Fantasy Island is Not my Fantasy (a Review)

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I always try and get to the theater once a week and see a film. However this time of year is difficult because the amount of films I have any drive to see are low. Now, even though I’ve been surprised before with films like Overlord or Ready or Not it is still difficult to pick. With that said the only thing that look interesting was Fantasy Island (I’m sure Call of the Wild is fine but I can’t get passed that CGI) because it’s finally getting cold here (just took till mid February) and would love to go to the Bahamas at least.

Fantasy Island follows a group of guests as they arrive at the titular island. It is run by Michael Peña as Roark, a mysterious benefactor who now gives people their fantasies after acquiring the island. As part of the island fantasy there comes one rule, you must see it to the end. That becomes difficult when the fantasies start and they go from a dream to a nightmare.

The film has a great premise is really good. It’s multiple characters and plots make it feel like it was a great horror of suspense novel I hadn’t heard of before. The setup is fine. Everything else hurts this movie.

On the surface it feels like this movie is fine and kind of should work. Again, like it’s adapted from a better novel. In practice it is just kind of bland, boring, and long (my time stamp said 2 hours and i don’t know how that’s possible). This comes from how flat, stale, and sterile the whole affair feels. This goes for both the production and the actors.

The main island location may be real, and does evoke that fantasy feel, but outside of that, and the main house all the sets feel very sterile, empty, and made for a movie. None of them have a good sense of life or history. It does not help that the direction is really flat. The team goes for the more generic and workman angles possible. Nothing interesting or neat. There are moments that should be big reveals, but they’re just kind of presented plainly.

The acting does not help sell the world these characters live in. Across the board everyone is very one dimensional. The only standout is Ryan Hansen. I think the only reason he stands out is his personal history of being Dick Casablancas in Veronica Mars. He’s playing that same dude-bro archetype and does it so well I could watch him forever. Everyone else, even Michael Peña, are kind of dull and forgettable.

I should clarify that they are one dimensional until they’re not. When they change it is often more light switch than natural arc progression. Characters will be confronted and then change like an arc. However we, the audience, were not given enough about their background to inform that decision and change. This is because the film is constructed around a constantly changing frame of why events are transpiring. This leads to questions. It’s pretty clear that the reason the fantasies go dark is because of the machinations of someone who wants these characters to suffer. That makes me ask, “if the character making the others suffer gets their fantasy with no monkey’s paw twist, why don’t the others when they have all the same qualifications to get a straight fantasy?” That question gets more complicated because of the aforementioned withheld information making reveals just come from nowhere, or like there was a pamphlet I missed in the lobby.

This film has been called one of the worst films of the year. I don’t know if I would go that far. It is far more boring than bad. But I also wouldn’t say it’s the worst because it feels like it’s trying so hard to tell a good story about what we think we want, the trials of reaching goals, the interconnectedness of humans, and that sometimes we all just so happen to have the same secret skeleton in our closet because we all lived in the same apartment for an unspecified amount of time and saw each other like one time maybe during a fire one of us legitimately caused by accident and someone can’t understand that accidents happen and its better to move on than to spend tons of money on the worst revenge plot ever. You know, like the real broad and important themes of the human condition.

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