Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another Movie Review

I went and saw Sahara last night. I'm going to give a two-part movie review. The first is for those who have never read any book by Clive Cussler, and are ignorant of the literary characters of Dirk Pitt, Al Giordino, James Sandecker, et al. The second review is for those that have, obviously.

First off, I liked the movie. It was mindless adventure fun in the same vein as Die Hard, Romancing The Stone, National Treasure and similar flicks.

Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn are completely believable as a couple of treasure hunters who have known each other for years. The dialogue was very similar in nature to the banter that my friends and I trade back and forth, and hence very authentic, IMHO. It seemed natural, not scripted.

Penelope Cruz is still sexy/cute as ever, and for some reason gets more so when she's covered with dirt. Maybe I have a sand fetish that I didn't know about. I hope not. Sex on the beach is only a good drink, not a good idea. Ouch.

William H. Macy is pretty good as Admiral Sandecker, though not my first choice for who should have had the role. There are a few other recognizable characters here & there, notably Delroy Lindo and Lambert Wilson (the Merovingian from Matrix 2 & 3).

The overall plot has believability stretched so thin at times as to be beyond transparent, but this is a popcorn-muncher of a action/adventure flick, so no points lost there. There's humor added in appropriate spots, which serves to lighten the tone without distracting from the story.

The actions sequences are exciting, the villains are sufficiently villainous, the plot moves quickly, and doesn't move too deeply into "preachy" mode, as is often the case when a director wants to make political points. (Tears Of The Sun pops into mind here as an example)

The soundtrack was fantastic, a great mix of '70s classic rock and modern North African pop music. I'd definitely consider purchasing it.

Overall, I was satisfied with the film. For people who have never read Cussler, you'll enjoy it.

Now, for the Cussler/Pitt fans... (Full disclosure: I own just about every Cussler work of fiction and nonfiction in hardcover edition, and I buy them at retail the 1st day available. You might say I'm a fan...)

Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn go way beyond "wrong" as people to play Dirk Pitt & Al Giordino. It is a travesty to see Pitt played by a bongo-playing, dope-smoking Austin hippie. Pitt is a no-nonsense kind of guy, with a dry humor that is tinged with cruelty. He has a merciless edge that McConaughey could never hope to approach. Pitt would not shoot a guy's hand with a speargun to make him drop a gun, he'd put it through the guy's eye. It irked me (as a Cussler fan) to hear Dirk Pitt say "It'd be a lot cooler if..." which immediately brought to mind his character Wooderson from Dazed & Confused.

Zahn does well as a slacker-type sidekick, but he's no Giordino. Too young, for one, and he plays him as a goof, which Giordino never is.

William H. Macy is OK as Sandecker, but I weep that Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian, 'Mr. Hand' from Fast Times at Ridgemont High) was not offered the role during his lifetime. He would have been perfect.

They have combined Rudi Gunn and Hiram Yeager into one character that takes the worst qualities of the pair. Not a good sign, and definitely unfair to the character of Rudi Gunn.

Now, what they did right was stick (mostly) to the basic plot of the book. They included the following items from the book: the ironclad, the Calliope, the Massarde facility, the train into the facility, the Avions-Voisin car, Kitty Mannock's plane, the "plague", Yves Massarde and Zateb Kazim.

They left out a lot... The whole Lincoln thing, the prison, the fight at the fort, the US special forces, the fact that the Calliope is a gunboat, and numerous other bits and pieces. They included a group of Tuaregs from out of nowhere as a plot-assist device, but that actually worked out OK.

As a true Cussler fan, you'll join me in screaming "ANATHEMA!!!", but I'll bet, also as a true Cussler fan, you'll kinda dig seeing a Cussler film that's SO much better than the godawful 'Raise The Titanic'.

Give it a watch, just to say you saw it. They left open the possibility of making another one in this film, and though Cussler himself is opposed, I am not.