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Studio Home Entertainment presents
Komodo (1999)

- A giant Komodo Dragon.

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: September 05, 2000

Stars: Jill Hennesy
Other Stars: Billy Burke, Kevin Zegers, Paul Gleeson
Director: Michael Lantieri

Manufacturer: Unkown
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for monster violence and language.
Run Time: 01h:30m:00s
Release Date: August 08, 2000
UPC: 658149746527
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C D+AA- A-

DVD Review

Giant, killer animal flicks seem to be a phenomena that never fades, especially when filmmaking technology introduces new ways in which said animals can wreak havoc. Movies named after the animal seem to be the trend, as is the case with Komodo, or should I say KOMODO!; in the same vein as Anaconda, King Cobra, Shark, and Ape. I have every confidence we will all soon be watching films likeSquirrel, Thompson's Gazelle, Lemming, and Platypus. If it seems like I'm taking cheap shots at a vulnerable production, believe me, I gave Komodo every chance in the world. I knew full well that laughing off this film would be terribly predictable, so I made a great effort to shake off the flaws, ignore the bad dialogue, and dismiss the plot holes. There is, however, only so much one human soul can take, and Komodo beats you senseless until you simply cannot help but run screaming from your television set.

As the story begins, a mysterious individual is haggling for a clutch of Komodo eggs at a dock somewhere (it really is that vague). He manages to get the eggs, but on his drive to wherever he's going, he decides they smell too bad to keep, so he tosses them out. Fast forward 19 years later, and we see a young boy, Patrick (Kevin Zegers), with parents in tow, traveling to a secluded island where they vacation. Once there, Patrick's dog and his parents are quick lunch for a giant Komodo Dragon. Fast forward another, oh, let's say...decade, and Patrick is trying to heal psychologically. His family brings in a psychologist, Victoria (Jill Hennessy), to help him get over his nightmares and fears. Victoria decides that taking Patrick back to the island to face his memories is the only way to heal him. So, they go back, only to find that oil companies have taken over the island and that giant, violent Komodo Dragons are now as common as average lizards. Victoria teams up with 2 Komodo hunters (hired by the oil companies to get rid of the monsters) and staying alive becomes the central focus.

A lot of things go wrong, right from the beginning. For the most part, the story just doesn't make any logical sense. The explanations for many of the film's plot points don't add up. For example, we're told that the reason the Komodo's are so violent and nasty is because they're starving since the oil companies have polluted their natural food chain. So then, how exactly did they manage to live for 19+ years? Why are the Komodos super-versions of normal Komodos, with agility and skill way beyond normal Dragons? I suppose asking too many questions would peel apart the story, but many problems here are extremely basic, root problems. These things should be explained in much better detail to suspend audience disbelief.

The movie is also filled with a variety of awful clichés. For starters, the "evil" oil company that has taken over this island is commanded by a garden variety, "evil" British guy who CANNOT talk normally. Instead, he has to talk in slick threats and veiled insults. The Komodo hunters are your typical bad guy/good guy team, both of whom look like out-of-place bikers. Of course, one of these said hunters has the prerequisite mysterious past that makes him emotionally hardened and difficult to figure out. Victoria is the intelligent, scientific type who just CAN'T believe that these giant monsters are real. Patrick is an awful, soap opera-style youth whose same, wooden expression throughout the entire movie is, I assume, supposed to be a sign of his deep-rooted psychosis. It's a fairly standard, predictable structure here, as you can see.

Beyond the weak dialogue and poor excuses for Komodo chomping action, there are really wild stretches in believability, as far the story goes. For example, the unfriendly and disturbed Patrick suddenly, upon contact with a Komodo, turns into this uber-warrior who sets out to take on as much Komodo butt as possible. His transformation is, believe it or not, begun by him ripping the heart out of a dead Komodo and smearing the blood on his face. And he does this without the benefit of surgical equipment or proper blood testing facilities to determine the safety of such an action! The whole plot about the oil company just trying to keep the Komodo situation hushed up so they can keep working is pretty ridiculous too.

If one aspect shines here, it's the effects. Komodo features surprisingly abled computer graphics and animatronic work to represent the Komodo Dragons. This comes as little surprise since the effects were supervised by Tippett Studios (begun by FX legend Phil Tippett), and director Michael Lanteri is actually an effects supervisor himself. The beasts are believable, but ultimately a bit boring since they become so overpowering later in the film. As usual for a weak monster film, when the monsters out-perform the central cast, you know you're in trouble. Jill Hennessy, whose long TV career on Law and Order brought her decent acclaim, does the best she can with the ideas here, but she ultimately comes off as way too smart to have even gotten into this situation. Speaking of "smarts", these characters have none. The movie seems like a long quest for these people to find locations where they'll be safe from Komodos, only to end up quickly leaving to wrap up some other plot point. The most unusual aspect is why everyone doesn't just LEAVE the island by boat, instead of bothering to fight everything out.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1:78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Other than a few instances of grain, the print and transfer are very good. Colors are nicely balanced and clean, black level is well defined. Some scenes are a little too dark, but that seems to be a photographic decision. This a very good transfer and shows no problems with any kind of digital artifacting. The anamorphic enhancement nicely adds to the image depth without any noticeable aliasing.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio is well used and enhances the on-screen action well. Dialogue is a little muddy in the center channel, but overall this channel information is well balanced with everything else. There is a lot of directionality and surround speakers are used for a variety of sound effects from Komodo growls in the background to gunshot echoes and the like. The LFE channel is used for a great deal of bass enhancement and provides good low-end. The 2.0 Surround audio is nowhere near as clear and lacks the same kind of wide stage sound of the 5.1 mix, but it will do if you really want a Pro-Logic audio.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Onegin, Space Truckers, Legionnaire, and more..
1 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Michael Lantieri
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia Game
  2. DVD-ROM WEblinks
  3. Komodo Fact File
Extras Review: The disc has a number of extra features, the most noteworthy of which is the director's commentary. Michael Lantieri's discussion on the track is mostly technical but also covers some of his intentions with certain scenes. Unfortunately, the commentary is a little sparse, often with minutes going by without anything being said.
2 featurettes are included; one is a serious, 14 minute, making-of documentary, and the other is a rather lame promotional short. The making-of piece is well made and entertaining.
A trivia game provides a little diversion after you've finished watching the movie. You answer some questions about the movie and answering all of them correctly results in playing a short clip from the film. Accompanying this is a rather lengthy informational text about real life Komodo Dragons.
Everything is wrapped up with a few bios, a trailer gallery of other Sterling releases, and some DVD-ROM Weblinks.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

I can enjoy a brainless movie as much as the next guy, but only when it's at least well made. The good intentions of the crew here just don't add up to a particularly good experience, despite the great FX. If anything, Komodo might be worth a rental, but overall it's doubtful many people will find much fun here.


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