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Film Title: Sanctum“Sanctum” is a James Cameron-produced 3D-a-rama set, not in outer space, but in a world almost as strange. Deep inside a cave, a place one of the characters says is so remote, “there are no rescues down here, only body recoveries.”

The movie follows  a group of underwater cave divers—including the expert adventurist (Richard Roxburgh), his rebellious son (Rhys Wakefield), a rich hobbyist (Ioan Gruffudd, a dead ringer for the Food Network’s Surreal Gourmet Bob Bloomer) and a number of other disposable cavers—as they  explore a cave system in Papua New Guinea. Their dangerous mission becomes even more life threatening when a sudden storm floods the system, blocking their most obvious exit. The only other way out is a dangerous route downward toward the ocean. Tack on a father and son story, some “Kubla Khan” references and a claustrophobic scene or two and you have a the kind of movie that gets released in February.

“Sanctum” is my first seatbelt movie of the year. It’s a movie so awful in almost every way I thought I might need a seatbelt to keep me in my chair for the whole thing.

Where to start? The dialogue is so wooden I swear I saw woodpeckers circling the theatre. At one point Carl (Gruffudd) says about Victoria (Alice Parkinson), “she’s strong like bull, but smart like tractor.” When she replies, sarcastically, “How original,” it’s unclear who she is talking to, Carl or the screenwriters.

It’s as if the screenwriters felt that the 3D would pick up the slack for the lack of story, interesting characters or good dialogue. They were wrong. Some of the movie is spectacular looking, but as the movie wears on, and it turns into a kind of “Poseidon Adventure” escape movie—but without the boat—and the portable flashlights they all carrying start to fade the 3D becomes murky and less pretty.

“Sanctum,” I think, is a good example of why 3D isn’t the great savior that Hollywood seems to think it is. Pretty pictures alone don’t make a great movie. They can help, but if you just want pretty pictures, go to a gallery. Movies are about the total package.

Don’t be fooled by James Cameron’s name in the credits. “Sanctum” is no “Avatar.”

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