WASHINGTON, April 29, 2017 – The year 1912 saw the publication of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World.” According to that story’s intrepid South American explorer, George Edward Challenger,
“Curupuri is the spirit of the woods, something terrible, something malevolent, something to be avoided. None can describe its shape or nature, but it is a word of terror along the Amazon… Something terrible lay that way. It was my business to find out what it was.”
Letters to Doyle from British explorer and friend, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, inspired the creation of the famous author’s fictional trailblazer. And like Challenger, Fawcett’s seven expeditions to the primeval Amazon region brought him in close proximity to the jungle’s “Curupuri,” whose malevolent embrace proved so powerful Fawcett and his son Jack never escaped its smothering grasp.
The attraction was not the humid jungle itself, navigating its rolling rivers, or mapping its rugged geography. It was the search for a fabled, vine-entangled lost city, one mentioned in an 18th century document known simply as Manuscript 512.
But Fawcett and his son would not be alone in their adventures for long. In the expeditions that followed, more than 100 men died in the unforgiving Amazon rain forest searching for the missing pair.
If the aforementioned sounds like fodder for an exciting, action-packed, historical biopic, you would be wrong. Instead, partners Amazon Studios and Bleecker Street have given us “The Lost City of Z,” a title with big promise but whose action delivers little.
Since Hollywood is determined to provide a window into current culture’s shallow zeitgeist, this new film force-feeds its audience with anachronistic nonsense, as exemplified in an awkward scene between Fawcett and his wife, in which the Misses argues that she is her husband’s equal in all things, including jungle survival skills.
“We believe firmly in the equality between us,” Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) reminds her husband.
“Equality, yes,” her husband (Charlie Hunnam) says gently, “in mind, not in body. The rigors of such a trip would be beyond your imagination.”
And then comes the well-worn feminist trope: “I believe it is generally acknowledged that the pain a woman experiences during childbirth far exceeds anything a man must endure.”
For the sake of marital bliss and his wife’s sanity, Fawcett does not recount witnessing a fellow explorer ripped to pieces and his bones picked clean by schools of the Amazon’s ravenous piranha fish, the pain of which, unlike that of mother Fawcett, the victim does not survive.
This film is filled with so many trivial conflicts and pointless tangents (World War I for instance), the audience is forced to take a machete to hack its way through the screenwriter’s dense jungle of distractions in a desperate search to find what the convoluted plot has lost; namely, “The Lost City of Z.”
Though their movie is visually stunning, the filmmakers have failed to make a compelling true story, well, compelling. Travel at your own risk.
“The Lost City of Z” is currently in theaters nationwide.