Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Romancing the Stone Review

©  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

In the cinematic age of de-saturated colouring and self important, brooding protagonists, it's always nice and refreshing to sit down and watch something from the time when films were allowed to actually be fun (an era that appears to be making a comeback *crosses fingers*). One of the more prominent examples of such times is Robert Zemeckis' classic period (start to mid nineties). The first of his films to be successful enough to cement itself in the public consciousness is the adventurous Romancing the Stone, made in the vain of Allan Quatermain and Indiana Jones. One notable difference being that it takes place in modern times (well, 'modern times' being 1984). Starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, the latter of whom has the sexiest voice in Hollywood.

Turner plays Joan Wilder, an everyday woman who has written a successful line of romance novels. She has a nice enough apartment in a big city, which is more than enough to make most writers seething with jealousy. Yet she yearns for a more adventurous life and a dashing significant other, both of which preferably to be as much like her works of wish fulfillment fiction as possible. The first of her wishes seems to be taken care of in a troubling matter when she finds her apartment being turned upside down while her sister calls her from Colombia, informing her that she is in big trouble. Kidnapped, in fact. Joan goes to Colombia completely unprepared and predictably isn't met with much luck. She immediately ends up somewhere she shouldn't be. It's a good thing Michael Douglas' character Jack T. Colton shows up, otherwise Joan would have been dead in hours. This is where the movie really picks up. It hurries in throwing all the best clichés our way. Sliding down the ravine, the lady not having practical footwear, there's even a rigidity bridge! And swinging on vines! I love it.

Don't let the use of clichés fool you though, the film itself feels classic rather than cliched. For example, the main villain has a pit of alligators. Sounds cartoony, right? Well it is, but it doesn't matter because it fits the film. One of the things this film handles best is tonal shifts. It can have a moustache twirling villain and still have him come off as a genuine threat. And although this movie draws clear inspiration from the movie serials from the first half of the 20th century, it's not a carbon copy of them. Joan, for example, is not portrayed as a typical damsel in distress. Sure, she's pretty useless at the beginning of her adventure, but she grows. Learning to stand her own. Likewise, Jack isn't a one dimensional character either. Sure, his initial motivations are usually selfish, but he's not a complete ass. Hell, all things considered, you could argue he's a stand up guy.

Most of the scenes have a seamless way of flowing into each other. Props to the editor here. The same goes for the score, which fits so well you'd swear it spontaneously came to be during shooting. The climactic scene has some odd pacing, but its conclusion is fun as hell. All in all I'd say I can casually recommend the film to general movie goers and strongly recommend it to fans of the genre.

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