Anaconda Movie Review

Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing
Production Companies: Columbia Pictures & Cinema Line Film Corporation  
Director: Luis Llosa
Producers: Verna Harrah, Carol Little, & Leonard Rabinowitz
Scriptwriters: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.  
Main Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathon Hyde, Kari Wuhrer and Owen Wilson  

Released: 11th April 1997

Running Time: 89 Minutes
Certificate: 15

Synopsis of Anaconda

The plot of Anaconda (Llosa, 1997) has us follow a film crew sent out to the Amazon to shoot a documentary about a long-lost indigenous Amazonian tribe called the Shirishamas. The crew is led by director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) and accompanied by childhood friend and camera man Danny Rich (Ice Cube), production manager Denis Kalberg (Kari Wuhrer), her boyfriend the sound engineer Gary Dixon (Owen Wilson), boat skipper Mateo (Vincent Castellanos), narrator Warren Westridge (Jonathon Hyde) and anthropologist Professor Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz). Unfortunately, the crew encounter a stranded Paraguayan snake hunter Paul Sarone (Jon Voight). He convinces the crew that with his superior knowledge and experience of the Amazon, that he could lead them to the Shirishamas.

The Betrayal

The crew grow increasingly uncomfortable around Sarone, with Cale in particular clashing with him several times over opposing opinions of the Shriishamas’ lore. Sarone guides them down an alternative route which leads the group encountering baby anacondas. This freaks the crew out, one of the poses if Sarone knew he was leading them into snakes. The crew and Sarone venture forth, tensions high. They soon encounter a stranded boat. Sarone asks Mateo to investigate with him, Danny decides to join as he wants to get their investigation of the boat on camera. On the boat Sarone finds and hides a newspaper clipping with a picture of him holding up an Anaconda on it, adding to the already mysterious tone. The hunter heads downstairs to a hidden chest containing hunting equipment. This is when the crew are first greeted to the anaconda as one of the crew perish to the ambushing goliath of a snake.

Sides Form

Back at the boat Sarone unveils a massive 3–4-year-old anaconda skin, indicating that a goliath monster killed the captain. He proposes the crew capture the monster and sell it for a very lucrative price. Yet the crew are more concerned about finding Mateo and stay till night falls, utilizing the boat’s light to search for the missing captain. This is when the snake hunter entangles his prey ahem sorry “partner” to catch the anaconda.  The next day the snake attacks killing members of the crew. Leaving dwindled numbers to fight off Sarone. Seeing his chance, the snake hunter forces the crew to hunt the snake, initiating the climatic end of Anaconda. As Danny and Terri have to fight not only the Anaconda but the Anaconda hunter, as they fend for their lives up an Amazonian river without a paddle.

Summary of Anaconda  

The cast of the film surprisingly includes big names such as Ice Cube and Owen Wilson, two actors who would soon become very bankable comedy actors. The two come of well in the movie, Owen Wilson’s character is a bit of a jerk. Which differs from most characters he portrays. It is a welcomed break from the actors’ usual roles. Unfortunately, the special and practical effects fall short some of the time. Failing to actually scare you with this monster snake. At times the practical effects look passable however with technological advances in the industry Anaconda’s effects just don’t hold up that well. Although some of the scenes utilizing practical effects still hold up to some quality today. Arguably (and this PAINS me to say this) in some scenes better in quality than the less cinematic scenes in Jaws that heavily involved the famously problematic mechanical shark.

Effects of Anaconda

However, on the whole the effects are dated, not holding up to other films that released around that time or prior (on similar budgets) such as Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993), and Deep Blue Sea (Harlin, 1999). The film’s practical effects don’t hold up either they are vastly beat in quality when compared to Tremors (Underwood, 1990), and Tremors was funded on a measly $10 million when compared to the $45 million budget for Anaconda.

Interested in what I said about those films, check out my reviews on Jurassic Park, Deep Blue Sea, and Tremors.

Premise of Anaconda

I always loved the story idea since I first watched it. It’s not entirely original, it’s not groundbreaking but its more than passable for a creature feature. The story gives plenty of opportunity for tense, eerie scenes which could build up the tension. However, Anaconda isn’t accompanied by masterclass award winning music by John Williams. You notice this a lot. It just doesn’t seem to work for the film as well as it did in Jaws (Spielberg, 1975). Maybe a combination of both the soundtrack and the cinematography falling short of Jaws’ quality resulted in the film just not hitting the same level of tension as Jaws and other creature features. However, the spawn of direct-to-video sequels all vastly drop in quality of the original, the ones I can recall at all after watching that is.

Creature Feature Ranking

In conclusion Anaconda is the best creature feature featuring snakes I have watched, with Python and Snakes on a Plane 2nd and 3rd. I may be biased as it was the first snake creature feature I watched. I also do love Ice Cube as he said in an interview his favorite film is also Jaws. So the film holds a special appeal to me. The practical effects fail to hold up in some of the more climatic scenes but probably its most enticing aspects is the cast and their chemistry. I really liked the strong female lead as well as Ice Cube’s and Owen Wilson’s characters. The is a white male who needs to be saved and does end up helping in the end. Yet the day is saved mainly by the duo of Danny and Terri subverting the white hero stereotype.

Dynamic Duo of Anaconda

The chemistry between the two characters was thoroughly enjoyable throughout the film as well.  Unfortunately, the “Paraguayan” accent of the snake hunter, if you can even call it that, was absolutely dreadful. Picture Jared Leto’s Joker as an accent impression, it was utterly terrible. With it being so bad it you can’t really fear the antagonist and makes him some cliché bad guy. Which may lead to Ice Cube’s and Jennifer Lopez’s chemistry appearing better than it is, in comparison to the poorly performed antagonist.  I did like that the typical white man hero isn’t present here. Also, I will take a Danny Trejo cameo whenever, wherever! However, that being said after finding out there is a crossover between this series and the Lake Placid franchise, you can guarantee that am going to be watching that!

Overall Rating – 7 – Respectable

Anaconda is currently available to watch on Netflix.