Congo directed by Frank Marshall Review by Doug Gogerty
When this film first came out, I avoided it. Sometimes bad press, etc. can negatively impact an impartial viewing of a movie. For instance, Waterworld and Ishtar aren't great movies, but they are not as bad as the press would make you believe. The problem with these movies is they were expensive to make, but were not good enough to bring in the box office dollars. The same can be said of Congo. The negative press was mostly about how much it cost and how poorly it did at the box office.
In no way is this a great movie. I would not even recommend it. It has some serious problems. The director Frank Marshall does not have any clue as to how to build suspense. Suspense is precisely what this movie lacks. Further, I felt absolutely no empathy for the characters. Even when characters got killed, I did not care. Eh, good riddance to that annoying person. I was never anchored into rooting for one over the other, which is essential for good suspense. The entire cast is simply annoying. Ernie Hudson's on-again off-again accent is the least of the movie's problems.
Further, there is plenty of Deus Ex Machina for everyone. Remember to mention the balloon at the beginning, so it doesn't appear that we pull it out of the hat. They pack in a huge number of crates and cartons so if they need anything in the jungle, they just have to open a crate. Laser protected perimeter system, open crate #4.
However, the underlying premise in the proper hands could have been pulled off. It could have been a good exciting thrill ride. It could have been suspenseful. It could have been a decent movie. I have never read the book, but it seems to be a typical Crichton story. It might be a decent read. Some of it likely shines through in the movie, but most of it is hidden beneath dreadful storytelling by the director.
Doug Gogerty is a writer and Senior Technical Specialist living in Minnesota. He runs a storytelling blog, Around the Campfire, and is a moderator on the ARWZ Writing Forum.