The Jewel of the Nile (1985)


The one thing that movie studios are always hoping is that lightning will strike twice.  In the case of Romancing the Stone the movie came out at the right time, was largely based on a good script written by first-time screenwriter Diane Thomas and directed by Robert Zemeckis, who was about to go on to bigger things.  Adventure films were quite popular and it didn't hurt that Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner worked well together. 

The problem with lightning is that it can be as destructive as it can be beautiful and exciting.  Thomas had gone on to start working on a project with Steven Spielberg and was unfortunately killed in an automobile accident so, even though the same actors and the same characters are largely present, this was an entirely new script by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner.  Michael Douglas was again producing, and as part of his job as a producer he ended up suing his costar as she had plans to pursue other films but was under contract to do a sequel.  The movie itself got off to a rocky start with a number of crew members being killed in an aircraft accident upon arrival in Morocco.

In addition, Robert Zemeckis was busy directing Back to the Future, so Lewis Teague was brought in to take over. It was a strange choice for a decently budgeted sequel to a popular film, since Teague was known for movies such as Cujo and Alligator.  Still, although he isn't Zemeckis, he is a skilled director, but with everything conspiring against this movie it was no surprise that critics and audiences alike did not take to it like they did the first one.

Joan Wilder (Turner) and Jack Colton (Douglas) are sailing around the world on the Angeline when they start having relationship troubles.  This is made worse by the appearance of Omar (Spyros Fokas), the dictator of an unnamed country who wants Wilder to write his biography, in particular the part in which he "unites" several north African countries along the Nile.  After Joan leaves with Omar, the Angeline is blown up, but not before Jack is contacted by Ralph (Danny De Vito), who still wants revenge for the way things went down in Colombia, and Tarak (Paul David Magid), a rebel who is fighting against Omar.

It turns out that Omar has stolen a particular item called the Jewel of the Nile, and the idea of getting ahold of another precious stone appeals to both Jack and Ralph.  They agree to join the rebels and take the Jewel back from Omar.  Meanwhile Joan quickly realizes what Omar really is and, after being imprisoned, teams up with her cellmate (Avner Eisenberg) to escape.  She soon reunites with Jack and the three attempt to make it to the city of Kadir ahead of Omar to stop him from beginning his attempt to conquer the countries around him. 

Despite the tensions that must have flared between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas they are still fun to watch.  The chemistry from the first film carries over and they are truly believable as a couple - and especially a couple that have been cooped up with each other way too long.  There are still a number of great action sequences, the best being Jack, Joan and her cellmate's escape from Omar's capitol after commandeering a jet fighter.  In fact, most of the action scenes, including the climax, are well-done and on par with the original.  I also think that it was wise to not retread the same ground, as the Jewel turns out to be something quite unexpected. 

The Jewel of the Nile does feel like it goes on longer than it really needs to in places but, while watching, it really doesn't seem like there is much changed from Romancing the Stone.  It is made for those who enjoyed the first movie, there is a serious effort to keep the tone of the original and, until this pretty much fell flat at the box office, there were two more movies planned.  Despite its disappointing performance fans of the two movies tried for awhile to get at least the third made, or even a reboot as Douglas and Turner became too old to play the roles. 

The sequel can be faulted for stereotypes and mixing African culture together, but the first one can also be faulted for homogenizing Latin American cultures as well.  It has not aged well, and not for those reasons, but for the fact that it still seems stuck specifically in the 1980s; then, again, so was the first one.  It is hard for me to put the finger on why this failed and Romancing the Stone didn't, but I believe it is because it is trying too hard to duplicate what made the first one successful rather than trying to be successful on its own.  Many movies are like this; everything comes together, by skill or happenstance, to make something unique and wonderful and, even if all the ingredients are there they just never seem to come together like they did before. 

I would still suggest this to those who have only seen Romancing the Stone.  The romance proceeds naturally with the main conflict being two people who don't know each other well going through the irritations of dealing with each other.  There is no strange plot contrivance to try and get the two to break up, and even the time apart is not a major chunk of the movie - it's largely sets up a good portion of the adventure part of the film.  It is extremely light entertainment, and probably not the most memorable film, but it does not deserve its reputation as a series killer.  That all came down to money and, to be honest, in the end we probably got a much better film out of The War of the Roses than we would have out of another sequel. 

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Time: 106 minutes
Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny De Vito, Avner Eisenberg, Spyros Fokas
Director: Lewis Teague


 

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