Primeval is a movie with a serious identity crisis. It’s either a crocodile movie with a heavy dose of African conflict or an African conflict movie with a heavy dose of crocodile. If it leaned heavily either way, it may have worked out.
This is a movie all over the place. Supposedly based on a true story, this would have written itself as the action thriller of the decade if any of this actually occurred. In other words, “based” on a true story means a borrowed idea turned into a feature film. Primeval is simply too much movie for its 90-minute running time.
Dominic Purcell leads a team of American reporters to Africa to track down the world’s most deadly crocodile. Once there, he’s caught up in a heavy struggle between African militia, along with his small crew, which also includes Orlando Jones (who couldn’t be more out of place). It’s not that Jones isn’t funny or spot on. It’s simply that his comedic tone sticks out in the face of cold-blooded murders, crocodile attacks on children, and a general struggle for survival.
There is an attempt at a message here which is lost in a movie that continues to fall apart as it moves on. Scenes of the journalists debating if their tape of random killings is news could have made for a significant piece of drama, yet the scene ends up being pointless moments after it happens. Moments like this are buried in random action sequences — including an extended one against two militia members who have rocket launchers, machine guns, and a jeep, yet can’t even kill one of the lead characters.
Those here for a giant monster movie have some relief. The crocodile is fair in terms of effects, and meshes well on screen with the actors. It’s the ridiculously fast movement that gives it an unbelievable appearance. A few gory deaths, including the final one that is a near classic, push the rating up to an R (and this is almost entirely for the violence).
Other plotlines — such as a scientific debate on whether or not to kill the beast — feel pulled from countless other creature features, and do nothing but convolute the story further past the breaking point. Much of the cast finds an early exit through various means, whether on account of the ongoing war or the croc. The Hollywood ending seems to invalidate any attempt at creating a call for people to take notice of the human condition in the country. Instead, it shows the people happily going about their lives, even though the audience has been preached at about how miserable they are.
Focus is really all Primeval needed to come together. Everything from its genre placement, storyline, and tone seem to vary from scene to scene. It’s hard to get involved in a movie where the creators didn’t even seem to know where to go next.
Bursting with color, this is a solid transfer. It’s free of grain, and the black levels are stunning. There are instances of minor compression, and the overall transfer feels slightly muddy. Detail is still strong during close ups, and lost in long shots.
Audio packs a massive punch in the bass department. The roar of the crocodile, regardless of its realism (actually, a lack thereof), shakes the room every time. Excellent surround work captures splashing water and hectic gunfire wonderfully. Every action sequence has notable audio work.
Extras are sparse for a DVD release. A “Crocumentary” is a decent behind the scenes look at the film. It covers all aspects, from audio, shooting, and special effects. It runs a little over nine minutes. Three deleted scenes are available with commentary only. They run around five minutes, and one is an extended ending sequence. Loads of trailers, including some that have no reason being on this disc (a G-rated kids movie?) are available from the start or from the menu.
The final extra is a worthwhile commentary from director Michael Katleman and the special effects supervisor Paul Linden. They have tons of great stories from the set, and are constantly talking and quite energetic. They need to do more commentaries should they work on more films.
Primeval flatlined at the box office. The oddball marketing campaign was more out of focus than the movie itself. It barely showed the crocodile, and instead chose to push it as a serial killer story.