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I attended the North American Premiere of "Under the Mountain" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. The film is a love song to New Zealand's volcanoes. Jonathan King's fantasy tale is "Lord of the Rings" meets "Alien" -- it may be a bit scary for younger kids, though. Sam Neill does a star turn here as an aging wizard-like Fagan. Only he has the knowledge to help save the world from the evil Gargantua. But it's up to teenage twins Theo and Rachel (young newcomers Tom Cameron and Sophie McBride) to wield the power. The charming kids steal the show here and couldn't be more engaging. The multi-layered story more than held my interest -- there's plenty here for adults and youth alike. Production values are stellar with mind-boggling visual and special effects, and "Under the Mountain" boasts one of the best scores I've heard in a long time. The lush cinematography amounts to a New Zealand travelogue. The film is dazzling and puts many others of its ilk to shame. "Under the Mountain" should do well among family audiences.
I'd waited for this one for ages thanks to some fond memories of the
original TV adaptation from when I was a child. I suspect that those
memories made me expect a lot more that what was delivered here.
The plot is okay for a simple science fiction story but don't expect anything epic. The target audience for this seems to be children so in terms of entertainment value for adults it is rather limited -- fans of the original show, supporters of NZ cinema, and those who enjoy sci-fi. I would expect most adults not fitting into these categories are going to find this a boring film.
The special effects are okay. For the story, there is the right amount and the quality is acceptable. The movie is more about the characters than flashy special effects so here the balance seems about right.
The real problem with production is the same that plagues many New Zealand productions - bad script writing and terrible acting. I watch all the NZ films I can and I am always hoping they will improve but rarely am I surprised in a pleasant way. Whomever writes their scripts needs to spend more time watching real people converse. Part of the problem with the wooden acting is that their lines just don't feel natural so how can they be delivered in a believable way. If you are not a Kiwi or Australian you may not even notice how clunky the acting is; for us it is painful at times! Interestingly, some of the most clunky delivery comes from Sam Neil. Don't hold it against him though; he didn't have much to work with here and he *is* helping out NZ cinema.
The nicest thing about this movie is that it is not Hollywood junk. The characters, while not particularly convincing nor likable, are like people you would see on an everyday street. They are not perfect Hollywood models with glowing white teeth and perfect makeup and hair. That in itself is a refreshing change.
This movie doesn't extend NZ cinema to any great new heights, nor is it every going to be a classic. It's just a ho-hum movie that might amuse for an hour and a half then be forgotten.
There are only two reasons why i would waste my time writing about a movie. It is either because its brilliant or because it's a terrible waste of time! This movie falls into the latter category. Halfway into the movie, i find myself looking at the clock. Unfortunately, it didn't get any better. Wow, such great premise, how the hell did they miss the mark? The director is to blame here. It was so so lame and boring. The actors did a good job, though i would have to say that sometimes the reaction factor is kind of weak. Example, when Mr Jones was trying to heal Rachel, flames of fire came out of his hand, in reality any tom dick and harry would find this amazingly unreal and you would expect them to react in disbelief, but on the contrary, the kids are acted like they have seen this before. Wowsers! This movie gets a C from me.
I remember reading the book and watching the TV series as a child, so
when I saw this was out in the DVD stores I was excited to revisit a
part of my childhood.
Unfortunately, this film compares poorly to the 80s TV series. The 80s TV series had a darkness and chill surrounding the Wilberforces that had shades of Doctor Who about it. A lot of the darkness and suspense is lost in this film. It spends a good 40-50 minutes before Rachel and Theo (and the audience) is even let in on the plot. Now this might be excused in some films, if the buildup is engaging enough, but it simply comes across as disparate events that seem to have no real bearing on the story. I felt that they felt obliged to include certain scenes because they were iconic from the TV series, yet they were divorced of all context in this film. Given the length of the film, the twins needed to meet Mr Jones earlier to bring everyone into the plot earlier and allow the suspense to build.
Overall, I would advise anyone to give this a miss and try to find the original TV series - some of the episodes are on google video.
This movie have some good things and bad things to it.
Let me start with the bad thing. The movie seems much like a movie that would have been spawned in the success of the "Harry Potter" movie. I know this is not the intention of the movie, nor does it have any connection to it. But the characters and the story seems like something taken out of the "Harry Potter" universe.
As for the good things. Well the movie was interesting and fairly entertaining. There were pretty nice effects throughout the movie as well. There was also a somewhat Lovecraftian Cthulhu-feel to the movie. The concept with the Gargantua (Old Ones?) and the servants (much like the 'fishmen' of Innsmouth). That part, however subtle or intentional it was, was not lost on me, and I liked that part.
The cast was good, and they performed well in their roles. Of course, Sam Neill was great, as always.
This movie provides wholesome entertainment for the entire family, young and old alike. I am sure that the young audiences will like the magic and effects in the movie, while a more mature audience (like myself) might take a liking to the dark mood of the movie (and the Lovecraft inspiration).
"Under the Mountain" is definitely worth checking out.
The first thing I faced when I heard of this movie were bad critics.
Second, divided opinions of people who've watched this movie. I decided
I should take a look and see for myself, being a fan of fantasy movies,
and I didn't regret it, but I was not charmed either.
The first thing, the actors. Always sceptic about introducing new kids into the movie industry, I tried to keep it objective and on low expectations, and it turned out I didn't have to because Tom Cameron (Theo) and Sophie McBride (Rachel) were really good. They represented their characters on a high level of quality, and for that I congratulate them, since this is their first role in a movie ever. :) Seeing Sam Neill in this movie firstly pleasantly surprised me, and then brought me to the edge of disappointment since he acted like he didn't care of the success of this movie nor his reputation. The rest of the crew was OK.
Now the story. The plot has quite a lack of originality in the base of it, but some specific things are pretty interesting, which I won't reveal here in case you haven't watched the movie. The story is a bit slow at moments, but not too much, though it is kind of in fragments. Its development didn't come out well so the end comes suddenly. Btw, the ending scene is really the best scene in the movie.
The visual effects are well done, though there's a lack of those. The kids didn't use their powers much. The drones are scary, but the Gargantuas are nothing fearsome, and they should've been the scary of the scary since they're monsters ready to destroy Earth. The atmosphere is spooky, though a bit too gray and dull at times. I had a feeling I had to see something colorful and vivid after seeing this movie. I was grossed out a few times by some scenes, which is good since that was the point, so my opinion is that the visuals are very well done.
The music was keeping the tension the story didn't have at moments, so it came out a bit too intensive.
At the end, this movie is not a masterpiece, and definitely not for those who aren't fans of the genre, but it definitely isn't bad and unwatchable. Because of Sophie and Tom, this one has a 6 from me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was given this film by a friend of mine who was going to get rid of
it, but thought I might enjoy it. It was directed by Jonathan King, who
you might know from the film Black Sheep.
Not having read the book or seen the mini-series from 1981 I didn't have any preconceived ideas about the story, which was probably a good thing because this film is utterly BORING, I was hoping to see Sam Neill be his usual bad ass self, but the whole thing was just bland.
The two twins move in with their cousins after their mother is in an accident and they notice something strange about their neighbours the Wilberforces, the twins are both telepathic for some reason and they also meet up with Mr Jones (Sam Neill) who claims he's there to stop the Wilberforces who are in fact aliens that are keeping enormous beasts under the nearby volcanoes. Mr Jones presents the twins with a pair of stones that they must use to defeat the Wilberforces by harnessing their... Twiness. That's seriously how he refers to it in the movie, I'm not sure if it's the same in the book, but on film it just sounds cheesy, but not the good kind of cheesy like Starship Troopers.
Eventually the twins harness their powers and defeater the Wilberforces, this all sounds very exciting, but the acting is just dull, there doesn't seem to be any passion and I just couldn't get myself to sympathize with the characters. It would be nice to see this redone with some better actor because the story doesn't seem half bad.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, whatever else you might want to say about this New Zealand
product, you've got to acknowledge one thing. In fantasy films where
it's up to a young hero or heroes to save the day, it's fairly standard
to give them an older or aged mentor to help them fulfill their
destiny. Under The Mountain is the only such movie I know of which
faces up to the pedophilic smell of such a relationship. I mean, an old
guy pulling up in a van and telling a kid "Come with me. It's up to you
to save the world" is probably how a lot of children go missing. The
wizards and seers of fantasy look, in the clear light of day, like the
molesters of the real world. This movie doesn't shy away from that,
though I'm not sure it's a good thing.
Rachel and Theo (Sophie McBride and Tom Cameron) are red headed twins who can communicate with a garbled telepathy. After their mom is killed in an accident, they're sent to live in the city with their aunt, uncle and cousin. Theo is hit hard by his mother's death, creating a rift between the twins as he pushes Rachel away every chance he can. But when Rachel and Theo discover the creepy people who live across the lake aren't really people, the seemingly immortal Mr. Jones (Sam Neill) reveals that the twins are the only ones who can save the world from alien invaders. Not by letting Mr. Jones take naked pictures of them, but by using their power of "twinness" to throw two magical stones into a volcano. As long as Theo continues to distance himself from Rachel, however, their "twinness" will never be strong enough to succeed.
Under The Mountain is based on a novel but follows an entirely generic pattern for these kind of films. In the first half, we're introduced to our heroes and a bunch of foreshadowing and supposedly mysterious stuff happens. Then at the midway point, there's a huge info dump where literally everything is explained to the audience to the point where anyone with half a brain knows exactly what's going to happen in the second half of the movie, which is then nothing more than a dash to get to an obvious ending. As these things go, the first half is pretty good, the info dump is especially blatant and the second half is much lighter on plot than usual.
The worst thing about the film is an extremely overbearing and intrusive soundtrack. In every scene where there's even the least bit of drama, tension or threat, dour and gloomy instrumental music is blared at the audience. It's like these filmmakers were so convinced viewers would not know when the film was supposed to be scary, they did the audio equivalent of flashing subtitles on the screen that say "This is frightening." Making it worse is that the musical cues are so strong from the very start, the audience is emotionally inured by the time the scary stuff actually happens. When the music is thundering at you while it's just a weird looking dude staring at our heroes, there's nowhere for the soundtrack to go when the genuine monsters attack.
It's also a little odd that the heroes of Under The Mountain are both clearly teenagers while the tone and tenor of their adventure is as clearly geared for tweens. It feels like these kids should be 11 or 12 years old, not 15 or 16.
All in all, this isn't a terrible piece of family entertainment but unless you're going to use it to teach your children about "stranger danger", Under The Mountain is not something your family needs to see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Through mud and fire world are made, but they may also be destroyed. In
true Lovecraftian fashion Ancient Ones reside beneath the burnt out
volcanoes of Auckland, New Zealand, asleep awaiting to be awoken. Their
guardians are a slime-covered alien race called the Wilberforces, whose
only goal is to turn the world to ruin. We have but one protector - the
alien Fireraiser (Sam Neill), who attempts to save the world by finding
a special pair of twins, with the power to control the element of fire
to once and for all rid the world of the alien infestation. The chosen
ones are the red-headed Rachel (Sophie McBride) and Theo (Tom Cameron),
connected to a level so deep, that they can telepathically communicate
with each other. However the Wilberforces do not intend to stay idle...
I have the foggiest childhood recollection of seeing the original series or at least parts of it, remembering it as aimed at young teenagers, but not refraining from a dosage of frights normally not seen by such an audience. However my memory fails to bring back the specific details and inform me on how far away from the original TV series this movie has actually diverged. Nonetheless on its own merits it does feel like a hastily cooked-up hamburger aimed at mindless youth. Running around from location to location and diving head-first into the story "Under the Mountain" lacks at least 30 minutes of proper build-up to create a backdrop to the action. We are rushed into the story at such a staggering pace, that before you get the grip of what evil lurks around the corner the twins have already manages to dispose of the baddies and we move on to the end credits set against the spectacular burning background of Auckland and its many volcanoes.
Sam Neill for one is badly underused as the effort to involve him in the story lacks focus, whilst his character essentially makes or breaks the movie. At almost every occasion we instead drift away from him into another sequence, where the twins are either running, fighting for their life or escaping. Even the horror of Cthulhian-inspired Wilberforces lacks any of the necessary urgency, as they apoplectically stagger around giving our heroes sufficient time to watch an episode of Seinfeld, before managing to move 5 metres. At times they also prefer staring menacingly as if in a vain hope the twins will magically jump into their slimy tentacles.
Nonetheless the movie presents Auckland with some inspirational cinematography and enough back-story to actually make you want to place this city high on your 'to see' list. If nothing else "Under the Mountain" is a perfect tourist hook that catches you thanks to the breathtaking placement of the city.
UNDER THE MOUNTAIN is the big screen adaptation of a young adult novel
of the same name that I've never heard of. It's a Kiwi young adult
film, sort of Harry Potter style, in which a couple of magical
teenagers must team up to battle the forces of evil and, somewhat
inevitably, save the world.
The first thing that becomes apparent when watching this is that it's virtually Lovecraft for children. You have an evil, sinister family called the Wilberforces, alien races, and long-dormant monsters living deep below the ground, in this case underneath volcanoes. The problem is that UNDER THE MOUNTAIN doesn't do very much with the premise. I love Lovecraft, but it all boils down here to a couple of tentacled guys chasing the kids around, plus some CGI magical power stuff.
The cast is largely interesting, aside from 'hook' name Sam Neill, who gives a nicely judged performance as the loner/weirdo who hooks up with the leads and teaches them a few of the universe's mysteries. It's just a pity, then, that the execution is so cheap-looking, and aside from a couple of good chase scenes this doesn't really offer up anything we haven't seen before.
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