Jungle Cruise: Jesse Plemons Speaks to Bees and We Need to Talk About It - VRGyani News and Media

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Jungle Cruise: Jesse Plemons Speaks to Bees and We Need to Talk About It

Editor's note: This article contains spoilers for Jungle Cruise.Disney’s latest adventure film based on a theme park ride, Jungle Cruise, has been pushed – and even been warmly received – as a fun summertime blockbuster that recalls swashbuckling adventures of the past. And indeed, there are charismatic leads (Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt), a bit of romance, and a decent helping of action scenes that make for a perfectly pleasant time whether you’re at the theater or watching it on Disney+ while doing the dishes. But all that is just very expensive window dressing hiding a very real truth: This is movie is weird as hell. Masterfully laced in-between the wisecracks and CGI jungle cats are unavoidably bizarre aspects that demand to be addressed, with one in particular needing its own massive spotlight: Star Jesse Plemons, whilst doing a German accent and dressed like Archduke Franz Ferdinand, has a full-on, intense conversation with a bee.

First, a bit of context, because believe it or not, there are plot points leading to this scene that actually make it even crazier. The story centers on botanist Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) and river guide Frank Wolff (Johnson) hunting down the Tears of the Moon – a supposed cure-all for any disease or curse – centuries after conquistadors led by Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) failed to track it down and were “taken” by the jungle. As a way of aiding his own quest for the Tears, Prince Joachim (Plemons) tracks down the bodies of Aguirre and his men – who look like a bunch of Han Solos trapped in a far more terrifying version of carbonite – and offers to free them if they help him secure the Tears.

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Up to this point, all the plot points have been typical summer adventure movie fare. But right here is when the boat is flipped and the “F** it” switch is flipped. See, when Joachim begins bartering with the conquistadors, Aguirre can’t talk for himself due to being encased in stone, so he does it telepathically via some snakes, because how else would he be able to communicate with the outside world? On a visual level, the image of seeing Plemons turning his German-accented charm on full blast to convince this mind-controlled serpent that it should help him track down a sacred tree capable of breaking a curse – as said snake nods in agreement – burns itself into your brain on a level reserved for avant-garde cinema. If Lars von Trier did an Adam & Eve movie, it would likely have a moment that looked just like this.

And just when you think “That’s...weird”, director Jaume Collet-Serra holds up the script from writers Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa and declares, “You haven’t even begun to see weird!” When the conquistadors are brought back to life, they aren’t exactly old-school skeletons running amok in the jungle. Instead, they each get a nature-centric superpower – with Aguirre’s being that he is perpetually covered in snakes he can launch at poor souls like a slightly more useful Hawkeye. Melchor (Quim Gutiérrez) is made of tree branches which he uses to concoct weaponry, and Gonzalo (Dan Dargan Carter) can morph into mud and I guess zoom around as mud. But that’s how we get to the bees, because that’s the power Sancho (Dani Rovira) gets: My man is covered in honey like an undead Winnie the Pooh and can control bees. In a world where myths become real and nothing is as it seems and nature itself can imbue with the undead, this guy just gets bees.

To get the most out of said bees, the writers and filmmakers worked in a scene that in no way – from conception to finished product – could’ve been conceived without hysterical laughter. To warn Joachim of Houghton and Wolff’s whereabouts, the bees soar into the prince’s submarine in a visual effects sequence that makes you think they were Rebel fighters zig-zagging along the surface of the Death Star. This leads them to Joachim, who is standing over a map of the region. As if they were a human assistant coming to give him the day’s briefing, Joachim eagerly listens as the bees try to relay the heroes’ exact location. A back and forth starts between the prince and the bees, with the former nearly shouting at the latter to confirm the whereabouts on the map. The bees do so, and then hover up and down as a way of nodding when Joachim asks if they’re sure. This is an actual, emotional conversation containing very important information between Joachim – played by an immensely talented actor – and digital bees – likely played by a tennis ball dangled in front of Plemons’ eye line.

I don’t believe this scene should be celebrated because it’s bizarre in a Bad Movie Night kind of way, even though it kind of is But this scene is also incredibly brilliant, and goes miles in getting an even weirder performance out of Plemons. Without bits like this, all of Joachim’s schemes would be normal blockbuster bad-guy stuff. Granted, Plemons would’ve still been a standout, as he plays Joachim with a sort of colorful abandon in a way that fits the character’s festive costumes. Plemons proved with Game Night that he’s capable of playing a specific kind of weird with hilarious, scene-stealing mastery, and here he pushes it even further. Whether it’s reciting German classical music as he fires massive guns on our heroes, or picking clean his small bird of a dinner before placing exactly three peas alongside the backside of his fork, his villain turns evildoing into a wonderful camp. He recalls a certain larger-than-life villain persona Geoffrey Rush tapped into in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and that defined now-classic animated Disney baddies, and by getting to talk to bees and snakes with such ludicrousness it only makes his work shine that much more.

Plemons’ over-the-top performance and all the lunacy surrounding it properly prime the audience for an undoubtedly wild reveal in the film's climax. In a movie where so much is hinged on classic adventure movie angles, so much of what happens in the final act just wouldn’t fly. But when you have an actor like Plemons giving the kind of performance he’s giving while having a genuine, intense conversation with CGI snakes and bees, it all blends together into a stew of madness left to bubble under the surface of an old-school adventure and buzz around inside your brain for, potentially, the rest of your life.

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