Saturday, August 7, 2010

Canon Movie Review: Anaconda

In a decision I made after watching Deliverance last night, this weekend is now Jon Voight weekend at The Canon Review. Today the Voight movie under review is the 1997 movie Anaconda, which stars Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Voight, Owen Wilson, and a giant computer generated snake. Directed by Luis Llosa, Anaconda is set in the Amazon River. The plot of the movie is that a film crew sets out to make a documentary about a rarely seen Brazilian tribe deep in the Amazon. While on their voyage, they rescue a mysterious stranger stranded on a boat name Paul Sarone, played by Jon Voight. From there, the crew faces all sorts of danger from the anacondas and other wildlife, while the snake hunter Sarone seems hell bent on capturing one of the snakes alive in order to get a million dollar payday. Naturally, their conflicting goals cause Sarone and the rest of the crew on the boat to clash, and Sarone ends up becoming an over the top mad villian. A few notes about this movie, and there are SPOILERS AHEAD, so if you haven't seen this movie and still want to, I suggest that you stop reading this post, and read another fantastic post on The Canon Review instead.

- Before I start to give this film the thrashing it so deserves, I will say that the cinematographers did a great job of showing the scenery and the beauty of the Amazon River. The lush jungle and rainforest around the Amazon is really captured and shown with great detail. Overall, Anaconda is actually a beautifully shot film, with a rich setting around the characters, even with the CGI snake thrown in.
- The acting in this film is a wide range, from the wooden (Kari Wuhrer as the production assistant) to the stereotypical (Ice Cube as a black man from Los Angeles, what a stretch that must have been), to just completly hamming it up (Voight, which will be dealt with later). Lopez is the star of the film as director Terri Flores. I wouldn't say she was awful, but it wasn't exactly DeNiro in Taxi Driver good either. Her scenes with her supposed love interest, Professor Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz), are just totally unbelievable. Also, it seems Lopez is totally unable to express any emotion other than anger, even though most of her crew end up dead or incapacitated, Flores doesn't seem to give a damn about any of them. Then again, if I was hanging out with guys like Owen Wilson, who plays, well, the same character he plays in every other movie, and the snobby British narrator Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde), I wouldn't necessarily be too broken up over their deaths either.
- Then there's Jon Voight, as Paraguayan ex-priest turned snake poacher Paul Sarone. While everyone else around are either playing themselves or acting with all the excitement of a three-pack of sponges, Voight takes it upon himself to steal the show with his overacting. Voight speaks with some sort of weird accent that makes him sound like a mixture of Christopher Walken and Marlon Brando. His performance of Sarone borders on the absurd, to be frank. There were quite a few times in the movie that I just couldn't help but laugh at the actions and words of Sarone, even though he's supposed to be some sort of evil version of Captain Ahab terrorizing these inexperienced film makers.  If the director had just gotten Voight to turn it down a little, than the character may have been more sinister and therefore the movie would have been better. As it is, Voight almost singlehandedly turns Anaconda into a comedy, albiet an unintentional one.
- The scene below is probably my favorite scene of the movie. In this scene, Sarone is all tied up thanks to the actions of Flores, Danny the camera man (Ice Cube), and Westridge. The three then have to go out of the boat because Danny somehow got it stuck, so they have to tie some ropes to some trees in order to steer it back into water. Meanwhile, Denise (Wuhrer) is angry or sad or confused or something, I can't really tell, so she decided to kill Sarone with a knife, and well, this happens:

How exactly, did Sarone jump that high from a seated position with his hands tied around a post behind his back? I have no clue, maybe you can explain it better than I.

-Sarone wasn't the only ridiculous villain in the movie, as there's still the Anaconda to deal with. This anaconda seems to be about 50 feet tall and has a rather large appetite. While it would be kind of difficult to get a 50 foot snake to act on the set, the crew could have done a better job of making it look like the anaconda was, you know, actually chasing the characters down. Instead it was so obvious that the graphics were superimposed that it really took away from what little suspense the movie had.
- Danny Trejo is in this movie at the beginning. He's on a boat when it's attacked by what presumably is the anaconda, so he does the only thing he can do and shoots himself in the head. Also, the captain of the boat, a man named Mateo, got a raw deal in the movie. He doesn't get to say hardly anything, and is the first victim of the anaconda. What's more, he actually got left behind by Sarone and Danny, who were carrying treasure out of a sunken ship (What that was or why they brought it up on board is never explained, so don't worry about it). So nobody's even sure that Mateo is gone, and the only person that seems even halfway concerned was Denise.
- This movie gets rather ridicoulous in the last 20 minutes. For one, Ice Cube and Jon Voight can take a lot of punishment apparently, because Cube (or Danny, if you prefer) gets stabbed in the leg with a knife, thrown around by the anaconda, nearly squeezed to death by the anaconda, and yet by and large seems no worse for the wear. Meanwhile, Sarone falls into the ocean after getting shot with a tranqualizer dart, but not only survives, he's able to capture Danny and Terri and comes up with some overcomplicated plan to catch the anaconda. The Anaconda, meanwhile, can apparently survive being nearly chopped in half with a pickaxe, multiple gunshots to the head at close range, and even being in the middle of a gasoline explosion, being on fire for at least a full minute, than coming back up from the water a little burnt, but still ready to go.

Overall, this movie sucks. There, I said it. This movie would have been a lot better if either Voight's character or the anacondas go. With two mega villains, it seems a little convoluted. Personally, I'd vote for Voight to be removed, or at the very least not to be a villain, and then you can just have a straight up man vs. nature battle where a few people die, but ultimately the main stars prevail in the end and kill the Anaconda. You know, kind of like Jaws. It still might not have been a great movie, but it would have made more sense this way. As it is, it's not very good, so I'll give it a 3.1 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post or other previous posts, or ideas for future posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

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