“Woooooo,” scream the gang as they ride Bessy the Giant Alligator through the sewers of the school. There aren’t any rules against water polo playing alligators and there aren’t any rules against having fun either. Suddenly they drop into a dank sanctum deep underground with a wondrous swirling pool of water in the middle. “The portal,” Poe whispers, beholding a link between universes and the object of their quest. “How… how do we destroy it?” asks Rich, but Adrestia sushes him and points to Rich’s chest, “The Devil’s Key. It was inside of you the whole time.” Rad. They all link hands, Rich and Poe readying to destroy the portal, but before they do a slow, sharp crack of applause rings out and sends chills down their spines. Nic Cage and the hooded gamemaster stand behind them. “Excellent,” Nic Cage says with a smile, “you quelled the riots with your silly book. But I’m curious, how did you know that the book would help uncover the larger conspiracy? That the students, inspired by chaste love, would then turn over the football coach for distributing steroids?” Rich and Poe look at each other. The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All… of course. “Yes, very curious indeed,” the game master adds shaking with fury, “and what are you doing here?” Thinking fast Rich and Poe explain that they were just looking for a place to dispose of all those bad steroids. “While rulez are coolz, everyone knows drugz are totally not coolz.” They fist bump and hold their breath. “Excellent,” says Nic Cage beaming. “Now we’re ready for the third challenge,” he says, “and remember, sometimes a good setting can go a long way.” “Oui, de Paris avec amour,” the hooded gamemaster says and kicks Rich and Poe into the portal. That’s right! We’re watching Sanctum. That film that everyone remembers. It’s a perfect transition to the next cycle as not only is it an example of a Deus Ex Machina (according to the internet), but takes place in Papua New Guinea of all places. That fits nicely with the globe-trotting mapl.de.map adventure that is the third leg of our battle for the universe. This time, though, anywhere and anything goes as we try to get some truly ludicrous settings. Let’s go!
Sanctum (2011) – BMeTric: 35.2; Notability: 21
(Ha the 9.7 … I suppose the early views were by underwater filmmaking fanatics? It ended up just under 6 it looks like which is about what I would expect. The notability is a bit higher that I would expect, but then again I bet a bunch of those are famous underwater stuntmen and filmmaking technicians, so perhaps it is understandable. Hard to make an underwater film without people who are good at making underwater films.)
RogerEbert.com – 1.5 stars – “Sanctum” tells the story of a terrifying adventure in an incompetent way. Some of it is exciting, the ending is involving, and all of it is a poster child for the horrors of 3-D used badly. The film is being heavily marketed as a “James Cameron Production,” but if this were a “James Cameron Film,” I suspect it would have fewer flaws and the use of 3-D would be much improved.
(Big oof. If you look below at the people involved … yeah, it kind of seems like the review nails it on the head. It is very much a story of Cameron asking an underwater filmmaker to make a movie his friend wrote using Australian Soap Opera stars … not really what you want.)
(So dramatic! Probably doesn’t help that I have a long standing fear of deep water … I remember when this came out and thought “yeah, nope, I’m not watching that.” But the siren song of BMT beckons, I must watch to appear the BMT gods.)
Directors – Alister Grierson – (Known For: Kokoda: 39th Battalion; BMT: Sanctum; Notes: Apparently was offered the job while visiting the set of Avatar. I assume Cameron knew him based on his experience with underwater filmmaking.)
Writers – John Garvin (written by) – (BMT: Sanctum; Notes: Was apparently brought on due to his experience with underwater filmmaking.)
Andrew Wight (written by & story) – (BMT: Sanctum; Notes: An accomplished diver, he has been involved in a ton of underwater documentaries. The story is based on an event that happened to him. He sadly died in a helicopter crash in 2012.)
Actors – Rhys Wakefield – (Known For: Bliss; After the Dark; Broken Hill; Shadow Walkers; Nobody Walks; The Black Balloon; Paint It Black; Future BMT: The Purge; War on the Range; Bootmen; BMT: Sanctum; Endless Love; Notes: Started on Home and Away, an Australian Soap Opera. He was in over 300 episodes.)
Allison Cratchley – (BMT: Sanctum; Notes: Australian. She was featured heavily on All Saints, which is a medical drama, and that same Soap Opera Home and Away.)
Christopher James Baker – (Known For: The Purge: Election Year; Serendipity; Ned Kelly; Nim’s Island; Appropriate Behaviour; Kokoda: 39th Battalion; Future BMT: The Condemned; The Duel; Renaissance Man; The Great Raid; BMT: Kangaroo Jack; Sanctum; Notes: Ultimately he’s got a ton of work in television (along with a bunch of bit parts in the movies listed above). He’s going to be featured consistently in the upcoming Stargirl, and was in 7 episodes of Ozark.)
Budget/Gross – $30,000,000 / Domestic: $23,209,310 (Worldwide: $108,609,310)
(Whooooooooo doggy, that is actually kind of a success. I’m actually willing to bet there was no attempt at a follow-up in any capacity because of Cameron. I can imagine him seeing the project as an interesting challenge and then just walking away after it was completed.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 30% (50/167): Sanctum is beautifully photographed, and it makes better use of 3-D technology than most, but that doesn’t make up for its ham-handed script and lifeless cast.
(This all seems incredibly consistent. A beautiful film with cardboard cutouts as a cast and a terrible script written by someone who isn’t a screenwriter … what did you expect? Reviewer Highlight: Sometimes the sets look like, well, Styrofoam. So do the actors. – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.)
Poster – Sanctum? Damn Near Drowned ‘Em
(This is actually an exciting poster. You got cave diving and an interesting layout, with nice color and at least a little playfulness with the font. Overall I enjoy this. It’s nicely made. A; Patrick’s Shallow Fake: I didn’t really work too hard on the face this time, just kind of popped it in and colored it. The thing I really proud about it mimicking the font pretty well. It makes me think I might have the skillz to mimic basically any font in the future, which is rather helpful when I want to just write some ridiculous title onto a poster.)
Tagline(s) – The only way out is down (A)
(I also enjoy this tagline. It’s an unexpected twist and kinda gives you a sense of the film itself. Makes your breath catch a little to think that you would be diving and you think of the disorientation of having to dive further and further down to make your way out. I like it.)
Keyword – scuba diving
Top 10: Inception (2010), Licence to Kill (1989), Never Say Never Again (1983), Finding Nemo (2003), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Charlie’s Angels (2000), Fool’s Gold (2008), The Italian Job (2003), Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation (2018), The Abyss (1989)
Future BMT: 63.0 Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie (1997), 59.1 The Cave (2005), 55.1 Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home (1995), 39.4 Into the Blue (2005), 38.2 Masterminds (2016), 33.6 Along Came Polly (2004), 33.2 Sahara (2005), 22.8 After the Sunset (2004), 18.4 Act of Valor (2012);
BMT: Fool’s Gold (2008), Mechanic: Resurrection (2016), Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), Ghost Ship (2002), Jaws 3-D (1983), Sanctum (2011), The Medallion (2003)
(Let’s see. Free Will 2 seems exciting, I very much want to watch that for some reason. Pretty consistent over the years. I wonder if the drop off has to do with HD documentaries becoming more available, and also travel itself getting cheaper over time. So that wide release films featuring diving are no longer needed nor seen as a novelty.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 21) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Richard Roxburgh is No. 2 billed in Sanctum and No. 5 billed in Stealth, which also stars Jessica Biel (No. 2 billed) who is in Valentine’s Day (No. 2 billed), which also stars Jessica Alba (No. 1 billed) who is in Mechanic: Resurrection (No. 2 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 1 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 2 + 5 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 21. If we were to watch King Arthur, and Killer Elite we can get the HoE Number down to 13.
Notes – Ioan Gruffudd performed his own base jump stunt, which he described as his favorite part of the shoot. (That is extremely dangerous. So dangerous in fact that I don’t really believe it)
Ioan Gruffudd was the only member of the cast to be a fully qualified diver before the film began shooting. (Oh, so maybe he was already kind of qualified to base jump?)
In an unfortunate coincidence, Agnes Milowka, one of the film’s diving doubles, drowned after running out of air shortly after the film was released. (I have a feeling a bunch of the cave diving stunt people had their lives cut short)
Having trained in a diving center to prepare for his role, Richard Roxburgh claimed that the hardest thing to master was the rebreather, which he described as “fantastic in theory, but a torture in real life”.
Richard Roxburgh said that despite the on-set security, he feared for his life several times during the shoot.
The film used a tank containing seven million liters of water for its underwater scenes.
Originally the production seriously considered shooting in real underground caves. However, the practicalities of lugging all the equipment into such tight, confined spaces – not to mention the freezing cold temperatures of the water within the caves – soon precluded that.
At one point Richard Roxburgh asked the art department if they could lighten the load of the pack that he has to carry for most of the film. The next morning they presented him with the reduced weight pack, telling him that they’d managed to take 2 kgs off the total weight. Of course, they hadn’t bothered doing anything at all but Roxburgh was convinced that they had.
All the underwater sequences were shot in a large water tank at the Village Roadshow Studios in Queensland, Australia.
As of March 2011, the 10th biggest grossing Australian film at the international box office. (That is an absurd fact)
Production designer Nicholas McCallum built the caves in concrete, so that they wouldn’t move while the actors were climbing them, and so that they could be reused for underwater scenes. Once scenes with one setting were wrapped, the cave parts would be put in a water tank for the diving scenes.
Director Alister Grierson and cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin had no experience with 3D prior to working on this film. Thus, they had learn how to light the scenes, use the stereoscopic space and manipulate the cameras from scratch.
Production designer Nicholas McCallum built a 14 meter high underwater fall for the film, which propelled 20000 liters of water per minute.
Universal and Relativity paid $12 million for the rights to distribute the film internationally.
Director Alister Grierson contracted pneumonia during the shoot.
The cave itself was based on the Cheve/Chaco/etc expeditions in the Yucatan, and the father character was based on Bill Stone, the caver/diver who was instrumental in those expeditions as well as in the invention of the re-breather.
John Garvin was chosen as co-writer by James Cameron and Andrew Wight due to his considerable experience as an accomplished diver. Moreover, Garvin wrote the role of Jim Sergeant with himself in mind, hoping Alister Grierson would let him play it.
To complement the tank shoot, the production headed into the wild. Caver and producer Andrew Wight said: “We also filmed in real caves in South Australia’s cave-diving region around Mount Gambier. Filming in the limestone, water-filled caves added a scale and an authenticity to the tank shoot at the studio.”
Based on the true story of co-writer Andrew Wight. He once went cave diving under the Nullarbor plain with fourteen other people. An unexpected storm made the cave’s entrance collapse and they spent two days looking for another way out. Unlike in the film however, a rescue was organized and everybody survived. Wight told his frequent collaborator and fellow diving enthusiast James Cameron the story in 2006, who decided they should get a director and make a film about it. (Jesus, that’s pretty scary)