‘Sanctum’: The Reviews Are In!

James Cameron's latest 3-D adventure is 'visceral and thrilling,' but full of 'deadly dialogue,' critics say.

“Avatar” this ain’t gonna be. “Sanctum” is the first film with James Cameron’s name in the credits since his blue-alien blockbuster in late 2009, but he only served as executive producer on this latest 3-D adventure, and “Sanctum” isn’t likely even to cross the $15 million mark this weekend. It’ll have to settle for second place at the box office behind the PG-13 thriller “The Roommate”.

At issue — above and beyond the decidedly mixed reviews — is a largely unknown cast, an R-rating and a less-than-commercially-appealing storyline. The plot goes as follows: Frank (Richard Roxburgh) and his team are exploring a massive, mostly underwater cave system in Papua New Guinea when a freak cyclone floods the area and forces everyone to swim, scuba and climb toward escape. Claustrophobia and death ensue.

Sound like your cup of tea? Check out what the critics are saying about “Sanctum” and decide for yourself.

The Thrills
“I loved every visceral and thrilling minute of the film’s second two acts. I was literally on the edge of my seat, disbelief suspended like a class clown in middle school. For scene after scene, in defiance of all intellectualism, I sat there thinking: ‘Holy crap, what would I do?’ [Director Alister] Grierson knows how to shoot action, and when the shot calls for it, the Pace 3-D system packs a wallop. The agreement that 3-D can affect you on a psychological level seems to be working well here. This is pure, classic cinema that makes the most of new technology.” — Jordan Hoffman, UGO

The Script
“The writing really is bad in this film, and even talented actors such as Ioan Gruffudd (a Welshman, faking a generic American dialect) and his fellow adventurer played by Alice Parkinson (Australian, faking the same) come off as rank amateurs. Everyone screams and panics and spews clichés, constantly, whether the context is hubris (‘This cave’s not gonna beat me!’) or portents of doom (‘This cave’ll kill you in a heartbeat’) or expositional duhs (‘The cave is flooding!’) or, after the latest round of hypothermia or petty infighting, some hard-won advice to Those Who Will Go On To Tell The Story (‘Trust the cave, and follow the river’).” — Michael Phillips, target="_blank">Chicago Tribune

Seeing it in IMAX
“Just when 3-D was looking like a goose doomed to lay overpriced and mostly rotten eggs, this action adventure about cave diving serves as a reminder of how potent the process can be when the right equipment falls into the right hands. (Consumer warning: I saw the IMAX version; your visual experience at non-IMAX theaters may differ.)” — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

The Cameron Comparison
“Cameron, to his credit, doesn’t make boring movies, and if he were in charge you could count on him to at least produce some clammy monsters and/or evil corporations to give the heroes something to do besides churn through the murk. Instead, director Alister Grierson treads water. His cast confronts dumb dangers like cowards going nuts (really, if you were thousands of feet below the surface, would you attack the ablest diver in your group?) and lady divers coming down with severe attacks of the girlies, in one case because her hair gets caught in a chain.” — Kyle Smith, target="_blank">New York Post

The Final Word
“The final element that makes ‘Sanctum’ more than just a dumb time at the movies isn’t the deadly dialogue, it’s the sense of authenticity; you believe that this is the way it would go. Every piece of equipment is real and the way that the people react feels real (which doesn’t mean it’s always smart). On one end of the spectrum are those cable TV shows that luridly document crazy survival stories, while on the other is Jon Krakauer’s engaging, sobering ‘Into Thin Air.’ ‘Sanctum’ sits right in the middle of those — lurid enough to entertain but accurate enough to feel like you’re maybe seeing something true. True-ish, at any rate.” — Devin Faraci, target="_blank">Badass Digest

Check out everything we’ve got on “Sanctum.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.