Monday, July 14, 2014

A Splunkin' We Shall Go

Sanctum must have come out at a time when I went to movie theaters regularly, for I recall its theatrical trailer beat by beat. Oddly enough, none of that advertising clued me in to the fact that this James Cameron-produced 'adventure' story was more 'nature wants to kill you with slow pain' and less 'Avatar underground.'

Clearly studios have no idea how to get a gal like me into a cinema.

Quick Plot: Welcome to a giant hole located in scenic New Guinea, where a team of commercial explorers (or something) are cave diving to find a pathway to the ocean. Leading the wetsuit-wearing daredevils is Frank (played by Richard Roxburgh in a far cry from his villainous role in Moulin Rouge), a grizzly Aussie saddled with a fairly ungrateful teenage son Josh (Rhys Wakefield, the lead mask-wearing gentleman in The Purge).

When Josh fails to bring some much needed cargo down to the crew, Mother Nature decides to use it as a teaching moment and bring disaster and death to all. This comes in the form of a cyclone that yields torrential rain on those silly enough to be cave diving, primarily Josh, Frank, the cool yet dumbly named Crazy George, villainous financier Carl, and his beautiful yet dumbly dumb girlfriend Vic.

What follows is a sort of museum adaptation of The Descent, minus the monsters or interesting character dynamics. Despite what its lowly Rotten Tomatoes score might suggest, this isn't necessarily a terrible thing.

Directed by documentarian Alister Grierson, Sanctum was heavily marketed as a sort of adventurous action film from the people who brought you Avatar. This isn't entirely wrong, as it was apparently filmed using the same high-tech 3D camera equipment. James Cameron is listed as an executive producer and while his involvement isn't directly known, this does indeed feel as the kind of film he'd sit back on his golden couch and watch (I like to imagine said golden couch includes a unicorn-skin blanket and popcorn cooked in dodo bird oil).

Much of the grandeur is lost on the small screen, but that doesn't mean we're not still feeling a bit of a clog in our throat as characters negotiate shoddy breathing equipment fathoms below civilization. The script has little to offer in the way of good dialogue or character nuance, but I tend to forgive a movie that substitutes said ingredients for an unlikable character dying a horrible death via chain scalping in a cave.

Yes, I said scalping, and yes, that is essentially what happened. Something oddly ignored by the original American marketing for Sanctum was just how brutal a film it is. We're talking visibly broken bones, the bends, mercy killing (in multiples), and aforementioned scalping. The happiest moment involves bat poop, for goodness sakes!

High Points
Really this is a lesson, but it's one I preach so hard that I'm simply too happy to not highlight the fact that Sanctum teaches us--in a truly visual way--the important of a hair tie when cave diving for your life

Low Points
You know, when lines like "We go down here, even GOD won't know where we are!" are written with such enthusiasm and spoken with a mild amount of it, I suppose one could find fault

Lessons Learned
Panic is a vulture that sits on your shoulder (because why not?)

Trust the cave. I mean, it's trying to kill you in all sorts of horribly painful ways, but still,just trust it

As Frank's costar Nicole Kidman learned in Moulin Rouge, coughing up that tiny touch of blood can only end one way

Listen to the nice man with the cute accent and just put on the dead girl's wet suit already. Chicks, man. Amiright?

Now streaming on Instant Watch, Sanctum isn't a total waste of your time. Sure, the idea of an angry wilderness taking out insignificant humans has been done with more terror (The Descent) and poetry (The Grey) in recent years, but I found myself genuinely involved in the film's action. This isn't particularly good, but those of you who have sat through a 45 minute nature film in IMAX at your local nature museum only to wonder how it would go if the movie incorporated more bloodlust will certainly find some worth.

No comments:

Post a Comment