James Cameron lends his immense clout to this production about a team of spelunkers with all sorts of internal drama who descend into a seemingly bottomless pit and have to join forces in order to survive when a raging river floods the cave system. The peril feels real thanks to the 3-D effects and Cameron’s obvious fascination with such unexplored terrain. The self-professed King of the World has invested much of his own substantial resources and time to studying these unseen facets of the planet and channeling that knowledge into the creation of new formidable landscapes, but the journey into this Sanctum (supporting short-form director Alister Grierson) is also fraught with painfully dull dialogue (another hallmark of Cameron’s work and apparently a prerequisite for filmmaking partners) and thematic issues — tough father Frank (Richard Roxburgh) and son Josh (Rhys Wakefield) will clash repeatedly before Josh realizes that he must become like his father to survive — that are simply too on-the-nose to light the way out of this dark affair.
Suddenly, the idea of two Avatar follow-ups doesn’t sound so bad. Grade: D+