Thursday, April 12, 2012

Movie review: Sanctum (2011)

James Cameron sure does like his water-based movies, lending his name as producer here to 2011's Sanctum.  While the Abyss is a (ho ho) water-mark for the genre and rightly billed as a classic, Titanic was over-flowing with sacchrine and has not aged particularly well.

Sanctum is much more low-key than either of those two earlier efforts (let's face it, *anything* is lower-key than Titanic) and while director Alister Grierson tries to make a decent fist of it, he can't overcome the clumsy plot, cardboard cut-out characters and lack of plausibility.

This looks more alien than it actually is.  There are no aliens in this film. Pity.

Some cave-divers get trapped in a big cave and they try to get out.  That's essentially the plot in a nutshell.  The fun is in trying to guess who's going to get boffed off next and in what particularly gruesome fashion.  Saying that, there's little gore and the films suspense comes from the claustrophobia from operating in such confined spaces.

A big plus is the cinematography which is quite wonderful and the views of the caves are majestic.  I don't care if they're CGI or not, they look fabulous and I only wish I were brave enough to see them.

Just swimming along, minding my own business ...

It all starts to fall down when we get to the plotting and characterization, both of which are over-shadowed by, and cannot hope to compete with, the cinematic vision.  Insanely stupid billionaire explorer?  Check.  Gruff, no-nonsense cave guide?  Check.  At logger-heads with his delinquent son?  Check.  Amiable side-kick who we all know is going to die at some point?  Check, it's all there.  Plotting is pushed forward by some stupidly obviously expositional beats.  Yes, yes, you're in a cave, it's dark and we all know that previously useless shark tooth torch necklace (yes, really) is going to make an appearance at *some* point.  "I'm not wearing a wet suit to keep me warm", declares the only female character, minutes before her shivering hands play a major part in the plot.


Ham-fisted doesn't even begin to describe it.

As seems to be the case nowadays, the 3D has forced everything else onto the back-seat.  I can't wait for a non-3D film and we might start to enjoy some real plot and characters.  Avatar, as good as it was, was effectively an amazing-looking cartoon set against an incredibly lightweight plot.  Sanctum is no different but with much less CGI and much less believable characters.

Ah, perhaps I'm missing the point as it did extremely well at the box office and more than recouped its production cost.  On the big screen it would work much better and I could perhaps be more forgiving but not so good on the small black and white portable we have at home.  Those large holes they are diving into are a metaphorical symbol of the script they've had to work with.  Combine your viewing with some kind of drinking game based on who's going to die next, it'll be much more fun, I promise.

Rating 4/10

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