by David Cornelius
“King of the Lost World” is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed novel “The Lost World,” but only in the same sense that “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” is an adaptation of “Catcher In the Rye.”Here’s what we get in “King” that’s supposed to make it a “Lost World” update: a jungle locale that’s filled with strange creatures, and some recycled character names. That’s it. The rest is mostly a rip-off of the hit TV series “Lost,” with a few monsters and savages thrown into the mix for fun; we also win a bonus rip-off, this one of “King Kong,” with this movie’s direct-to-video release date conveniently timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Peter Jackson’s big budget remake. Funny how these things work out in the video world, isn’t it?
"Not good enough to be not bad, and not bad enough to be good."
Those renting this “King” in hopes of seeing a giant ape tear up the jungle, well, prepare to be disappointed. The Kong wannabe (he’s mostly bad CGI, although it looks like a dude in a monkey suit in a few shots, so there’s that) doesn’t even pop up until the last ten minutes or so. Sure, in the meantime, we get some giant spiders, man-eating vines, and a handful of dragon-ish creatures, but even those fail to come around enough to satisfy the monster movie junkie.
The non-Doyle plot kicks off with a plane crashing into the heart of the generic jungle; while passengers struggle to survive, a few of them decide to head off in search of the plane’s cockpit, which broke off during the accident. It’s just like “Lost,” except this time, we actually get to see the monsters, and instead of a collection of intriguing characters with rich, mysterious backstories, we get a pile of one-dimensional snoozers being played by DTV regulars. Just for kicks, the filmmakers throw in Sarah Lieving as the female lead; with the right dirty tank top and dark, muddy hair, she’s a ringer for Evangeline Lilly.
We also get Bruce Boxleitner (!) as Challenger, only here, he’s not a daring professor, but a shadowy-but-heroic military type whose top secret mission may explain what’s going on, or, at least, we hope it will before the closing credits. The Roxton character (DTV veteran Rhett Ghiles) is retooled to resemble Matthew Fox’s TV role; Steve Railsback pops up as a poor sap who’s been held hostage by the native tribe; and an actor whose name I did not catch plays a lunatic tribal chief who unfortunately comes with a beer belly, which is not something one would expect a lunatic tribal chief to have, although, I suppose, that’s why he’s a lunatic.
Yes, we get a tribe of mud people here instead of dinosaurs, the reason being that mud people will work for scale. After what feels like an eternity (but is in reality only about fifty minutes) of strolling through the jungle, getting picked off by the occasional CGI beast, and discovering several downed planes that are not their own (which begs the question: why is it that the crew of a commercial airliner cannot recognize their own plane?), the survivors wind up in the cave jail of the mud people tribe, a clan that worships “him.” The film will not reveal who “him,” is, but looking at the ginormous monkey on the DVD cover, the answer’s pretty obvious.
When the creatures finally appear, the movie does manage to have plenty of fun with itself. Knowing full well that the situation is laughable and the effects are doubly so, the writers throw in a good deal of B movie humor, enjoying the profanity and the corniness of it all. But that’s the thing - when the monsters aren’t around, the movie’s a major snooze, with a rambling, hole-filled plot, characters that aren’t worth following, trite dialogue, and action that favors the dull side. The embarrassing-but-fun monster aspect is too little, too late, having been vastly overshadowed by the dreary, barely watchable human story. What the best B-level moviemakers know is that a solid story is the best defense against a miniscule budget. “King” is as far from a solid story as you can get.The shame is that “King” was scripted by Carlos De Los Rios and David Michael Latt, the writers behind the recent C. Thomas Howell DTV version of “War of the Worlds.” That was a film that overcame every possible obstacle to become an unexpected treat. It’s too bad the intelligence of that movie has been replaced here by run-of-the-mill low budget blandness. Perhaps De Los Rios and Latt just had a bad day; perhaps the on-set rewrites by director Leigh Scott ruined things; perhaps a little of both. Whatever the excuse, “King of the Lost World” never manages to rise above its DTV trappings, and plays out as a flat, cheap tie-in cash grab.
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originally posted: 12/01/05 22:19:22