Friday, February 21, 2014

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Ancient mysteries. Powerful evil. And a fearless hero’s quest through a fantastical realm of steam-powered wonders and sinister magic… In The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box, seventeen-year-old Mariah Mundi’s life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. Following a trail of clues to the darkly majestic Prince Regent Hotel, Mariah discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long-lost artifact that grants limitless wealth – but also devastating supernatural power. With the fate of his world, and his family at stake, Mariah will risk everything to unravel the Curse of the Midas Box!

Film (2 out of 5 stars)
In what I'm sure the producers hope to be the first in a long line of movies, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is based on the series of the Mariah Mundi books by G.P. Taylor. Based on this first movie, I don't believe that's going to happen. Even though this movie has a great cast (which is the entire reason I wanted to see this movie), its script is weak and the direction of it could have been stronger. It doesn't help that despite the best efforts of the adult performers, the younger cast drags the movie down which isn't good since the movie is mostly focused on them. 

Set in Victorian-era England, Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) and his younger brother Felix (Xavier Atkins) encounter one of their parents' friends, Jack Charity (Michael Sheen) who has been injured. He has come to warn their parents that bad guy Otto Luger (Sam Neill) has gotten one step closer to discovering the "Midas Box" which can reportedly change things into gold. Mariah's parents, Charles (Ioan Gruffold) and Catherine (Keeley Hawes), take off to look into Luger which leaves the kids alone and it's not long before Felix is kidnapped by Luger's henchmen who are looking for pieces of an amulet that's supposed to lead Luger to the Midas Box.

Mariah decides that he better find his brother after some moping and a run in with Jack who sends him to a remote hotel that's owned by Luger and run by a crazy woman named Monica (Lena Headey). He takes a job as a porter so he can weasel his way into the hotel and try to find his brother. While there he meets a young maid who has her own sad subplot with an abusive father but is willing to help out Mariah since she can't help herself. A magician arrives at the hotel (surprise twist!) and he takes an interest in Mariah and even aids the boy's efforts to find his brother.

It's not long before Mariah and company discover an underground mine filled with children slaves that's a cheap ripoff of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Luger has the kids tied there with a retractable chain in case one of them attempts to escape. It's there where we see Mariah's insufferable little brother Felix who needs to be saved since their parents have been reportedly killed by Luger. Of course, they won't be alone as there's no way that Jack won't come to save him again since his magical talent is to appear exactly when needed. Together they will face Luger and Monica and try to stop them from finding the Midas Box and rescue Felix at the same time. And probably save the other kids too.

As a general rule I love adventure movies and I really was hoping that The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box would be good. After all, it had Sam Neill, Ioan Gruffold, Lena Headey, and Michael Sheen, good actors all, who wouldn't have signed on a mediocre project right? Sadly, the truth is that they did and I'm guessing that they needed the money. Don't get me wrong, they don't phone it in at all, (in fact, you could argue that Headey went the opposite way and went way overboard) as they are the best part of this movie. Which is even more impressive considering the script that they had to work with. With hackneyed lines like "Didn't I kill you already," and "Why won't you just die?" to deliver, they were forced to overcome an almost herculean task of making this lame script work. 

The adults also seem to having a great time overacting which balances out the kids who don't seem to possess any acting ability at all. Sheen seems to be on a permanent ecstasy high, Headey is all twitches and tics like she is suffering from crack withdrawal, and Neill is content to just be his usual awesome self with an added tinge of evilness. Aneurin Barnard looks like a Tim Burton sketch come to life with his pale skin and Edward Scissorhands like helmet of black hair. His lack of talent and charisma is probably the reason why the movie changed the title from his character's name to the more generic one that it ended up with. 

If this review seem overly harsh, let me assure you that it deserves it. This film seems like a calculated attempt to try to cash in on the void that the Harry Potter films left and it shows. It's a shallow effort that steals from better movies and tries to repurpose it all for their own benefit. There really isn't anything original about this movie as it's just a collection of moments taken from other films and combined into this subpar effort. None of it really makes much sense and it invites viewers to mock it by its own execution. Jack, who is supposed to be a "master of five martial arts" never shows us that as he insteads just hits people on the head with his cane. The big "twist" at the end of the movie just reinforces what didn't work as it's entirely expected and just as cheesy as the rest of the movie. I understand that this movie is geared towards young adults but I doubt that they will appreciate this movie either.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Even though the film itself was disappointing, this 1080p (2.35:1) transfer looks fantastic which is most likely due to the fact that most of the film was filmed with the Arri Alexa camera. The detail on display looks very sharp, especially in close ups of the actors. Colors look very distinct  and pop off the screen even though they are rarely given a chance to be seen in the film's overall dark and moody look. Because of that look, it's good that the black levels are solid and inky since so much of the film is in low light surroundings. There's no scratches or digital defects to mention thanks to RLJ/Image Entertainment's great work on this transfer.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also much better than this film deserves. The dialogue is all clear and razor sharp but it's the surround channels that really impress as they deliver a very immersive sound field that really brings the listener into the movie. The cross channel directionality is accurate and very effective at putting the viewers into the center of the action. The film's score is also well balanced with the sound effects and the dialogue. This lossless mix is very impressive and really adds a lot to the movie.
Extras (1 out of 5 stars)
There's only one extra included on this disc and just like the film itself, it has good people involved in it but it's executed poorly. At least it's in high definition.
  • The Making of The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box - This twenty-some minute featurette offers interviews with director Jonathan Newman, producer Peter Bevan, author G.P. Taylor, hair and makeup designer Pamela Haddock as well as the main cast. They talk about the challenges of filming in Cornwall and the island of St. Michael's Mount (which does look pretty cool). They all seem to think highly of their film and there's no denying their very real intentions of trying to become a replacement for Harry Potter which is a little unsettling but at least honest. 

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
This film seems like a missed opportunity that should have been better, especially with this cast of solid veteran actors. This was a self-inflicted wound that happened because the filmmakers focused on what they thought young kids would want rather than on creating something that would have brought them naturally. Instead of combining what they think worked in other movies, they should have focused instead on making something original and interesting. Kids are smart and can smell a fake a mile away. This movie is like the awkward adult who desperately wants to be viewed by teenagers as being cool by wearing clothes not meant for them and who constantly repeats some odd bits of slang that they've overheard before. This level of calculation is very evident and combined with the theft of scenes from better movies, it just kills this movie. On the plus side, this Blu-ray offers some excellent video and audio quality but it only includes one extra which is disappointing.

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