– Summary –
Director : Jonathan Newman
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Sam Neill, Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Ioan Gruffud, Keeley Hawes, Aneurin Barnard, Mella Carron, Tristan Gemmill, Xavier Atkins, Sule Rimi.
Approx Running Time : 98 Minutes
Synopsis: A young teenager travels to a distant island to locate the mysterious and powerful Midas Box, before a villainous mastermind obtains it first!
What we think : Inert, decidedly dull franchise kicker trips, stumbles and farts itself into existence before stuttering out of life, leaving naught but cinematic detritus behind it. The nomenclature of “Adventurer” couldn’t be further from the truth – it’s little wonder this turd of a thing has all but vanished out of cinemas and directly to DVD.
I’ll call it an adventure when there’s some actual…. you know, adventure.
The problem with Indiana Jones is that he’s ruined every “adventure” film to come since – Indy’s legacy and stature as the pinnacle of adventuring on the big screen casts an enormous shadow, one most films struggle with, like action films struggle to evade the “Die Hard On A….” tag. Even so, you think a film with the word “adventurer” in the very title might have a little more adventure in it. The cumbersomely titled film, initially called Mariah Mundi and the Curse Of The Midas Box until somebody figured that nobody knew who Mariah Mundi actually was, so they went for the most generic overarching title they could come up with, sounds like some kind of kids-as-adults mystery fun. As a descriptor, it’s somewhat disingenuous, because the “adventure” part of the film seems to have gone missing entirely, resulting in a film that’s neither exciting, adventurous, or even coherent. The obvious franchise kick-starter this film is designed as, grates a little – you can see the set-up for future films in this franchise well before they occur – and Jonathan Newman’s inert, charisma free direction, mixed with some ludicrously over-played acting from Michael Sheen and Sam Neill, make The Curse Of The Midas Box an utter disaster as far as this reviewer is concerned.
Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) and his brother Felix (Xavier Atkins) travel with their archaeologist parents, Charles (Ioan Gruffud) and Monica (Keeley Hawes) as they travel around England locating relics. One day, the mysterious Captain Will Charity (Michael Sheen) arrives and gives Charles and Monica two halves of a mysterious amulet, an amulet sought by evil mastermind Otto Luger (Sam Neill) who is seeking to find the titular Midas Box, with which he could possibly rule the world. Separated from his parents, Mariah and Felix are kidnapped, before Mariah escapes and follows Luger and Felix to the spooky Prince Regent Hotel, located on a tiny island somewhere between England and the European mainland. There, Mariah befriends local seamstress Sacha (Mella Carron), in order to locate the Midas Box before Luger, and find Felix, who has gone missing.
The Curse Of The Midas Box is ostensibly a badly made Indiana Jones riff, starring some of Britain’s best acting talent (and probably some of its worst) and a story that lurches from kiddie-friendly, to Temple-of-Doom bad. Led by the little-known Aneurin Barnard, who looks like a combination of an Edward Scissorhands-era Johnny Depp and Dark City’s Rufus Sewell, the film has neither the breadth of excitement or the coherence of logic and fun to drive its scattershot narrative through the variety of set-pieces that make up it’s blessedly short running time. Clocking in at a breezy 90 minutes and change, it’s a thankless film to get through. The story is fairly inconsequential, a typical End Of The World deux ex machina device being the central focus of everyone’s attention (hint, the Midas Box doesn’t turn thing into gold, as you’d think) and for the most part the film tries to be some kind of Indiana Jones-esque “Quest Film” for kids; albeit venturing into some rather dark territory. There’s even a Bureau of Antiquities concept bandied about that sounds exactly as silly as it is.
Problematically for the story, the central character, Mariah Mundi (I spent a large portion of the film waiting for him to start singing All I Want For Christmas Is You) lacks any kind of interesting features. Whether it’s the script or Barnard’s infuriatingly benign portrayal of him, I’m not sure, but the character is inherently bland; Barnard comes across as alternately heroic, desperate and almost bored, as he searches for his brother Felix (played with appropriate child-actor range by Xavier Atkins, whose most visible role to-date was as a young William in Snow White & The Huntsman). Mariah’s love interest, Sacha, is played by Mella Carron, who looks both annoyed to be even in this thing, seems frustrated that her character serves almost zero purpose other than to help Mariah move the plot along. An inane subplot with her drunkard-slash-belligerent father offers scant emotional heft, resolving itself at the film’s climax with “what the f@ck did I just see?” lazy storytelling. Not even a conniving Sam Neill, who looks like he’s having a great time showing up for an easy paycheck, and the great Michael Sheen (doing his best impression of a land-locked Captain Jack Sparrow) can elevate the dire scripting and lamentably second-rate story; Lena Headey, fresh out of Game Of Thrones as a scheming bitch, plays against type as a scheming bitch here too, obviously her agent trying to get her to broaden her appeal because apparently she’s so great at being a scheming bitch. Frankly, I’d rather see sexy Lena Headey than bitch Lena Headey, at least for a bit.
Crucially, the film stumbles along its deadened story with almost surgically imprecise direction from Jonathan Newman, as he mishandles the character development and story development with equal inability – honestly, the film feels mismanaged somehow, as if Newman couldn’t quite get it together in the editing suite. Which, when you consider the three dozen people listed as “executive producers” on this movie, probably shouldn’t be surprising. There’s no urgency in proceedings, too much swashbuckle and too little outright villainy. The action scenes are timid (just when you think somethings actually going to happen…. it doesn’t) and the production design feels fairly benign for a film of this scope. Oh, and if you’re going to have an “adventure” film about a lost treasure, the film really shouldn’t spend its near-entirety on an island – might as well have called this Adventure On An Island for a Lost Treasure and be done with it. Yeah, Jonathan Newman’s direction is nigh unendurable, a cobbling of inadequate ideas and ill-advised characters, all wrapped up with a bow of half-baked Young Adult motives that just doesn’t work at all.
It’s testament to this films mediocrity that its total box office to-date is under $10,000. Consider the probable budget, and you have an outright turkey here folks. Sometimes, a turkey doesn’t deserve to be, but The Curse Of The Midas Box does; it’s a disaster for all involved, an awful, infested turd of a thing that offers little escapism and even less common sense or enjoyment. If there was one single saving grace to the whole debacle, it’s a fun and adventurous score by Fernando Velazquez, which has echoes of 80’s John Williams scattered throughout, but remains the only part of the films I really enjoyed. It still wasn’t enough to salvage this film, however. The Adventurer? Not likely.