22 Mar

Title: Sanctum
Alister Grierson
Writers: John Garvin and Andrew Wight, based on a story by Andrew Wight
Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie, Ioan Gruffudd
MPAA Rating:
R, language, some violence and disturbing images
108 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


Sanctum was that new 3D film that had James Cameron’s name attached as an executive producer, and even though the use it makes of the three-dimensional technology is pretty good-looking, and the whole thing has a beautiful cinematography going on, it really has pretty much nothing else going on for it. The script is pretty stale and the cast, though not given much to work with in the first place, looks just as bland trying to churn it all out in ways the director really should have told them weren’t the right ones.

But I actually didn’t go into Sanctum expecting a good plot, I went into it expecting a visual feast, and on that account it delivered. But I can’t judge a book just by its cover, and this film pretty much just stuck a high-tech camera into an underwater cave and tied it all up with a plot that came very close to undoing itself throughout the film. That I found quite a bit of fault with, and prevented me from really losing myself in the visual grandeur of it all, the underwater photography was amazing and the stunts were pretty nifty, but the stuff they were being employed for was terribly subpar.

And thus, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about Sanctum. As gorgeously shot as it was it wasn’t as thrilling as it could have been had it been granted a better, or at least somewhat competent script, which sucks even more when you consider that the basic plot outline suggested a pretty damn slick adventure that, if written the right way, would have been awesome to watch if aided by this outstanding technical wizardry.

We have a diving expedition into the largest cave system in the world, in Papua New Guinea. And in that expedition we’ll go along for the ride and see the characters in a few situations of peril. Climbing, diving, there are a lot of cool stunts going on in Sanctum, even if the story supporting them is pretty damn thin, and as cool as they are they can’t carry the film by themselves. There is a huge lack of logic in Sanctum, you see a helluva lot of stuff going on, but you can’t always really explain why it’s happening or, more frustratingly, where exactly it’s happening.

The legendary Roger Ebert, my favorite film critic for countless reasons, had this problem as well, as he noted in his review for it that the film suffered from a lack of continuity and that it failed to really orient us within the cave, which is definitely true. And that really does this movie in, I mean, as cool as things may look (though Mr. Ebert, a big detractor of the 3D technology, disagrees on that), visually stunning views in a film get to a point in which they don’t amount to much if they have absolutely no substance to them.

Now, as I have said, I praise the 3D effects here. They’re not the flashiest the technology has ever been, but on a film with a reported $30 million budget I think they look as good as they could have looked. I mean, the big thing I have against the technology, which I have in the past liked but I usually don’t and certainly don’t think is the future of film (at least not yet), is the fact that it always makes things much much dimmer on screen. And that was obviously going to be a major problem in this one, a film that was going to be in quite a bit of darkness even if it didn’t have the 3D, and while it does look pretty dark, it looked much much better than I expected it to.

James Cameron’s name thrown into a film’s ad campaign, especially one done in 3D, does get one’s expectations up a bit. And while the 3D here is pretty good, you expected it to be better considering Mr. Cameron’s involvement, and that’s not to touch on how much better the overall film should have been, but alas, executive producer doesn’t mean director or even producer, and I guess we’ll have to wait til 2014 for the first of the planned Avatar sequels to get to see the 3D pioneer playing and blowing our brains off yet again.

I won’t go ahead and do a rundown of all the characters we’ll get to meet in our deep-sea adventure in Sanctum, the plot doesn’t warrant enough connection to them for you to even care, plus a few of them quickly become dispensable to get a few more cool stunts into place. And, really, when the best writing in display in a film is the one that goes on to entail how a certain death will take place you know the story really isn’t that amazing. But yeah, if you can bear the bad dialogue and just want to watch a pretty cool 3D flick, no matter how crappy the story it’s telling is, then go check out Sanctum, if not, then you’re definitely better off just skipping it.

Grade: C+


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