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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.41%
Worth A Look37.04%
Just Average: 7.41%
Pretty Crappy: 22.22%
Sucks: 25.93%

3 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Island of Dr. Moreau, The (1996)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Uneven; definitely has its moments."
4 stars

The new version of 'The Island of Dr. Moreau' is scary for reasons that have nothing to do with the movie itself. The first adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel 1933's 'Island of Lost Souls,' with Charles Laughton as the mad scientist seemed to predict Dr. Mengele's horrible experiments in the Nazi camps. The second, released in 1977 and starring Burt Lancaster, seemed to foreshadow Jim Jones' bungle in the jungle the next year. What future atrocity is this third film preparing us for? (Cloning, perhaps possibilities abound.)

Maybe nothing. But the chilling idea of Wells' story that the fusions of man and animal must struggle to keep the humanity that humans so rarely show comes through loud and clear in the new film. In fact, this Dr. Moreau, unlike Laughton and Lancaster (and very like Wells' original concept), is basically benevolent if deluded -- a tragic hero, almost.

This Moreau begins like the others: a civilized man (David Thewlis) finds himself on the island, where animals are turned into humans and kept in line by a set of laws -- "Not to go on all fours," "Not to eat meat," "Not to kill." The "manimals" are the children of Moreau (Marlon Brando), an animal lover who somehow misses the contradictions in his work.

Brando has done jungle fever before, of course, in Apocalypse Now, whose Colonel Kurtz might have been a warm-up for the godlike Moreau. Charles Laughton's Moreau was a milestone in creepy acting, and Brando seems to be going for a Kabuki parody of Laughton, wearing messianic robes and thick, white sunblock, as well as a series of progressively goofy hats. Brando, who's often hilarious, magnetizes the camera even when surrounded by Stan Winston's elaborate creature make-ups.

The same can't be said, sadly, for the usually electrifying David Thewlis, who is given nothing to do except react with disgust to Moreau's hobby. If you saw him here for the first time, you'd never know he could make poetry out of scuzziness (Naked, Prime Suspect 3). Val Kilmer turns up as Montgomery, Moreau's junkie assistant; he does a funny Brando impression near the end, but most of his performance isn't worth the hassle he reportedly caused on the set, leading to the dismissal of original director Richard Stanley.

John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) took over for Stanley, and he does credible work; this isn't a hack job like his 1979 horror attempt Prophecy. He gets a touching performance from Fairuza (The Craft) Balk, as Moreau's "daughter," who is slowly regressing to her feline origins. But Frankenheimer doesn't do her character justice, and he seems unsure whether he's making a horror movie or an action thriller with horror elements. The climax involves a depressing amount of gunplay.

Still, this 'Island' is worth visiting. It retains Wells' anti-vivisection concerns, and asks who is more bestial: the animal or the scientist who experiments with it. And it has Brando keeping himself amused, like a deadpan Falstaff in the jungle. Maybe his great days are gone. But now that the pressure of greatness is off him, he knows that all he has to do is show up and have fun.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=624&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/01/07 21:03:38
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User Comments

8/15/13 Mac Most of the creatures look bad but Lo-Mai looks good 2 stars
7/17/13 Modjango Von Milfryder This movie grows on you...like a fungus! Loved it! 5 stars
2/02/07 David Pollastrini saw it but have no memory so it must have sucked 2 stars
7/10/06 David Cohen Kilmer acts silly, Thewlis acts cowardly, Brando acts badly, Audience leaves 2 stars
11/20/05 Frank Rountree This movie was very slow moving and not worth admission. 1 stars
8/19/05 ES Honestly it could have been more. FX bad, acting ho-hum, unbelievable plot 2 stars
6/06/05 Sincal Loved it...absolutely thought it was wonderful!!! Exquisitely portrayed with a picturesque! 5 stars
3/09/05 tatum Definitely one of the strangest films ever made 2 stars
5/13/04 John clumsy and unfocused 2 stars
10/01/03 Gray bad from book to movie+ low point for many good actors 2 stars
9/17/03 Donna Gelpigi One of H. G. Wells's lesser novels lessened still further on film. 2 stars
4/12/03 Jack Sommersby Better than you've likely heard. Not great, but pretty involving. 3 stars
1/15/03 Brandon LeBoeuf Fairuza Balk RULES! 5 stars
6/20/02 the Grinch Could've been more...but at least Stanley rode the Fairuza train. Or was it Val? (shudder) 3 stars
6/10/02 Roy Smith Fairuza Balk...future star...totally beautiful. Movie ok. 4 stars
12/20/01 Andrew Carden A Pale Adaption To The Original, but It's Not Half-Bad Either. 3 stars
7/15/01 skrelick worst movie ever 1 stars
5/03/01 Gracy Lionheart Read the book...don't watch the movie!!! ARGH...BORING!!! 2 stars
2/04/01 Brian Huh? A Z-grade beneath planet of the apes. Where can I order the midget and ice bucket hat? 1 stars
12/13/00 AtlantaBill My feelings about this movie can be summed up in two words.....Anal Rape. 1 stars
11/27/00 Cristopher Revilla Dull movie, another fucked up rip-off to the original novel, read it, but don't watch this 1 stars
8/27/00 max sukky 1 stars
3/23/00 David Rogers Can sombody please tell me what happend? 1 stars
3/05/00 Kyle Broflovski Immediately striking, but vastly forgettable. 2 stars
1/20/00 Add What a load of bollocks!!!!! 1 stars
9/22/99 Matt Man...did this movie suck!!!! Val... GET A LIFE!!! 1 stars
3/10/99 little jerry To get a sense of the creepy strangeness of Wells' book see only ISLAND OF LOST SOULS(1933) 3 stars
11/25/98 Fred If HG Wells would come back to life, he'd kill himself. 1 stars
11/12/98 Jules I was surprised. I liked it. 4 stars
9/22/98 Patti I thought the story was good, and the makeup was pretty neat. 5 stars
9/01/98 J-Guy load of turd eating, cock thumping, bullsnot. 1 stars
8/31/98 Mister Whoopee Tank girl type effects. Awful. 2 stars
8/29/98 Miss Stress i really don't have much to say cept it sucked all ass. 1 stars
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  23-Aug-1996 (PG-13)



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