Primal (2019): 5 out of 10. Loose monster on a boat, plane, spaceship meets Hannibal Lecter with Nicolas Cage thrown in. This should have been a hell of a lot more entertaining than it was.
The Good: Primal is well shot and in focus. Outside of the horrendous animal CGI, the film sort of looks good. It’s not the worst Nicolas Cage movie I have ever seen. I am grasping here… Oh; I know Kevin Durand.
Kevin Durand plays a Hannibal Lecter style prisoner being transported on a slow-moving cargo ship to Puerto Rico because he has inner ear problems or something. (The US Marshals are extremely accommodating in this case) He has the usual was one of the best before he became an insane killer backstories and is locked in the full Hannibal Lecter gear as well as being inside a cage.
The two Marshals guarding him have clearly never seen Silence of the Lambs, or they certainly would not have gotten in the cage with him after his “seizure”. Durand escapes and then exhibits the most unusual behaviour for a character in a B movie. He is smart. He takes headshots when he can, he ambushes, he puts up distractions, he disables key parts of the ship. He is a well written, intelligent character. He sticks out like a sore thumb in this movie.
Durand plays him with original expressions and actions, making the character his own. There is never a sense that Durand is aping Lecter or the Joker or one of a dozen similar psychopaths. This is a unique charter that deserves a much better movie.
The Bad: You may have noticed I describe above an entire plot of Primal and never once mention neither Nicolas Cage nor animals gone wild. That is because you could have easily made the entire movie without either. Would it have been a better movie? Well, yes.
Nicolas Cage plays a fat drunk animal poacher that has somehow acquired a rare white jaguar, which he is transporting on the same boat as Hannibal Lecter up there. Does the Jaguar get loose and eat most of the crew? Well, no, not really. This is not really an animal attack movie. The Jaguar is more of a deus ex machina. There are some horrible CGI monkeys out of Jumanji that kill a chef, and there are a few venomous snakes that bite people, giving them only the rest of the running time of the movie to live.
Nicolas Cage is supposed to have a redemption arc that is tacked on and a love interest with US Marshal and neurosurgeon Famke Janssen. There is not a word in the English language to describe thee lack of chemistry between Nicolas Cage and Famke Janssen. Perhaps the Germans have a word.
Also, who makes a movie with a Hannibal Lecter style character; hires Nicolas Cage; and doesn’t hire Nicolas Cage to play the Hannibal Lecter style character? Probably the same people who make a movie call it Persona Non Grata and when distributor Lionsgate objects to the title they change it to Primal. You have a movie about animals (Of various types) escaping their cages and it is starring Nicolas Cage, how can you not call it Uncaged??
The Ugly: Famke Janssen looks like she is wearing blackface in some of the opening scenes. Well, not exactly blackface more like the make-up Mr. Carlson wears in his televised debate in the WKRP in Cincinnati episode “Carlson For President”, which strangely makes Mr. Carlson look just like President Trump. And down the rabbit hole I go.
What the hell happened to Famke? (I know she turned fifty, had plastic surgery that went sideways and is now forced into Nicolas Cage’s love interest roles. To make matters worse, Nicholas is in his fat Elvis phase.)
Oh look, they got Michael Imperioli from the Sopranos to play the Burke from Aliens role. Does Primal in any way need or support a Burke from Aliens style character? No, no, it doesn’t.
In addition, Primal would have gotten at least one extra star if the kid was killed. (I don’t care how, jaguar, monkey, venomous snake, Hannibal Lecter, drunken Cage, Coronavirus. I am generally not in favor of killing the kid in these movies. But when I am, it is for good reason.
The screen shots can tell the entire CGI story better than my words. Guess where the movie’s budget didn’t go?
In Conclusion: Primal needed a few more over the top scenes. Cage’s character was all over the place and the redemption arc, romance arc and the end all fall flat. The ingredients are there for a decent movie, but too much was added to the stew.