George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could have learned a lot from this one; when trying to breathe new life into an old character, sometimes it's better to go back to the basics instead of stretching into foreign, bizarre, insulting and childhood-ruining territory. Released to coincide with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (that's a lot of italics) returned to the source, the H. R. Haggard character Indiana Jones was based upon, Allan Quatermain, for this latest version of the classic King Solomon's Mines.
Twice before this novel has been adapted: in 1950 starring Stewart Granger as the adventurer and the ravishing Deborah Kerr as the client, and again in 1985 as a reaction to the popularity of Raiders of the Lost Ark, this time starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. The Asylum's version falls solidly between the two: not quite as good as the 1950 version (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite films of all time) but markedly better than the 1985 version.
The story's pretty simple: guy finds a map for a treasure hidden in the little explored interior of Africa (this is the late 19th century, give or take); he goes looking for said treasure; he never returns; his faithful sister comes looking for him, engages a famous hunter-tracker-adventurer to aid in her search. And that's where the story really begins, a picaresque expedition on the trail of either great treasure, or great peril.
I'm having trouble thinking what to say next. I have notes about the competent performances, the pacing, the action scenes, this tribal-decapitation-claw thing a native uses on a dude , but truthfully I'm not feeling a lot of enthusiasm toward those things now, the next day. The movie was fine. But that's it. And it's not because it was poorly written or directed or performed; none of these elements were lacking. It was certainly more enjoyable than that soulless ass-rape of a film the franchise guys put out. Thing is, I just didn't care. And remember, this is coming from a guy already biased toward the story. The 1950 version, as I said, is truly one of my favorites, I re-visit it at least twice a year. But thinking about it now, I think it's because that version of the film, like the story, is dated. This version, the 2008 version, though still set in the original era, looked modern - the actors, the action, the effects - and as such felt tepid, tame, because by modern standards the source story doesn't quite hold up to the adrenaline-fueled, high-octane, apocalyptic action films of this era. I mean, Roland Emmerich totally fucked up the entire planet on screen last year; I can't really get it up for a steam engine/truck chase anymore, unless that's the best the era could offer.
Perhaps if The Asylum had gone with an update of the source material, like they did with War of the Worlds, 30,000 Leagues Under the Sea or the upcoming Moby-Dick, I would have been left with a better taste in my mouth. Or perhaps I'm just a cranky jerk today, and taking it out on A.Q.a.t.T.o.S., which really is an entertaining film, if you're into rollicking yarns of yesteryear.
The film stars Sean Cameron Michael (Supernova) as the titular adventurer and Natalie Stone (30,000 Leagues Under the Sea) as the saucy, pouty-lipped sister. Also worth noting that director Mark Atkins edited the film as well, as well as doing his own cinematography. See his inmate profile below for more info.