The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

island of dr moreau poster 1996 movie
2.0 Overall Score
Story: 2/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 2/10

Brando is weird Brando as expected

Script is awful, effects are bad, kind of boring

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Studio: New Line Cinema

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s): August 23, 1996

MPAA Rating: PG-13


Guess who’s coming to dinner?

A plane crashes in the ocean, and the only survivor Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) is pulled out of the ocean by Dr. Montgomery (Val Kilmer).  Douglas is taken back to an island owned by a strange doctor named Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) and Moreau’s animal/human hybrids.  As Douglas finds he must get off the island, he seeks help from Moreau’s created daughter Aissa (Fairuza Balk).  Aissa and Edward discover that Moreau’s creations have discovered how they are being controlled and that they intend to take revenge on their creator and those who believe in him.


Oh what the hell?! Really?

Directed by John Frankenheimer, The Island of Dr. Moreau went down as one of the biggest laughs of the 1990s.  Plagued with problems, it was torn apart by critics, fans, and even the actors and filmmakers involved dismissed it.  The movie won a Razzie Awards for Worst Supporting Actor (Brando) with nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Screen Couple (Brando and that “darn dwarf”), Worst Supporting Actor (Kilmer also for Ghost in the Darkness), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.

The Island of Dr. Moreau is a mess.  The movie started out under a different director named Richard Stanley who had been a fan of the book.  He wrote the script trying to make it more sci-fi and tied in to today’s DNA studies, but the script got re-written and he got canned (he did allegedly sneak back onto the set as a beastman to see how it was going).  A couple of the actors just came on board because of Brando’s involvement so the commitment to the script wasn’t necessarily there to begin with.  Val Kilmer also imploded during the film and became a problem (even Brando allegedly criticized his behavior…you must feel like crap if Brando said that).  Rob Morrow was originally going to have Thewlis’ role and dropped out but Thewlis has pretty much disowned this movie.


I will out-crazy Brando, I will out-crazy Brando.

The problem is that the movie quickly becomes a “Brando” movie and that kind of defines how the story goes.  Like many Brando movies however, Brando is the only reason worth watching (so it is a bit of a conundrum).  Brando is just strange in the movie and Val Kilmer follows suit.  It kind of feels like you are watching a freak fest and you feel a bit dirty for doing it.  It really feels like Colonel Kurtz and his crazy photographer from Apocalypse Now got dropped on an island full of animal men (substitute Dennis Hopper with Val Kilmer…Brando still plays Moreau like Kurtz).  It has that sense of absurdity to the movie but the script is crap so it doesn’t work like Apocalypse Now.


Ya come back now, you hear?

The effects on The Island of Dr. Moreau are pretty weak also.  If you look at the 1977 version starring Burt Lancaster and Michael York, the animal-men look relatively the same (heck, some even look like the original movie Island of Lost Souls).  All that was added was some computer animated scenes that look bad already by today’s standards.

The 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau is almost a so bad it is good movie but is closer to just being a bad movie mostly because it is kind of boring despite being full of monsters.  Most of the movie is a laughable and the only thing good that came out of it was South Park‘s Dr. Mephisto and his creepy sidekick Kevin.  The movie is just bad and another example of how Wells’ work is very, very hard to adapt into something good.

Related Links:

Island of Lost Souls (1933)

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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