Review: Primeval

Posted by Peter Hall - August 6th 2007 @ 9:09 pm

Directed by Michael Katleman, 2007
Written by John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris

Primeval DVD

Nature run amok.  Crocodiles going ape shit.  You’ve seen Lake Placid.  Or Crocodile.  Or Crocodile 2: Death Swamp.  Or Lake Placid 2.  Or Dinocroc.  Or Krocodylus.  Or the upcoming, unrelated, duo of Rogue and Black Water

Point is, it seems that all these misunderstood cuties ever do is grow big and attack people.  The difference here is that Primeval originally attempted to sell itself with that oh-so-alluring tag line of, ‘Based on a True Story."  Only instead of admitting the villain, Gustav, is a big fucking reptile with a lot of big fucking teeth, Katleman and Co. originally just tried to pitch him in trailers and what not as the most prolific serial killer in history.  A pushy tactic (abandoned after the theatrical stint) that made me disbelieve the reality angle instantly.  But I am man enough to admit when I’m wrong.  Gustave is a real crocodile.  You can watch the massive beast on YouTube, for Christ’s sake.

So…touche Primeval, touche.  There may be some truthiness to you after all (it seems to have read Gustav’s Wikipedia page, at least), but you’re still riddled with that special breed of laughter and cringes reserved only for movies named Krocodylus.  And let’s be serious for a second, does Primeval really sound any more sophisticated than Krocodylus?

I submit that it does not.  Then again, Krocodylus probably doesn’t have terrific one liners that would be incredibly racist were they not said by the one black American in the film.  Or is that reverse racism?  Or am I now racist for bringing it up?  Oh, God, curse my awkward white skin!

I’m not kidding, though.  Primeval’s hook is off the chain.  Izzle.  I’d love to say those one liners don’t hit their mark, but Orlando Jones pulls stuff off, "I’m never gonna say this in front of a bunch of white people, but slavery was a good thing.  Anything to get the fuck out of Africa is a good thing!"  And then there is the talk of smuggling African children back to America….

But, I digress.  Primeval is, of course, about a big ass crocodile in Burundi that gets away with chowing down on hundreds of people until one day, which conveniently happens to be our opening scene, he eats the wrong person and a US news crew gets sent in to film/capture the thing.  Or, as token black Jones so explains, "You know, that croc is a lot like OJ.  He made a mistake when he killed that white woman."

As much as I’d love to say Primeval is worthless, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t carry a palpable sense of good-hearted, murderous adventure.  At least for its first halfish, at which point you start to pull an Ian Malcom and annoyingly wonder, aloud ‘Now eventually you might have dinosaurs crocodiles on your dinosaur crocodile tour, right?’  As cheap and inconsistent as the shoddy CGI may be or as steadfast as the balsa wood dialogue pours from every expected characters mouth, the one thing that hurts Primeval most is its progressive lack of an actual primal evil.

Unless, of course, one considers man to be natures true evil, since over half the human deaths seem to be at the hands of a gun or machete.  Then again, Brancato and Ferris’ script does give the ‘ole college try at a bit of intelligence by attributing Gustave’s mammoth size and blood lust to a diet of countless bodies thrown into his lack amidst Burundi’s brutal civil war.  Get it?  Violence begets violence!  Mankind creates that which inevitably destroys it!  The modern world seeks only exploitation from the less modern! Shit is mad deep, yo!

Of course, Primeval is not blowing the lid off of what life is really like in Africa (especially when tribal shamans chant in English).  It’s not blowing the lid off anything.  It’s not even gently exhaling so as to ruffle the air around it.  There is utterly no impact upon the world because Primeval exists.  That isn’t to say the flick can’t be enjoyed.  I still lay claim that it does just as many things right as it does wrong.  It isn’t anywhere close to dethroning Lake Placid, but I’ll take Gustav over all the Boas, Pythons or Boas fighting Pythons any day of the week.

Katleman manages an above average cast who supply the check-list of nature-gone-amok flick characters with a fun, on-screen chemistry, a handful of animal-on-human action, a dumpster full of human-on-human action and a for-hire director who accepts his limitations and moves onto the next shot.  No question, It’ll be forgotten in due time, but one day when options seems thin and the means to pass time thinner yet, you may be faced with the opportunity, at which point you can know that I give Primeval a non-committal shrug of the shoulders.


rss 5 comments
  1. Adrian
    August 8th, 2007 | 6:33 pm | #1

    “the one thing that hurts Primeval most is its progressive lack of an actual primal evil.”

    Awesome punning.

  2. August 8th, 2007 | 8:36 pm | #2

    Really? I thought that was actually kind of lamely obvious. Guess my BS in Sociology is clearly betterer than your Masters in English.

  3. August 10th, 2007 | 9:05 am | #3

    Bah.

    I’ve hated this movie ever since those stupid trailers about “most prolific serial killer in history”. Your movie is about a goddamn reptile. Get over yourselves.

    But then again, it gave impetus for this excellent review, so I’ll attempt to curb the vitriol… a little.

  4. Sean
    August 28th, 2007 | 7:59 pm | #4

    I’m still watching this and getting more and more confused over whether this movie is a movie about a giant crocodile, or whether it’s about a bunch of africans shooting each other.

  5. Darren J Seeley
    March 15th, 2009 | 10:43 pm | #5

    There was a very informative, engrossing PBS documentary regarding the hunting for Gustav; while the political strife in the area was mentioned, it focused more on a Nation Geo/Animal Planet tone.

    And yes, for 60 minutes,it was more entertaining.
    and I’ll take a Ghost And The Darkness (based on true story about killer man eating lions in…Africa) over this ilk.

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