There’s a lot going on in Jungle Cruise. Find out what happens, how it ends, and how old Frank really is… (my 3/5 review is here).
Frank, despite looking like a hot 50 year old, is actually a hot 400 year old, a cartographer (or mapmaker) called Francisco. As a Spanish conquistador in the 16th century, he, his friend Aguirre, and some other conquistadors went looking for the Tears Of The Moon tree to save Aguirre’s daughter who was gravely ill. The tree can cure illness, bestow eternal life and lift curses.
Many of Aguirre’s group died in the jungle, before they were helped by the chief of a local tribe who took them in and used petals from the Tears Of The Moon tree to bring the sick conquistadors back to health. But Aguirre was impatient and demanded access to the tree; when the chief refused, Aguirre attacked him, the chief’s daughter, and the tribe.
To Aguirre’s fury, Francisco tried to defend the tribe. As the chief lay dying he cursed Agguire and his men so they could not leave the river for all eternity — if they tried, the jungle would pull them back.
Francisco and Aguirre fought along the Amazon, on and off, for centuries. Eventually Francisco managed to trap Aguirre and some of his men in a cave. Because they could not go to the river, they turned to stone. And there they remained, until Prince Joachim turned up to free them with river water so they could help him find the Tears Of The Moon.
The now-immortal Frank spent centuries looking for the tree so he could free himself and die normally, but eventually gave up and became a steamboat captain.
When Lily comes looking for a river captain, Frank / Franciso recognises Lily’s arrowhead pendant and sees another chance to lift his curse — not so he can live a normal life but so he can die a normal death.
Prince Joachim wants to find the Tears Of The Moon to help Germany win WW1, and because he wants to become immortal himself and rule the country.
During Lily, Frank and MacGregor’s search for the tree, they meet Trader Sam, the female chief of a local Indigenous tribe who often works with Frank to entertain his unsuspecting customers. Sam and Frank try to trick Lily into giving up the arrowhead, but they are then attacked by Prince Joachim’s conquistadors, including Aguirre, who steal it. Frank retrieves it and throws it to Lily, but is stabbed by a particularly painful-looking twisted sword, and falls to his supposed death. Lily finds him the next day, alive, and he has to explain his backstory to her. (Lily also has to remove the sword, which is plunged through his heart and out the other side.)
Lily and Frank travel on to the mythical tree. (Frank, it turns out, also drew the old map that Lily has.) MacGregor is kidnapped by a resurfacing Prince Joachim, who makes him some nice tea and gets the location out of him.
Frank and Lily find the location along the river, but Lily, who can’t swim, is scared. Frank makes her go with him into the water and they swim down to some old stoneworks. Lily steps on something which sets off a boobytrap, trapping her inside a stone cage, so Frank repeatedly swims to the surface to fill his lungs with air which he then “gives” her (ahhh! or urgh if you’re my 9 year old). Frank is then attacked by piranhas! He cannot die though, and is merely nibbled.
Lily manages to set the mechanism going which starts draining the water, though she then falls unconscious. She comes to as the draining water reveals old stoneworks, with a hole in the rock above through which the moon is visible.
Frank is delighted that he can obtain a flower and at last die properly; Lily though wants him to be free from the curse and come to London with her, to live a normal life.
As the water continues to drain away it reveals Joachim’s submarine. Joachim has MacGregor, and is supported by his own guards with guns. The magical tree is long-dead though. Joachim demands the arrowhead to make the tree bloom again. Both Frank and Lily demand a petal: Frank so he can rid himself the the curse and Lily for her medical research.
Faced with the massive dead tree, no-one can work out how to make it bloom until Lily remembers Trader Sam saying they must “mend a broken heart” in order for the flowers to appear. The arrow is actually a heart. Frank breaks it open revealing a pink gemstone. This slots into place, as does the stone heart. The huge tree comes back to life, dripping with long magenta flowers. However, as the moon starts to set, it moves away from the hole in the rock above and the flowers begin to shrivel and die.
Lily shoots Frank, and climbs up for a flower before they all die.
Frank, MacGregor and Proxima the leopard kill Joachim’s German guards. Lily snatches the last flower.
Aguirre and a fellow conquistador appear. Frank tells MacGregor to “tell Lily she would be world enough for me,” then takes his boat to crash it into the entrance, blocking it — presumably because then the conquistadors, blocked from the river, will turn back into stone, just as when Frank trapped them in their cave. All the conquistadors, including Frank, become entwined in vines before turning to stone. Prince Joachim is killed by tumbling stones.
Lily uses their one flower to bring Frank back to life and the two of them kiss, then hug with MacGregor and Proxima the leopard. With a last, stray moonbeam, one last flower appears, which Lily keeps, for her medicinal research.
The three of them, and Proxima return to the port on a raft made from the remains of Frank’s boat (La Proxima means “the Next” — Frank has had a succession of big cats as pets over the centuries).
Back in London, MacGregor addresses the Royal Society with news of their finds, but his speech is primarily to turn down, on his sister’s behalf, the Society’s offer of membership — Lily is now a professor at Cambridge University.
Outside, Frank, who has long been obsessed with the idea of the motorcar, has his first driving lesson from Lily. The last shot is from above, of a particularly wide London street teeming with cars, pushing through the city — like the Amazon with its boats, pushing through the jungle.