Bearing the sticky fingerprints of Executive Producer James Cameron, director Andrew Grierson’s cheeseball cave-diving adventure exhibits all the King Of The World’s weaknesses and none of his strengths. Preoccupied, as usual, with underwater trauma, Cameron’s latest production follows a collection of laughably stock characters facing down calamitous floods while trapped inside “the mother of all caves.”
Whiny Rhys Wakefield stars as the petulant, emo-boy son of Richard Roxburgh’s legendary explorer, who’s kind of like a dickhead Cousteau. We understand that these two don’t get along so well because neither one speaks of anything else besides their frayed relationship for the first half hour of the movie. Then that staggeringly bad actor Ioan Gruffudd literally parachutes in as a Richard Branson-esque billionaire thrill-seeker, dragging his dim-bulb girlfriend (Alice Parkinson) a few dozen miles underground into an unexplored cave system to show off. Because apparently that’s his idea of a hot date, and nothing could possibly go wrong.
Sanctum wasn’t just shot with Avatar’s 3-D cameras, it also hews closely to that absurdly overpraised film’s annoying screenwriting model. First somebody tells you that you’re about to see something amazing very soon, and you won’t believe your eyes. Then bad music soars during a brief, occasionally impressive visual. The following several minutes are devoted to close-ups of characters staring slackjawed and saying “Woah.” Eventually, everybody high-fives one another, shouting stuff like: “I told you this would blow your mind!”
Can’t we just look at things and let our eyes decide whether or not we are impressed, without an annoying Greek chorus of backslappers standing in for the filmmakers and congratulating themselves for presenting such astonishing wonderments?
Such moments run short when the cave finally floods. Then everyone just keeps discovering more unpleasant ways to die while trying to paddling through damp crawlspaces in murky water. The dingy rock backdrops and sparse lighting aren’t a clever match for 3-D’s natural inevitable color and brightness diminishment. But because this is a James Cameron production, we’ve also got operatic emotional reconciliations conveyed through the most inane dialogue imaginable.
I couldn’t wait for these people to drown.