Rich people are stupid. That is what I came away with watching this one-dimensional 3-D flick about people sticking their faces where they don’t belong called Sanctum. First of all a sanctum is a holy place of retreat and meditation and there was nothing holy about this “sphincter of rock” as one character aptly described it. However, the caves aren’t evil either. It was the dumb ass people that decided that hundreds of miles of land and sky weren’t interesting enough but decided that they needed to give Mother Nature a Colonoscopy three miles beneath the surface to find what? More water and dirt. Or maybe James Cameron and his people want you to believe that in the midst of this journey these “asstronuts” discover something great that lives within themselves. But to me it’s the bastard son of “Manifest Destiny” from the 19th century. Some people just have to go where “no man has stood before” because living in a 20 room mansion with 12 Bentleys just isn’t fulfilling.
What made me mad is that the rich people, in this case actor Ioan Gruffudd, don’t just jump down the rabbit hole alone. He drags along an actual explorer (Richard Roxburgh), his disinterested son (Rhys Wakefield), some dark-skinned locals of New Guinea just trying to make a living, and his girlfriend (Alice Parkinson) who you just can’t to wait to see die because she’s so damn annoying.
“What could possibly go wrong diving in caves?” is just one of the many textbook foreshadowing tactics that get employed in Sanctum; “There’s a storm coming.” Death. “We don’t have any back-up air tanks.” Death. “Hey you native person of color without a name, come carry this heavy load.” Painful death. “I don’t think she’s into this next dive.” Scared to death. And so on…
But for films like this to work all of the warnings have to go unheeded so we can yell at the screen in satisfied glee as the body count racks up. “Dumb b*tch should have listened!”
The worst thing about Sanctum is that like every other 3-D movie, the special effects budget runs out halfway through the flick. There is absolutely no point in having people walking around in 3-D on land but the tense sequences underground are basically in 2-D with a glossy overlay. If there isn’t one moment where the 3-D effect makes me jump out of my seat, it’s wack.
The one thing redeeming about this movie is that more is revealed in HOW the people die, exposing the façade known as human decency. You might think you’d die for your loved one until it’s just the two of you three miles beneath the surface in a tomb of water with just one air tank. If your blood is turning to seltzer because of decompression sickness how much of a “gangsta” are you still? More so, if someone is on the brink of death in immeasurable pain do you have the cojones to execute a mercy drowning?
Sanctum utilizes the classic conflict of “man vs nature” but Mother Nature doesn’t have to fight back this time. Man does a good enough job effing things up all by himself.
Shawn Hemp is a film school revolutionary who spends his free time rewinding tapes in the basement of the last Blockbuster on earth. When it comes to movies he’s a little bit paranoid but that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get him. So he sends coded messages to the resistance in his “Half-Baked” film reviews.
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