I watched Jungle Cruise (2021) last night. While it is diverting fun there isn’t a frame of originality anywhere in the film. The leads are engaging. It’s hard to figure out who the villain is since there are a number of them who mostly disappear for long stretches and none are particularly menacing. The FX are often laughable, particularly the leopard, and it overstays its welcome by at least 10 minutes.
The thing that most interests me is how movie studios, and particularly Disney, fuck with the formula to give the impression of progress while maintaining the same outdated gender role paradigms that are consistently reinforced in most popular culture.
These movies all have four characters; the grizzled outsider male, the spunky, determined female, the hapless queer, no longer codified in this film, brother/assistant/father etc., and the villain (Almost always German but sometimes Arab).
For most of the twentieth century the grizzled outsider was the lead but, this being the twenty-first century, it is the spunky, determined female who leads the action, proving to be more than competent, although never as powerful or competent as the grizzled outsider, whom she’ll inevitably fall in love with, and who will eventually save her life.
Meanwhile the queer brother/assistant/father character is the one constantly in danger although the hets never seem to notice unless they want something from him. That the queer brother in this film exhibits a scintilla of competency and spine in the final act does little to change just how cliched this character is. However, in the end, it is always the grizzled outsider straight male who saves the day and neatly puts everyone back in the pigeon-holes society is comfortable with.
Progress is incremental and I suppose this movie does move things forward ever so slightly. But if the idea of progress is making the female character the one driving the action and one way of keeping the immutable formula fresh, I guess we can look forward to, in another hundred years, the hapless queer brother driving the action with the help the the grizzled outsider and the spunky woman.
Of course, in the end, the heterosexuals will still find love and happiness, while the queer character will return to their lone supporting role, but we’ll call it progress to make everyone feel like they’ve accomplished something.
The Rating: 4 out of 5.