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Primeval (2007)

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/12/2007

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/11/2007

At least once a year, if not more often, we get a film that is advertised as being one thing, but in reality, it's another. Last year, we had Man of the Year, which looked like a wacky Robin Williams comedy, but was actually a semi-serious examination of U.S. politics. But, this year's entry may be one of the worst offenders ever. The ads for Primeval claimed that the movie was "Inspired by the true story of the most prolific serial killer in history." Thus, those who saw the film in the theater probably expected to see something akin to The Silence of the Lambs. While they didn't get what they wanted, these people did see a movie about a serial killer. The catch is that he isn't human.

Primeval introduces us to television reporter Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell), who has recently had some issues with a story which turned out to be erroneous. When he's called into his boss' office, he's convinced that he's going to be fired, but instead, he learns that he and his cameraman, Steven Johnson (Orlando Jones), are to accompany fellow reporter Aviva Masters (Brooke Langton) to Africa. A UN doctor has been killed by a crocodile and the network wants a story on it. Manfrey is repulsed by this idea, but knowing that his job is on the line, he agrees.

Once in the African country of Burundi, Tim learns that the crocodile in question is an infamous beast who has been named Gustave by the locals. The croc has killed dozens of locals who bathe and fish in the lake where he lives. Herpetologist Matthew Collins (Gideon Emery) joins the expedition, as he plans to capture Gustave in a special cage which he has constructed. The group meets their local guide, Jacob Krieg (Jurgen Prochnow), a crusty man who scoffs at the idea of capturing the creature. The group follows the crocodile's trail to a small village and then on to a river. Once there, they begin a stakeout and soon learn that all of the stories about Gustave are true. They also learn that the animals aren't the only deadly creatures in Africa.

Again, I'm sure that the people who saw this film expecting to see a serial killer film were quite miffed. But, I knew going in that the movie centered on a crocodile as opposed to a human killer. So, imagine my surprise when I found that Primeval isn't really a crocodile movie either. Yes, there is a crocodile in the movie, but most of the film deals with politics in Africa and the barbaric conditions in some regions of that continent. And of course, crocodiles and politics go together like...well, they don't really go together. Even when we get an explanation of how the genocide in the area contributed to Gustave's man-eating nature, the two plots still seem very divergent.

So, we've got two different movies going on here. Essentially, Primeval is Blood Diamond meets Lake Placid. (And I'm fairly certain that pitch would get you kicked out of any office in Hollywood.) The movie really hammers home the awful conditions in Africa and how the local rebels control and terrorize the people. These moments in Primeval illuminate a truth that many may not be aware of (unless you've seen Blood Diamond), but, let's be honest, that's not why we're here. We came to see a serial kill...I mean crocodile movie.

The true shame is that the crocodile scenes in Primeval work rather well. Gustave is an entirely CG creation and the croc looks pretty good in most scenes. (There are a few shots where it looks too "plastic" or doesn't completely blend with the surroundings.) There is at least one Jaws-inspired jump scare which works and most of the attack scenes are intense and quite suspenseful. The movie does a good job of letting us know that most of the cast isn't safe and there are some surprising deaths. Unfortunately, there are simply too few croc scenes.

So, let's review: Primeval isn't about a serial killer, it's about a man-eating crocodile. But, that crocodile takes a back-seat to the drastic political conditions in Africa. On top of this, a small portion of the film is an Orlando Jones comedy, as the actor, known for funny roles, delivers some hysterical lines which feel as if they should be in a different film. Simply put, Primeval is one of the oddest mainstream movies to come along this year. It's not what it was advertised as being, either during its theatrical run, or now that it's on DVD. The familiar cast is OK, but just as on Prison Break, Dominic Purcell can't keep his shirt buttoned. If you're in the mood for a film about Africa, then see Blood Diamond. If you want to see a movie about a killer reptile, track down a copy of Alligator (which has yet to come to DVD in Region 1). If you want to see mish-mash of a movie which attempts to combine these elements, then Primeval is for you. But don't complain that it wasn't what you thought it was going to be.

Primeval climbs onto the river bank of DVD courtesy of Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment/Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This is a nice transfer, as the image is sharp and clear. There is no overt grain on the picture and no defects from the source material. The image is fairly well-balanced, although I did note that some of the night-time shots were a tad too dark. The colors are fine, and I noticed no overt video noise or artifacting. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound here is very impressive and it's used very well in the scenes where Gustave is stalking his prey. Likewise for the subwoofer effects, as the attack scenes feature some very deep bass sounds.

The Primeval DVD has only a few special features. Director Michael Katleman and visual effects supervisor Paul Linden provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the movie. This is a good talk as the two speak very openly about shooting the film in South Africa and the obstacles which they faced in doing so. While they don't spend too much time on the cast or script, we get some good anecdotes about the production. "Crocumentary: Bringing Gustave to Life" (10 minutes) focuses on the CG effects used in the film and how real-life footage and computer animation are combined. Unfortunately, no one in the segment is identified, so we don't know who the speakers are. Katleman and Linden again provide commentary for three DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. It's odd that we can only hear the commentary, as there is dialogue in the scenes, but the pair describe why the scenes were deemed unnecessary.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long