island of dr moreauNew Line Cinema
1996
PG-13

“I have seen the devil in my microscope, and I have chained him.”

Dr. Moreau uses the key of science to turn animal life forms into human-like beasts who threaten not only Moreau’s island laboratory but ultimately all mankind!

H. G. Wells was one rather innovative writer when it came to his science fiction tales, which would then come as no surprise to any sci-fi fan worth their salt (or whatever) that his material would be fodder for big screen adaptations.  The Island Of Dr. Moreau is especially ripe for adaptations, both big screen and little, be they straight-up adaptations or obvious inspiration for likewise subjects, the story alone (about a mad scientist making human/animal hybrids, essentially playing God and dickering around with science) is rich with the classic Science Run Amok morality play.  So it’s no surprise that The Island Of Dr. Moreau has been made into a major motion picture three times thus far.

The version we’re focusing on here is the 1996 adaptation, because as of this writing, it’s the only one I’ve seen.  Which is unfortunate, because the execution of this movie is messier than the genetic stew they’re dabbling with.

You would think that a movie starring the likes of Marlon Brando as the titular mad scientist, with a still relevant Val Kilmer as his sidekick, Ron Perlman as a mutant human/goat prophet, and Fairuza Balk as a literal cat woman would be classic sci-fi gold.  But remember, this was the 1990s, the decade guilty of many cinematic facepalms.  At this point in his career, Mr. Brando was far removed from his innovative acting legend days, and was fully immersed in his stubborn, arrogant gastropod twilight days as an actor, and it shows perhaps the most in this movie.  Clearly phoning it in, and sporting a rather unflattering Mumu throughout the entire flick, this is not Brando at his finest, here.  Admittedly, he’s always been a rather odd bird, but the moment he first appears on screen, you begin to wonder if they hadn’t in fact forgotten to give him his meds that day.  Val Kilmer seemed to be mostly inebriated…well, his character is, but I do speculate as to what Kilmer had to do to maybe numb the pain of the production.  The acting overall is pretty melodramatic, while the script ham fists the whole morality message with the subtlety of using a chainsaw to scratch an itch.  The visuals, though, are decent, using practical makeup and effects and the settings well enough.  Problem is, the overly long run time, melded with the lackluster cast and the script itself makes for a rather boring watch.

So, basically this “modern” version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau was forgettable and boring.  A bit over ninety minutes of nothing special.  As I mentioned, I haven’t seen the other two versions yet, but until then I’m going to say that I’ll stick with the original novel for now.  In the meantime, skip this particular movie.