Oh boy. Primeval is such an enormous hunk of shit it’s really hard to know where to begin. But okay, let me give it a try.
Dominic Purcell (Blade: Trinity, The Gravedancers) stars as a hunky journalist forced to journey to Africa in order to film and capture a 30-foot crocodile named Gustave who has been killing dozens of villagers up and down the local waterways. Purcell isn’t necessarily trained for exploits like over-sized reptile hunting, but his boss insists that “sweeps week” is eminent and threatens to demote Purcell to a job at Starbucks (your garden variety corporate demotion threat), so he begrudgingly agrees to go crocodile hunting but only if he can wear a wide variety of long-sleeved, starchy shirts.
Actually, Purcell’s narrative arc can be tracked by how many buttons are undone on his various shirts; as his character progresses emotionally, his bare chest becomes more exposed. Brooke Langton—who we all fondly remember as the cheerleader who was boned by Keanu Reeves in The Replacements—joins the team, apparently to drive her career even further into oblivion. Orlando Jones, last seen sporting a green “Make 7….Up Yours” T-shirt and irritating the living fuck out of people on the street, signs on to provide a little half-assed, poorly-improvised African-American side-kick humor. He may have been wearing mascara, but I’m not certain.
The initial previews for Primeval were blatantly, frustratingly vague. Allusions to serial killers, Africa, and muddy rivers were clustered together into a 15 second preview that could have been about Dahmer, the black plague, or acid rain, it was impossible to discern the theme. New previews hint at a hunting expedition, of a monster beyond control or comprehension, but still, no shots of the crocodile. What’s the deal? Well, for one, it’s because the movie totally blows, and the less that the studio has to show of the actual film in a preview, the better. Second, it’s because Gustave the crocodile takes up all of 10 minutes of screen time (I timed it). The rest of the movie is chock-full of boring guerilla subplots and listless, vague melodrama.
In fact, I would dare say that Primeval doesn’t care at all about Gustave, or staging good kills, or suspense, or narrative flow, but man, oh, man, Primeval does care desperately, dare I say LOVES, its subplots. Subplots ooze from every orifice of Primeval: the group is fired upon by local guerillas, they visit a precognitive medicine man, they join a group of campfire-loving natives in boisterous song, they view the medicine man’s subsequent death at the hands of local guerillas, etc. It was like watching a lengthy National Geographic documentary about apartheid with the occasional poorly-rendered digital crocodile scene thrown in to liven things up. Although Gustave can’t be bothered to show his face until after the first hour, when he finally does appear, it’s a monstrous disappointment. The special effects are of the straight-to-DVD variety, about as awkward as something you’d see in Clash of the Titans, never even close to convincing.
Honestly, I love gigantic animal movies as much as the next guy. Give me a bucket of popcorn, a sixer of something imported, and a copy of Night of the Lepus or Prophecy, and I’ll settle into the sofa for several hours of blissful euphoria. But Primeval made Lake Placid seem ridiculously accomplished, and we’ve all seen Lake Placid, right? Maybe with a bigger budget, along with a better screenplay, actors, director, cinematographer, and grips, this might have been a decent movie. Unfortunately, as it stands, Primeval is a joke, a riotous prank pulled on unsuspecting moviegoers expecting something even remotely satisfying.