Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls: A surprising review
After the fiasco that was Speed Racer, it was decided that a change of pace was required (instead of a hospital visit). This change of pace came in the form of “Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls”(forever more known as “AQATTOS”. If the title sounds mildly familiar to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (or Temple of Doom for that matter), then I am assured it is a coincidence...ahem.
“AQATTOS” is a presently a US only straight-to-DVD release from those chaps over at The Asylum. For those of you unaware of The Asylum’s reputation, you are advised to read an article by Empire magazine (January 2008 issue). If you are unable to do so, it is important to note that this company is responsible for such movies as “Snakes on a Train”, “I am Omega”, “Alien vs. Hunter” and many more. All of these films may bear some resemblance to Hollywood “blockbusters” but as I said before, coincidences happen. These titles may lead you to believe that The Asylum make “cheap knock-offs” of major Hollywood films. I cannot comment on that due to fear of being sued. Instead however, I can comment on their latest release:
Now before this review gets underway, it is important to note that you never review a B-movie in exactly the same format as an A-list one. Think of it like riding a children’s rollercoaster. You get on the ride expecting to be completely bored and unfulfilled. However, on occasions, you’ll ride a rollercoaster made for kids that you actually enjoy. You accept that it’s merely a children’s ride, but it is fun and if tweaked just a little bit, could be a contender for real grown-up fun. Those who know my opinions of Kull the Conqueror will understand that a film can also be so bad that it’s good.
With this in mind then, let’s focus on the film of the moment. AQATTOS stars Sean Cameron Michael (as Allan Quatermain), Natalie Stone (a woman incapable of making a scene without pouting twenty times), Daniel Bonjour (I’m not joking on this one, that’s his name- He stars as Sir Henry), Christopher Adamson (He was in Pirates of the Caribbean. No, really!) Lastly Jourdan Wittly (as Umbopa). It is a treasure hunt film based on King Solomon’s Mines.
The film from the very start makes it clear that despite the title, it is not like Indiana Jones. This is a good thing. Despite the grumpy hat wearing star mumbling his way through the first 30 minutes, Allan is a likeable character; certainly not acted particularly well, along with Natalie Stone’s pout and Daniel Bonjour’s “British” accent. However, like I said before, this is a B-movie and makes no pretensions otherwise. Let’s speed on through the (large) list of problems in the film before we get to the crux of the matter:
- The sound was choppy on occasions throughout the film, indicating the crew were in a rush or the soundman had stepped out for an hour or five for an extended coffee break
- The pace of the film feels slow on occasions (perhaps the first hour)
- The bad guy was suitably bad, but not EVIL (like we all want)
- The train used in the film was very modest in size
- Clearly a vehicle over the tracks is enough to stop a train of that size
- The train seems to make a miraculous emergency stop to avoid the vehicle
- Some of the sound effects were awful (especially with the sound of gunfire. I have an air pistol that sounds more convincing)
- The African “cast” was good (although their outfits were incredibly vibrant on film. Is it just me, because I assumed that African beads, head-dresses etc were darker in colour and didn’t look like they could have been bought in a surfer shop on the beach.
- There seemed to be a lot of talking and walking with no action (this is usually fine, but the fact is if you’re marketing it as an action film, PUT SOME ACTION IN IT)
- 30 minutes into the film, you are begging for them to get on and search for the treasure already
- What seems like ten minutes is wasted with Allan Quatermain touching Lady Anna’s leg
- At one point whilst walking down a path, one of the characters starts talking, gets it wrong and starts again at the beginning of a sentence. This, it seems was an accident (not to leave it on the cutting room floor) but it does give a certain authentic feel to it.
- After an hour the scariest thing that occurs is a Rhinoceros grazing. This changes later however.
- The story built up the fact that where they were going they were unlikely to return and yet spent most of the time walking around peaceful countryside not unlike Britain.
- The Temple of Skulls consisted of (what seemed like three of them – skulls that is)
Amongst these quite awful problems though, were gems to behold. For example there is a scene that involves a haggle between an African chief and the bad guy for a woman. I was quite literally in tears as to how many cows the chief was offering. It was hilarious. Like the remainder of this film, the scene felt rushed, but despite this, I couldn’t help but laugh until I cried.
The final fight between the bad guy and Quatermain is also something that you must witness to appreciate. At one point, it looks like they’re going for a man cuddle, then on to do a tango and finally out comes the whip (from the bad guy) despite the photo clearly showing that the good guy brandishes the whip.
The bees / wasps scene was also quite hilarious. It’s as if the computer guy in the editing suite poured dust over the film and blew on it. Seeing the actors respond to this “dust” was pant-wettingly funny.
The African tribe scene (meant to be shocking I assume) was comical, where most of the tribesmen spent their time shaking their sticks at the good guys as if greeting hello. There is something very amusing about the protagonists responding in a fearful way to a group of people basically saying “hello” with sticks.
This film though, nearly rose above it’s A-list peers. I’m serious! There was one scene, where I truly thought that they had ignored the Hollywood rules and made everyone come back to life. I honestly thought, if it ended ten minutes earlier, it could have made an excellent set up for a sequel (or even an unusually bold ending). So very close Mark Atkins (director)...so very close.
If you were to go on to IMDB now and look up this movie, you will notice a comment by someone highlighting the fact that people should be lenient to a movie having a shoestring budget and a very small cast. I however, disagree. This film will be criticised for what it is...a B-Movie.
In conclusion, I loved this film. I thought that a B-movie could do no better. The bad scenes were so bad they were hilarious and the worse scenes were painfully funny. Indiana Jones it is not...but who needs him anyway. Allan Quatermain has received scathing reviews across the board to date and it is important to ask why this review is so different. The fact is, you review Iron man as a superhero movie (you have certain expectations) and you review Pride and Prejudice for a classic novel adaptation (again, different expectations). Likewise then, you review this movie as a jaunt; only slightly brushing the storyline of the book it was based on, making light of otherwise serious scenarios and basically self deprecating humour. For this, Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls has earned our first official reward. 4 out of 10 for effort! Bravo! Go and watch this film with your friends, enjoy a few drinks and laugh yourself silly like I did. In fact, save the money you were going to spend on a ticket of Speed Racer and buy this DVD instead. It is infinitely better than the Wachowski film and I for one am looking out for more!