Primeval has to have had one of the most misleading advertising campaigns I’ve ever witnessed (well, at least since the justification for an invasion of Iraq – talk about wanting your money back!). Had I not already known a little bit about the film, I would have been under the impression that I was going to be seeing a film about a prolific serial killer operating in a third world country (a nifty concept in its own right), instead of what is essentially yet another in a long line of man vs. nature flicks. Luckily for me, I love man vs. nature flicks.
The film focuses on a team of reporters sent in to document the hunt and capture of a man-eating freshwater crocodile who has been feeding on the people of Burundi for decades. Credited with over 300 deaths, the cold-blooded killing machine has grown to mammoth proportions thanks to its high protein diet of human beings, and the capture of something like this creature would make for huge ratings, as well as a bit of redemption for Tim Manfrey (Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell)- a journalist trying to wiggle his way out of some bad journalistic choices.
Tim’s team includes Aviva Masters, a sexy reporter looking for her first big story (played by the lovely Brooke Langton of Melrose Place fame) and Steven (Jones); a cameraman whose soul purpose here is to crack borderline racist jokes about the people of Burundi (going so far as to suggest that “Slavery was a good idea” in that it got his people out of the war-torn country). We never really grow to like any of these characters, but Steven earned a special place on my list of people who should be eaten in the most violent way possible.
The rest of the team includes a Crocodile Hunteresque animal show host who wants to capture Gustave alive, and the film's resident Ahab, Jacob (Jurgen Prochnow), who has a score to settle with the creature. Along the way we are treated to a lot of exciting and well made attacks by the convincingly computer generated Gustave, mixed in with some local politically fueled action, courtesy of an evil warlord known as Little Gustave, in whose territory the big croc is currently feeding.
While Primeval is basically “Lake Placid” without the humor (and set on another continent), it is actually based on true events, as there is a killer crocodile named “Gustav” who is credited with dozens of killings in the area. So, while almost everything else that happens in this movie is impropable, ironically it is the most seemingly far-fetched element (the giant killer croc) that is ultimately the most plausible.
Primeval isn’t really about plausibility, anyway; it’s about blood, action, and…more blood, and, in that, it succeeds. Sure, this is a tremendously stupid film, but it is never boring, and, as a mindless hunk of popcorn cinema, it worked for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for anything of substance as the film's stabs at sociopolitical relevance are seriously misguided, but if big beasties feasting on human flesh floats your boat, Primeval will surely entertain.
The DVD from Buena Vista features a very entertaining commentary track with director Michael Katleman and SFX supervisor Paul Linden, a trio of deleted scenes with commentary, and a short but impressive "crocumentary" focusing on the CGI work that went into bringing Gustave to the screen.