Within the first 30 minutes of The Lost City, I felt like a lost lamb; pondering whether I was witnessing a poorly constructed film or just more manufactured tripe made for a specific demographic. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was seeing both of these things. The Lost City is a comedy-adventure film directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee – it follows the story of an author named Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) and Adam (Channing Tatum), a cover-model for her novels, as they attempt to uncover a lost treasure on a remote island.
Now with a title like The Lost City it’d be entirely fair for one to expect a colour-by-numbers adventure flick about two unlikely individuals uncovering a lost treasure; and that’s exactly what this film attempts to be, but with one major exception. This is far more of a racy romance romp than it is a fun-filled fantastical adventure. For context, if we compare The Lost City to a recent adventure film released, like Jungle Cruise (2021), the difference becomes apparent. While both films centre on a spritely woman leading the charge to uncover a lost treasure alongside their respective hunks; Channing Tatum for The Lost City and Dwayne Johnson for Jungle Cruise; both films also contain a romance side plot complete with the classic Will They or Won’t They trope, leaving the audience to simmer gently in romantic tension for the vast majority of the film’s runtime.
The true difference lies in where these two films allocate their romance to adventure ratio. The Lost City places adventure by the wayside in favour of raunchy gags aimed squarely at salivating over Channing Tatum’s physique, whereas Jungle Cruise is an adventure film first and foremost, focussing on a fun and engaging journey over dreadfully thirsty dialogue. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that Jungle Cruise contained its share of painfully off-target romantic dialogue. That being said, those moments of romance were so fleeting that they become largely irrelevant to the film’s wider story; that being, the adventure or quest itself. Jungle Cruise takes more of a “not necessary, but good to have” type of approach when it comes to romance; it can be ignored without damaging the films integrity.
A wise approach, considering that romance is a tricky aspect to balance in adventure films; it relies heavily on whether the chemistry between the two subjects can maintain the speed and cadence at which the film is paced. Adventure films are in a constant state of motion toward a goal, they contain only brief moments for the characters to stop for a breather so they can actually develop their emotions like a normal human. Which is unfortunate considering these two films’ romance subplots contain absolutely no on-screen chemistry between the leads. Bullock and Tatum are successful and relatively respected actors in their own rights, but fail to form any sort of tangible connection on-screen; just as Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson failed to do so in Jungle Cruise. This becomes more of a problem for The Lost City as it largely seems to rely more on its romance to form a complete story.
In truth, I struggled to buy into the narrative this film was selling; I felt as though there was no genuine attempt to create a full-bodied adventure flick at all, but rather, a story manufactured to extract the most value for money out of its lead actors. I cannot fault any producer, studio, or actor for simply wanting to earn revenue with a throwaway raunchy adventure flick; but I can say that this “adventure film” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It uses the loose template of the typical adventure story to instead sell you a watery romance with shockingly meagre on-screen chemistry. Even Daniel Radcliffe as a villain wasn’t enough to convince me this film was fun.