One of the biggest questions with Disney films recently is if whether or not you should wait for it to come to standard Disney+ or if you should spring for the Premiere Access watch, which isn’t the cheapest. So whether you’re looking to watch it in a theater or the comfort of your own home, should you watch Jungle Cruise? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is detailed below.
Truth be told, the film returns to a genre that Hollywood hasn’t touched in some time—and no, I’m not talking ride-to-movie adaptations. Instead, I’m talking about treasure hunting adventure films. The ones that showcase the awe of exploration with a cast that pushes the chemistry meter through the roof. Jungle Cruise is a return to that. It’s a return to the exploration of the world, a return to treasure hunting, and a return to action. But it also manages to improve on those moments while using a foundation of lore to drive the film.
So, without further ado, here are three reasons to watch Jungle Cruise opening day.
Characters with Chemistry to Make The Mummy Proud
Directed by Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, Jungle Cruise is an adaptation of the iconic Disney theme park ride of the same name and written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. The film takes viewers down the Amazon with skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who is equipped with many, many dad jokes, intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who is out to cure the world, and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) who is there because, well, he loves his sister. The three of them present a trio that is the best I’ve seen on screen since Evie, Jonathan, and Rick in The Mummy—and they embody the archetypes from that film as well.
As the Skipper, Johnson brings fun and humorous charisma balanced by an apathy that makes his rogue identity enthralling for the viewer. As for Blunt, Lily’s determined personality, physicality in fight sequences, and wit make her a character with staying power. And together, their chemistry is palpable.
Most of the time, it’s easy for a romance to feel forced, but in Jungle Cruise, it just makes sense. Before the two even started flirting, I was already whispering “now kiss” in my seat. Their romance is one of mutual respect and one where you have two strong-willed characters looking out for each other, letting each other thrive, and, of course, bickering. While this film isn’t like The Mummy when it comes to narrative, the magic of the cast and the romance would make the iconic film proud.
It Brings Back the Adventure Story While Improving it
Treasure hunting adventure movies come few and far between, as scarce as the treasure that the characters hunt in them. While some rolled their eyes at another theme park ride, the first trailer for Jungle Cruise brought every bit of the adventure I’d been missing in the years since Pirates of the Caribbean stopped being good. It also brought me the excitement of an expedition that Aquaman got close to with its heavy lean into the genre. It’s easy to say I booked the cruise early, and it didn’t disappoint.
So, you won’t find much in the way of new additions to the adventure formula: explorer and pal find a hardened guide to help them find a special thing in an uncharted land with hijinks and action along the way. But that isn’t a problem for Jungle Cruise. The film uses the formulas laid down by the action-adventures before it and improves on them simultaneously—even taking the typical problematic elements and subverting them for both laughs and storytelling. As a result, jungle Cruise brings charm, beauty, danger, and a hell of a lot of fun. While some elements will certainly draw comparisons to Pirates of the Caribbean, ultimately, this film stands on its own and not in any shadows.
A Lore that Works
The lore of the film is pretty simple and akin to the Fountain of Youth—there is a tree with petals that can heal anything, cure any curse, and has the power to change the world. Lily, has heard these stories her entire life, more specifically about the Conquistadores led by Aguirre and how their quest ended by being overtaken by the jungle. In a shock to no one, the Conquistadores are the bad guys (well, one of them) in Jungle Cruise, and it’s refreshing. To see the lore impacted by the evil deeds of the Spanish instead of romanticizing them helps the story hold more weight. In truth, as the mystery of the tree unfolds, we get the chance to see it as something to remain in Brazil versus something to be taken out of it.
While some will say that the cursed Conquistadores themselves are Pirates of the Caribbean knock-offs (which I kind of see), there is a difference that makes them intriguing villains, the biggest of which is their design. Each individual is overtaken by a different piece of the Amazon; their bodies are deteriorating. While one looks like mud, another truly breathtaking design can control trees. Another is nearly non-existent, with honeycomb holding him as together as he can be, and finally, the last one’s body is home to snakes. Their bodies becoming home to the Amazon itself is done well not only visually but in the inventive action sequences.
Whether it’s the tree itself or the evil Spaniards, the lore surrounding the film just works.
Overall, Jungle Cruise proves that the treasure hunting adventure formula still works. It’s fun, audacious, and truly an experience that will bring joy to any age in the audience. A strong outing, Jungle Cruise, left me wanting more out of the characters. I want sequels and more stories of wonder and adventure with this crew, no matter where they may take us. It’s safe to say that you should watch Jungle Cruise on day one.
Watch Jungle Cruise is in theaters nationwide on Disney+ with Premiere Access on July 30, 2021.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.