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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Retro Review: Romancing The Stone (1984)

Romancing The Stone
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny Devito, Holland Taylor
Genre: Action-Adventure Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $86 million 

Plot: A dowdy, romantic-adventure writer is hurled into a real-life adventure in the Colombian jungle in order to save her sister, who will be killed if a treasure map is not delivered to her captors. She is helped out by a brash mercenary, and together they search for the priceless gem located in the map 

'Quintessential -Yet Quirky Action- Adventure Romantic Comedy spearheaded by Douglas & Turner'

In 1984 when Romancing the Stone was unleashed onto audiences, movie lovers, as well as the movie scene at the time, was gripped by Indiana Jones fever, particularly with the release of the second instalment, Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom. Romancing the Stone starred Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas and the success of this film helped spearheaded their careers during the 1980s and 1990s.  

This film also marked a change of direction for Kathleen Turner, who up until this movie was renowned for playing anti-hero, as well as femme fatale roles in thrillers, Body Heat and Crimes of Passion. Romancing The Stone further cemented Kathleen Turner's onscreen reputation and in playing a protagonist, who also doubles up as a female love interest in a light-hearted movie, whilst at the same time, it helped further Michael Douglas's career as the leading man in blockbuster hits, right up until the 2000s. 

Over 30 years on, Romancing The Stone still holds up as one of the quintessential and finest ever action- adventure romance movies to grace the big screen and is still one of the best Action-adventure based movies of the 1980s. The story itself is imaginative -yet quirky, the movie itself is fun, it's action-packed and there is a feel-good factor that it exudes in abundance. Despite being labelled a clone of Indiana Jones -an accusation which was levelled against this film, & as such has been refuted with the script for Romancing The Stone being penned years before Indiana Jones-, one particular aspect that separates it to that one, is the developing relationship between Jack and Joan, from strangers to lovers. Thanks to the performances of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, they make the relationship more of an equal billing, with not one character dominating over the other completely. & also when it transitions into the romance phase, their love affair doesn't just act as a distraction from the action, but it becomes more believable and ingrained within the story, throughout their South American journey that they truly care for one another, rather than for it to come across as superficial. 

Here, Turner displays her most vulnerable side as writer/novelist Joan Wilder, and she is aided by Jack Colton played by Michael Douglas. Just as Joan is about to finish her latest novel, she receives a phone call from her sister, who has been kidnapped in Columbia. She is sent a package from Columbia containing a map with a note attached to it, saying it must be returned as a ransom. During her search for her sister, she bumps into Jack and the pair help each other out, as well as bicker, fall out and later fall for one another. They also have set their sights on two things: 1) rescuing Elaine, Joan's sister and 2) getting hold of the Green stone. Through her escapades, Joan discovers her passion with Jack and sense of adventure that she'd never experienced before, prior to it. 

Michael Douglas as dashing Jack is wonderful in a role that was first offered to Sylvester Stallone and then Christopher Reeve. I particularly liked that the male hero protagonist wasn't a beefcake, but still, he comes across as heroic and charming and a romantic at heart as well. 

Of note, the film was filmed and shot in Mexico, despite the movie being set in Columbia and the movie's scenes look very lush. 

This is a great example of how to do an action-adventure romantic comedy/dramedy: it's amusing but light, the action is really good. The mudslide scene with Jack landing in the swamp face down between Joan's legs is one that will live on in memory. & Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas, just as they were in the sequel, are terrific together as the male/female pairing and are so perfectly cast. I buy into that relationship, more so than say Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. They truly make this movie and they have this incredible and irresistible connection & chemistry that lights up the screen and they work so well together; without them, Romancing The Stone just wouldn't be anywhere near as good. For Turner's Joan Wilder, her life becomes an adventure and romance but for Douglas's Jack Colton, his adventure has just got going, yet again. Jack even has some amusing quips such as ''damn it! I knew I should've listened to my mother!". Michael and Kathleen look terrific in this film; though I thought he looked better in this film than he did in The Jewel of the Nile and Kathleen looked better in the sequel than in this movie. Danny Devito is the inept bad guy, Ralph who is in search of the Stone.

Some people complained about some of the foul language used in this film, but that didn't bother me one bit. Likewise, the comedy is subtle and thus, never overrides the movie, whilst the action sequences are better here than in The Jewel of the Nile. Not to mention the last third of the movie was more action-packed and tense in places. 

The first movie compared to the sequels tends to be superior to the follow-ups, and with Romancing The Stone, it is better than the sequel, The Jewel of the Nile in every respect. It may be an epitome of 80s action-adventure films, and yet also even watching it to this day, this offering still feels invigorating, different and dynamic in its approach. 

Final Verdict

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner make for a great action-adventure coupling-to-be and they ooze passion and chemistry galore. There have been a small number of other romantic comedy and adventure fusion movie efforts, but Romancing The Stone has got to be in the top 2 of all-time and in one's view, I haven't seen one that comes close to this Robert Zemeckis offering. 

This film takes the viewer on an adventure, with thrills and spills and a dash of romance along the way and it does it ever so well. 

Undoubtedly, this is one of my favourite action-adventure movies of the 1980s and not least it is one that carved out an identity of its own. 

Romancing the Stone works as escapist entertainment that fulfils all of its credentials and expectations, and through Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, their palpable & sizzling chemistry elevates this film to an absolute high. Thus through it, it rightly cements its place as a '80s favourite for generations to come.


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