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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: Lost City Raiders



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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

Leo Kerr

    Screenwriter



  • 1,699 posts
  • Join Date: May 10 1999

Posted February 03 2010 - 12:10 PM

Lost City Raiders
A movie produced for German television in 2008 by First Look Studios and Tandem Communications GmbH.  Starring James Brolin, Ian Somerhalder, Bettina Zimmermann, Jamie Thomas King, Elodie Frenck, Michael Mendl, and Ben Cross, directed by Jean de Segonzac. 

The feature is 16x9 anamorphic enhanced for wide-screen displays, and comes with an English stereo track, and an English 5.1 track.  Subtitles are in English (SDH) and Spanish.  Feature run time of 98 minutes, packaged with about five previews, including one more-like teaser for the main feature.  The DVD is packaged in a typical package, and the disc itself has a typical array of anti-copy warnings and studio logos before one can skip over the previews and get to the menus.  The feature has been marked with twelve erratically spaced chapters.

Retail price for this title is $24.99, and was released for sale in the United States in January 2010.

The Program — ••
It is 2048.  An ecological disaster, “The Rising,” has caused the global sea-level to rise about 13 meters (about 42.6 feet.)  Vast areas of real-estate are either underwater or worthless.  To quote Xander Drax from The Phantom, “there is opportunity in chaos.”  The Kubiak family, John, Jack, and Tom (Brolin, Somerhalder, and King,) are salvage operators, sneaking into flooded cities, stealing artifacts and selling them — artifacts such as street signs from famous streets around the world.  John is also leading them on a secret mission from the Vatican, pursuing a legend that might allow them to stop The Rising, and maybe even reverse it.  Of course, other people finding opportunity in chaos are either trying to gain control over The Rising, or even accelerate it for their own ends.  Other archetypical characters include the insane villain (Cross,) the unlucky gear-girl (Frenck,) and the spunky, if slightly deranged but well-meaning chick-scientist (Zimmermann.)

The feature moves along at a fairly rapid pace, clipping out a lot of what could be ‘the boring bits,’ and sometimes only hinting about some things that, had they had a ‘real budget,’ they might have spent more time on.  This also tends to sacrifice some of the opportunity for character development.  Internally, there are a number of things that just do not make much sense.  Often times, the science aspires to ‘hokey,’ and even people like me who know nothing about diving, know that crash surfacing like they tended to do from those depths and times is — unlikely at best.

As an action film, it was fairly low-key.  As a science-fiction film, well, they tried, but so many of the details are fuzzy, it was not much of a science fiction film.  It really wasn’t comical — not even unintentionally.  And, perhaps most damning, it was not even ‘that bad’ — in the sense that some films are sufficiently ‘bad’ that they start being ‘good’ again.  It almost feels like it was put together as a concept piece to sell to a studio, rather than the ultimate goal. 

As I was writing this, I referred back to the disc on the computer for playback.  At times, I thought, “you know, this isn’t as bad as I had thought,” and then they go and do something or say something that makes me cringe. 

The Picture — •••
It’s not that bad.  Principal photography was on film, with quite a lot of digital post — the flood effects, sunken cities, and, I suspect, quite a lot of the underwater photography — might not have been.  Some of the effects shots are more convincing than others, and some of the file footage that they recycled was recognizable.  I suspect a rushed production schedule may have hurt the overall quality; for example some of the close-ups had some focus issues that might have been resolved in a second or third take. 

There is some occasional artifacting, possibly from the extensive compositing work from mixed sources, and/or MPEG compression.  Edge enhancement, if any, is minimal. 

The Sound — ••
The sound was — unexceptional.  Originally a stereo mix for broadcast, it did not seem to rely upon any surround effects.  I suspect for the Dolby Digital track, they ran the stereo track through a Dolby decoder, and then went with the results.  Dialog was solidly anchored to the center channel.  Sound effects added some stereo, but the most of the stereo image was from the music.  I spent much of the time thinking that the recorded dialog was just a tiny bit out of sync with the picture.  The dialog also sounded like much of it was recorded after-the-fact, and little attempt was made to ‘place’ the dialog back into the environmental space. 

In The End
It feels like that with just a little more effort all around, particularly in the script and science department, this could have been much better.  Apart from a survey of bad science in films, I’m not sure I can really recommend this feature.