Cruise Control

For a time, Jungle Cruise draws on the classic cinema luxury of an African Queen – a boat, foreign waters at wartime, and two of Hollywood’s attractive leads on the run as they veer toward romance. Movies are glossier now though. Jungle isn’t jungle, or even a backlot. Everything is digital, even the fantasy.

Jungle Cruise requires the charisma of its leads to elevate the routine plotting, from which Disney is hoping for another Pirates of the Caribbean; Jungle Cruise is not that. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt have fun on this trip, running into cliches like waterfalls and (tasteful) natives. It’s naturally fun to see pompous rich people lose their comfort as they usually do in these stories. There’s also a villainous German worth hating, setting up a stock confrontation during the finale as both groups rush toward mythical treasure.

Little of Jungle Cruise will survive in memory when it’s over

Even as light escapist fantasy though, the stakes feel low, and the visuals artificially sterile. Johnson and Blunt stand around blank sets, surrounded by fake forests, occasionally fighting fake creatures or resurrected Conquistadors. The result is action that appears aimless the longer it goes. The few twists land with a thud because the drama never established itself. Jungle Cruise stays strictly playful in tone, even when stiffly spilling expository (and loosely historical) background context.

Not to say African Queen wasn’t produced with commercial aspirations, but the likes of Bogart command a specific presence that lends adventures a gravitas. Johnson’s playful banter, much as his impeccable muscular bulk screams, “movie star leading man,” doesn’t convey the same attitude. That gives Jungle Cruise limitless levity, and Blunt capably gives the personal barbs right back. Any energy stems from their bickering, and the standard trope of placing a cultured woman with a rugged man who lives on the sea.

Some credit goes to the screenwriters who do well in avoiding racist cliches form the 1930s and ‘40s. Undoubtedly, that’s a studio requirement, but given the setting and homages, it’s easy to slip up. They don’t, placing the outmoded jungle natives into the story via misdirection, then allowing the scope to open for a hearty finale. Little of Jungle Cruise will survive in memory when it’s over, yet the takeaway (hopefully) is killing the garbage racial symbology that persisted over decades.

Video

Rudimentary digital video benefits primarily from the source’s natural clarity. A spot of noise isn’t a bother. Sadly, that doesn’t amount to much. The constant CG drops Jungle Cruise down to 2K, and the upscale process isn’t outstanding in any particular way. Wide shots of jungle vistas appear muddy more than refined. Lagging resolution reduces fidelity in close too as facial definition softens. Jumping to 4K introduces little over HD, and if anything, likely makes the inherent faults more obvious.

Although lush on occasion (greens, notably), Jungle Cruise chooses a vintage sepia tone suited to the early 1900s aesthetic. The warmth swells, if oddly keeping flesh tones somewhat leveled when compared to the rest. Primaries sag toward yellow-ish hues otherwise.

If there’s a save, that’s the HDR. Sunlight across the skyline shimmers aggressively. Jungle Cruise glows in the best way; fearful of brightness this disc is not. Black levels hit a consistent, stable depth too, capturing impressive density. The temptation to fade shadows to suggest aged visuals is avoided, choosing the glossier route from most modern blockbusters.

Audio

Disney mixes Jungle Cruise on the lower side, requiring a volume bump more akin to their earlier 4K output. Thankfully, the range isn’t pinched after the adjustment, producing tight bass as required. Action scenes find use for the subwoofer frequently, elevating punches and Dwayne Johnson’s muscled pro wrestling moves. Boat engines rumble, and so do river rapids. It’s satisfying, then more so when gunfire starts factoring in.

Given the setting, Atmos effects run rampant as animals fly overhead. Ambiance remains high in crowds, keeping the soundstage consistently filled. Imaging maintains precise motion and flow, following the visuals accurately. Channel transitions are smooth and organic, hitting all the right points.

Extras

A generic making of begins the Blu-ray’s bonuses (only on the Blu-ray) and runs 12-minutes. Johnson and Blunt take over the next short featurette as they discuss their characters. A look at the sets and effects reaches 15-minutes. The ride itself comes into focus over 14-minutes in a fun piece that’s mostly marketing, if enjoyable. The disc closes shop over deleted scenes and outtakes.

Jungle Cruise
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Passably old fashioned while drenched in modern visual effects, Jungle Cruise is little more than acceptable, one-off escapism trying to recapture Disney’s Pirates gold.

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User Review
3 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 51 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: