Rhino-mite

There’s less in Endangered Species about surviving in the African plains than there is about family troubles. Their van tipped over by an angry rhino, the utterly average Halsey clan complain about one another as they sit bloodied, dehydrating, and otherwise nearing death. Jobs, boyfriend choices, personality clashes, teen angst; any of them bubble up on the fly.

An interesting movie comes from the script somewhere or sometime; this is neither of those opportunities. The theme surrounds anti-poaching efforts, the pre-end credits text confirming statistics, and the villains rhino killers. Endangered Species makes its point, but also deals in low-budget CG animals that convey none of the intended beauty.

Endangered Species, rather than a support its direct cause, drives interest in the evil

Africa looks gorgeous at least, the best thing about Endangered Species. As the camera sweeps across scenic valleys, visually at least, the movie is breathtaking. Sadly, it then edits to people, led by Philip Winchester as the father, Rebecca Romijn the mother. Romijn spends her time slipping into a diabetic coma, and if anything, she’s lucky. Winchester battles his kids as they lash out, or at other times worries about money. He’s an oil executive, turning his environmentally-conscious children against him.

What’s bizarre is how Endangered Species collapses in on itself. As it speaks about the environment, daughter Zoe (Isabel Bassett) chooses glass bottles over plastic. The family then loses their water since the bottles break in the attack. Conservation matters, while the script turns the animals against the family. Poachers are awful, yet pointlessly rescue Winchester and company for false tension.

Jerry O’Connell plays the ivory-dealing cretin, always a perfect, hateful heavy as an actor. He’s more interesting, if only because it’s easier to wish for awful things to happen to O’Connell. For the Halseys, it’s a constant undecided back-and-forth as they drift between empathetic and spiteful. Also, as is the norm in such thrillers, people do stupid things that lead to in-movie and audience screaming. Endangered Species, rather than a support its direct cause, drives interest in the evil, if only because there’s an obvious side to take against them.

Video

Set in Africa, the key is warmth. The aesthetic aims for intense amber push, glazing the screen with heavily saturated primaries. Primaries glow, from the various greenery to clothing. Flesh tones carry a deep tan, and that makes sense given the circumstances.

Sadly, it’s a disappointing encode from Lionsgate. Digital cinematography should lead to clarity, but instead everything carries an ugly, compressed sheen. This ruins most of the location scenery, thick blocking diminishing the natural beauty. Definition lags. Dulling the resolution means a lack of texture and that means ever weakening fidelity. Some slight low light noise bothers shadows, if minor compared to the other problems.

At least Endangered Species runs bright. The warmth is one element suggesting the African sun, and the other is a vivid, intense contrast. A small loss from clipping doesn’t bring any harm, instead hitting the screen just right. Night brings satisfying black levels – pure, dense blacks that satisfy the disc’s needs. Dimensionality results, gaining a bit from the compression loss.

Audio

Pedestrian design lacks scale. The key scene is a rhino attack, and surrounds barely offer any space. Stereos engage as the car rattles and tips, but that’s it in terms of staging. Lower budget, dialog stays centered, never adventurous in bouncing between the available speakers.

Minimum range engages the subwoofer primarily via the score. Drums add minor bounce to an otherwise dull affair.

Extras

Double commentaries, the first with director MJ Bassett, the second with Bassett, Philip Winchester and Jerry O’Connell. Interviews last 37-minutes, spread among seven different actors/crew.

Endangered Species
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

Survival in the African desert makes for a clever trapped-in-a-location thriller but Endangered Species is let down by meandering, pedestrian family drama.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 34 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: