the visual aesthetic of the film is defined in its set-design, costuming, and make-up. This is the point of the film where it truly excels in its set-designs depicting accurate time periods and whilst supported by the green screen, still provides a convincing jungle landscape. The costuming helps build substance towards its character by being intertwined with the dialogue and the make-up supports the world-building elements of the film.
James Newton Howard doesn’t stray too far from the Disney formula with his musical score. He is able to create a cheerful and charming score which fits the tone of this movie and enhances the fun scenes on-screen. There are a few scenes where his score takes a rock element to it, mainly played throughout a few action scenes. This is because James Newton Howard collaborated with Metallica for certain pieces in this film.
This classic adventure flick utilizes Disney’s signature formula, refined down to a theatrical science and condensed into 2 hour 7 minute runtime. Jungle Cruise doesn’t reinvent the adventure genre nor will it spark new life back into it, but it provides a journey with just enough twists, turns, and roller coaster loops to make this Disneyland ride worth the… ride. Despite the potent “studio film” scent this flick gives off, it’s almost impossible to dislike the movie-going experience provided. It offers almost everything you’d want from a family film. What’s to dislike?