Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996 film)

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau is the story of a United Nations negotiator who finds himself in a mysterious island where a scientist conducts strange experiments involving humans and animals in an attempt to create the perfect species only for things to go wrong. Directed by John Frankenheimer and screenplay by Ron Hutchinson and Richard Stanley, the film is meant to be a study of human nature and how animals tend to go into their own instincts where a man is forced to see a world that is just as complicated. Starring Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Daniel Rigney, Temura Morrison, Mark Dacascos, Marco Hofschneider, Peter Elliot, and Ron Perlman. The Island of Dr. Moreau is a horrible and messy film from John Frankenheimer.

The film is a simple story of a man who was found stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the sea as he is taken to a mysterious island run by a mad scientist who conducts experiments in trying to create the perfect being by mixing human DNA with animals. Yet, it’s a film that explores not just madness but also human nature at its worst and what happens when these hybrids of human and animal rebel against their creator? That is pretty much the film as a whole where it raises a lot of questions but never gives out any answers that audiences will pretty much figure out as it ends up being very heavy-handed about the idea of human nature. The film’s script wants to be this mixture of adventure, sci-fi, human drama, and action but it never gels where it has no idea what it wants to be. Even as there aren’t a lot of strong character developments with the exception of Aissa (Fairuza Balk) who is the daughter of Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) as she is also a hybrid that is more human but is regressing to her animal origins.

John Frankenheimer’s direction is definitely chaotic and not in a very good way. It’s doesn’t just carry the problems that the script had in what it wanted to be but it also takes itself too seriously where it ends up becoming comical at times. There are also these quirks in the film that are just odd as it relates to the presentation of Dr. Moreau. Whenever he’s outside, he’s wearing makeup because he’s allergic to the sun while he’s accompanied by a miniaturized version of himself. He wears an ice bucket for a hat and speaks in a strange accent as it’s among these quirks that are odd. Shot on location in Australia, the film has an exotic look but Frankenheimer doesn’t really do much to flesh out the locations visually as he’s more concerned with the craziness that is happening. Especially as it relates to Dr. Moreau’s assistant Montgomery (Val Kilmer) who is just as eccentric as he would go off-the-wall much to the dismay of this outsider in Edward Douglas (David Thewlis).

The direction’s usage of slanted camera angles, wide and medium shots, and these sequences of action and horror definitely go overboard. Especially in the film’s climax as it relates to Douglas trying to find a serum for Aissa while Montgomery has gone insane unaware that a group of human-beasts have rebelled. It’s all over the place, a lot of characters get killed and Frankenheimer tried to infuse so much as it just goes overboard. There are also these weird sequences that are shot in in a surreal fashion that doesn’t feel like it fits in anywhere as it feels like it is from a different movie or some variation of the film. Overall, Frankenheimer creates a film that is just absolutely fucking awful in every way.

Cinematographer William A. Fraker does some nice work in the cinematography as it does display some of the beauty of the locations though some of the scenes at night are over-lit in some parts of the film. Editors Paul Rubell and Adam P. Scott, with additional work by Thom Noble, does OK work with the editing as it has moments where it tries to establish what is going on as well as feature some nice dissolves but a lot of it plays too much into conventional fast-cutting. Production designer Graham “Grace” Walker, with art director Ian Gracie and set decorators Lesley Crawford and Beverley Dunn, does excellent work with the look of the base that Dr. Moreau works at as well as a few places where the man-beasts often go to. Costume designer Norma Moriceau does fine work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual as well as some stylish clothes for Aissa as well the look of Dr. Moreau.

Makeup supervisor Mike Smithson is fantastic for the look of the creatures as well as the strange makeup of Dr. Moreau. Special effects supervisor Mike Cox and visual effects supervisors Alex Frisch and Michael Z. Hanan do some good work on some of the visual effects in the design of some of the creatures though some of the visual effects aren‘t very good at all. Sound designers Harry Cohen and Ann Scibelli, with sound editors Marc Fishman and Cathie Speakman, do superb work with the sound in capturing some of the chaos as well as some of the insane moments in the film. The film’s music by Gary Chang is alright as it has its moments for its orchestral bombast though it never does enough to standout against everything that is happening.

The casting by Valerie McCaffrey is wonderful despite the fact that a lot of the talent in the film don’t really get much to do nor work with material that is any good. Small performances from Peter Elliott, with the voice of Frank Welker, as the baboon-like hybrid Assassimon who befriends Douglas, Mark Dacascos as a leopard hybrid named Lo-Mai who gets into trouble with Dr. Moreau over his actions, and Nelson de la Rosa as this miniature mutant who is a clone of sorts of Dr. Moreau as it’s one of the oddest things in the film as they’re not given much to do. Temura Morrison as the dog-like hybrid Azazello and Marco Hofschneider as M’Ling as the two hybrid sons of Dr. Moreau where the former has a love of hunting while the latter is about books as neither of them get a chance to flesh out their characters. Daniel Rigney is awful as the pig-hyena hybrid Hyena-Swine who would rebel against Dr. Moreau as he begins to asks a lot of questions as well as turn to violence for his answers.

Ron Perlman is badly wasted as a blind goat-like hybrid known as the Sayer of the Law as this film’s conscience who tries to understand all of the shit that is happening as he’s not given anything substantial to work with. Fairuza Balk is terrible as Aissa as Dr. Moreau’s daughter who is the most human of his children as she copes with regressing into her cat-like genes as she also befriends Douglas. David Thewlis is pretty bad as Edward Douglas as a UN peace negotiator who survives a plane crash as he is trying to get out of this island as well as find himself baffled by Dr. Moreau as Thewlis is just there to be a foil and react to things. Val Kilmer is awful as Montgomery as Dr. Moreau’s assistant who tries to imprison Douglas as well as create chaos and such where he would go insane. Finally, there’s Marlon Brando in an awesomely bad performance as Dr. Moreau where it’s Brando not giving a fuck where he’s wearing an earpiece in the film and doing all sorts of fucked up shit while wearing an ice bucket on his head. It’s a fucked-up version of the mad scientist where Brando hams it up and more while not giving a fuck whether or not he’s any good in this.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a fucking awful film from John Frankenheimer. It’s a film that had the potential to be a lot of things but ends up being extremely stupid and ridiculously over-the-top. Especially where it never dares to ask big questions and provide answers that are just idiotic. In the end, The Island of Dr. Moreau is shitty film from John Frankenheimer.

Related: Island of Lost Souls - Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

John Frankenheimer Films: (The Young Stranger) - (The Young Savages) - (All Fall Down) - (Birdman of Alcatraz) - (The Manchurian Candidate) - (Seven Days in May) - (The Train (1964 film)) - (Seconds) - (Grand Prix) - (The Fixer) - (The Extraordinary Seaman) - (The Gypsy Moths) - (I Walk the Line) - (The Horseman (1971 film)) - (The Iceman Cometh) - (Story of a Love Story) - (99 and 44/100% Dead) - (French Connection II) - (Black Sunday) - (Prophecy (1979 film)) - (The Challenge (1982 film)) - (The Holcroft Covenant) - (52 Pick-Up) - (Dead Bang) - (The Fourth War) - (Year of the Gun) - (Against the Wall) - (The Burning Season) - (Andersonville) - (George Wallace) - (Ronin) - (Reindeer Games) - (Path to War)

© thevoid99 2016


ruth said...

I've been meaning to see this one, mostly for Brando & Kilmer. Heh, but from your review it sounds so awful though so maybe I'll just skip it!

thevoid99 said...

Just watch the Lost Soul documentary. It's way more interesting than the final film as this is just fucking shit. Fairuza Balk tried to run away from the production and David Thewlis skipped the premiere as he still hasn't seen it.