Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
If the cover wasn’t so funny it would be horrible. I guess once you see the movie you will understand that this experience is all about adventure and fun. I can’t take the cover too seriously, or the movie, so the wind blown sepia toned heroes of the story standing proud and corny in a dust storm seems perfectly acceptable. The menus are functional with one great flaw, they show clips from the movie from start to finish. I already hate trailers because they spoil so much, but to pop in a DVD and the first thing you see are scenes from the movie staring you in the face..come on people, let’s be more creative, or less creative. I would rather just see an image from the movie with boring navigation and save the rest for when I actually watch the darn thing.
This movie was based on an action novel by Clive Cussler so I would have loved to have seen a documentary about that dude and how they adapted the book into a working script. That’s the only thing missing from the extras, except maybe it would be nice to have seen maybe a Discovery Channel type thing about the Sahara or about the Iron Clad ship from the Civil War that is a feature in the film. So, I guess I was hoping for a lot with these extras, but what you get ain’t bad, just not a whole lot. Here it is:
- Director Commentary – These people loved making this movie and you can tell. Breck Eisner took on a big chunk of movie making the day he signed on for this one and as he talks about the technical and personal challenges you may actually come to like, or at least appreciate, the movie more. He’s funny, not dry like some directors can be 🙂 I recommend listening to either commentary if you liked the movie enough to sit through it one more time. It’s worth listening to, and makes me want to see more movies by Eisner.
- Actor Commentary – I won’t say much about this commentary except that I like Eisner, he’s pretty untainted by Hollywood and all that good stuff. McConaughey on the other hand has what I call “I’m so humble I’m pretentious” syndrome. He’s fine in the movie, don’t get me wrong, but when you listen to him you get the feeling he’s a bit pleased with himself but tried to be super laid back and kind of sleazy Hollywoodish in a way. Or maybe I’m the only one who can hear it in his voice. You be the judge.
- 3 Featurettes – This was a massive production so it’s great to see how it all came together. I’m a sucker for behind the scenes and these little bits and pieces are actually pretty good. They were actually in the desert, actually in Africa, actually plagued with sand storms, intense heat, and even locusts during production. I have heard that Cruz had some emotional problems during the filming of this movie, but none of that is mentioned. They don’t even show Tom Cruise coming to visit her on the set..I guess they want to keep schtump about that kind of stuff to keep the tone upbeat. Fair enough, I’ve the the whole internet to dig the dirt on Ms. Cruz, and dig I shall.
- Deleted Scenes – Not much to offer here, nothing that would have changed the final movie anyway.
The Movie: 7/10:
Ok children, for today’s class in Movie Watching 101 the first thing you need to do is take off your thinking caps. Today’s objective is to learn how to enjoy some movies by setting aside your logic and reasoning skills. Our test subject for the day is Sahara, starring Mathew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz.
First I’ll go over some details about the movie. Sahara is based on a novel by Clive Cussler which chronicles the adventures of the hero type guy, Dirk Pitt, great name by the way. Dirk is a muscle bound, determined treasure hunter with a background as a Navy man. Hopefully a good combination if you are going to be dodging bullets and escaping serious bodily injury at the hands of a bad guy at some point in your life. Dirk has a side kick, lifelong friend, Al. Al is a great source for back up muscle, clever plans, and never ending one liners to keep the mood lite even when an evil dictator is trying to blow them to pieces. Dirk in on the trail of a iron clad Civil War ship that was suspected to have made it’s way across the ocean nearly 150 years ago. A treasure hunt he just couldn’t give up on. Along with Dirk’s search another story is brewing in Africa. Penelope Cruz plays a doctor working with the World Health Organization hunting down a suspected plague that’s sweeping the area along the Niger river. Where these two stories cross paths is one of those details we shall leave for you to discover when you watch the movie. Let’s just say abandoning your logical thinking is a good idea at this point.
Next, now that you have some story details, let’s get on with the lesson at hand, having fun with this movie while leaving your brain at the door. Let’s be honest folks, some movies are not to be analyzed too closely for historic or technical accuracy, Sahara is a prime example.
So, how do you enjoy this movie without picking it apart at the seams? Ignore ignore ignore..that’s the word of the day. When you see an iron clad ship stranded in a sand dune and it’s still in tact, for the most part, ignore every instinct you have to say or think, “no way”. Just go with the flow and enjoy the top quality action sequence that takes you on a great ride. You can focus on the excellent explosions, the helicopter chasing a classic automobile through swirls of sand while our trio do their best to be funny and deadly at the same time. There are only a few shots of Cruz’s behind in compromising positions, so that’s a bonus 🙂
Throughout the movie you have to remember that story is based on a novel. So, whatever the author decided our heroes need to do to make things exciting has to be a part of the movie. Just accept it. If you are the type to roll your eyes at inaccuracies and technical snafoos, your homework for the day is to watch Sahara and keep that instinct to criticize under wraps. If you can successfully watch the whole movie without making that face, you know the one, the face that means, “oh my God, this movie is ridiculous.” you get an A. If you insist on being a fanboy of reality and you spoil all that good fantasy by pointing out every thing that just wouldn’t be possible, you fail with a big fat F.
Finally for today’s lesson you will be given these last few bits of knowledge. Cruz does a fine job, but you have to use that ignoring technique to handle the moments when McConaughey actually picks her up by her armpits the way you do with a little kid. It’s annoying, I know, but for the sake of furthering your education as an expert movie watcher you simply have to over look it. McConaughey and Steve Zahn are a classic pair of chums who face adversity with a sense of humor and lots of unique skills that elude normal folks. Again, you may need to ignore a few of their death defying moves and not so clever comments, but they are a fun duo to watch. Zahn is exceptionally entertaining, I must say. Nevermind the constant dumbstruck look on his face, he’s a funny guy. They are not a substitute for Indiana Jones, but until Harrison Ford gets back on the adventure trail, characters like Dirk Pitt and Al will have to do.
Hmm, what value can you place on a purely fun action flick? Is this a movie you will watch over and over, or is it best for a weekend rental? I say rental. It’s got great action, a solid story, a new and exciting hero, and lots of wise cracks. It’s not a classic, but it’s a must see if you like to have a good time. You can find it for around $15.00 online, but if you can rent it for $3.00 it’s a better deal. That is of course unless you worship Cruz or McConaughey, in that case I guess it must become part of your collection. I would still recommend waiting a few months for it to appear in the cheap section at your local store
Overall Score 7/10