Monday, February 7, 2011


Whoever convinced Sanctum's producers to make it should get an Oscar just for the pitch. I don't know how I could have said, "I want to make a movie that stars no one, directed by a guy known for nothing and written by inexperienced screenwriters about people swimming around in a cave." Whoever did it managed to get some people to cut a check for the $30,000,000 production costs so it must have been an awesome pitch or it involved handjobs. Some people, including me, were expecting at least a sufficient amount of entertainment value from the movie because one of the producers is James Cameron who is also heavily involved in the marketing. Personally, if nothing else, I was expecting some exciting and suspenseful action sequences. I was wrong to expect that.

From time to time, I have to read pundits opining that the age of the movie star has ended and that the real star is now the concept. The makers of this movie figured they could save money by fully embracing that concept and hiring a cast either unknown or barely known only to get beaten almost two-to-one at the box office by The Roommate, a movie so bad that the producers were afraid to show it to critics ahead of time but that had a cast made up of of some of today's most popular young television stars. Other than Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, best known for playing Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four movies, I didn't recognize anyone.

The movie opens in Papua, New Guinea. Billionaire adventurer Carl Hurley (Gruffudd) has financed master cave diver Frank McGuire's expedition of a series of unexplored caves. Naturally, Frank's 17 year old son, Josh, is plagued by daddy issues over hardly ever seeing Frank when he was younger and he deals with said issues by being a relentlessly annoying twit who rebels in crazy ways like going to meet Carl at the airport. Carl went on a trip to pick up his girlfriend Victoria, an expert mountain climber who wonders aloud how you could die in a cave, a statement that practically dares the cave to show her how. They all go back down to Frank's base camp two kilometers below the surface and rejoin the large ensemble cast that exists in movies like this so someone can die every ten minutes or so just as everyone is buzzing about a huge storm heading to Papua but hey, it's all cool because the storm is two days away and weather forecasters are always right but OOPS turns out they were wrong when the storm becomes a cyclone that makes landfall early and traps them in the cave.

The movie starts slowly with all the dull character exposition but I was thinking that was OK because I figured we'd be rewarded. Eventually all this would end, the storm would move in, the cave would start to flood and all this personal crap would give way to an exciting struggle for survival. All that happened except that, sadly, the word "exciting" rarely applies. What I wanted was a replay of The Perfect Storm, a movie whose first half was rather dull but whose last half was non-stop action that pretty much negated and made up for the first half. That doesn't happen here. Sure, there are some decent and suspenseful scenes but they keep going back to their petty bickering and Josh whining that Daddy was never there for him.

I was especially disappointed by the character of Carl Langley and there are some spoilers here. I was expecting him to be some selfish spaz that Frank had to let come along since he was paying for everything but he turned out to be competent and knowledgeable and the type of guy who would spend millions of dollars of his own money for no other reason than to satisfy his childlike sense of wonder at the thought of seeing something no other human had ever seen before. Eventually, his entire character gets flushed down the toilet when he turns into a terrified little man who betrays the rest of the survivors.

Some final thoughts: 1) There was one black guy on the trip, a New Guinea native named Luko, and I won't reveal whether does what a balck guy is supposed to do in action movies, that being nobly sacrificing himself for some undeserving white A-hole. Nope, I won't tell you whether that happens. 2) There's actually a scene where Frank says they should mercy-drown a mortally wounded man so he doesn't drown later. Sweet guy. 3) Carl's stupid girlfriend stupidly refuses to wear a wetsuit because it belonged to a dead woman even though extended diving in the cold cave water will almost certainly result in hypothermia without one. When she gets out of the water, she's shocked to find out she's hypothermic. On the plus side, the solution to this was to strip this sexy woman down to her underwear and put her under a thermal blanket.

And finally, the 3D sucked despite the fact that it used James Cameron's advanced 3D process and added nothing but a higher ticket price. 3D is fairly useless and only really looks good in animation and don't tell me how amazing Avatar looked in 3D since that was mostly animation. All in all, Sanctum was a waste of time but at least it...sorry, can't think of a plus side.

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