Fantasy Island (2020)

Fantasy Island
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Remake of: the Fantasy Island TV show
Cast: Michael Peña, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang, Portia Doubleday, Ryan Hansen, Michael Rooker, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Mike Vogel, Kim Coates, Robbie Jones, Jeriya Benn
Seen on: 5.3.2020

Patrick (Austin Stowell), Melanie (Lucy Hale), Gwen (Maggie Q), J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) won a stay on fantasy island where Mr Roarke (Michael Peña) supposedly makes all dreams come true. They have each submitted their descriptions of their fantasies and like magic, everything is prepared for them to make them into a reality. But soon things start to feel off and the fantasies turn dark and twisted.

I didn’t expect much from Fantasy Island. In fact, I was pretty much braced for something really bad (but the cast still drew me in). Turns out, the film isn’t very good, but it’s not as bad as I feared it would be.

The film poster showing the island, creating the shape of a skull from afar.

Until the very last second I wondered whether I should really spend money on this film, knowing that it probably wouldn’t convince. But Lucy Hale and Maggie Q are so gorgeous and great actors and Michael Peña is always a favorite of mine, I just couldn’t not go for it. And they were definitely great, even when the script didn’t give them that much to work with (which was mostly Peña’s fate). The rest of the group wasn’t bad either, but the three simply stand out.

The rest of the film, though, did not really stand out. While the script does have some nice touches here and there with the characterization, but it tries a little too hard with its twists and turns. With the last turns in particular, the film completely derails itself. Nothing makes sense anymore when you consider the last reveal(s). A problem that could have been avoided if they hadn’t tried to put in a plot twist a minute. Instead they could have devoted the time to really explore the island itself and what it wants.

Patrick (Austin Stowell) and Melanie (Lucy Hale) talking to Mr Roarke (Michael Peña).

Apart from the fact that the plot pretty much ruins the film, I was not particularly happy that the one queer POC in the end basically gives up his life for a white dude, as if his life was worth less. But at least there was a queer POC, that is something. I am also still mulling over what the film was trying to say about being a hero and the “heroic death”, but I’m pretty sure it sucks.

Even with all of that, if the film had managed to create tension, this wouldn’t have mattered so much. Unfortunately, things never got tense for me. Everything moves along pleasantly, and it’s not like it’s boring. But it should be exciting and mysterious. I should be scared for these characters and I should be wondering about the island. There wasn’t any of that. There was no emotional connection for me – and that means that the film just doesn’t work.

Patrick (Austin Stowell), Sloane (Patricia Doubleday), Melanie (Lucy Hale), Gwen (Maggie Q) and Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) on the run.

Summarizing: It’s okay, but far from great.

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