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Can James Cameron gain fans with a movie that isn't 'Avatar'?

October 28, 2010 |  6:18 pm

MV5BMTMxMTYzNTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODUzMzQwNA@@._V1._SX640_SY939_James Cameron may be plumbing the depths of "Avatar" one more time (and then one more time after that). But there will  be some non-"Avatar" Cameron storytelling with "Sanctum," a more modestly budgeted 3-D tale from Australian Alister Grierson. The king of the world is executive producing and godfathering.

At least we hope it's original.

There's long been a bit of a fear around "Sanctum" that Cameron would simply apply new technology (and a lower budget) to his 1989 underwater classic "The Abyss." The first trailer for "Sanctum," due in theaters  in February, indicates that those fears are unfounded. But he and Grierson may be borrowing from some other movies just the same.

After some opening shots of the pastoral sea that could have come right out of "Oceans," the "Sanctum" trailer tracks underwater cave divers who become trapped deep in caverns during a tropical disaster. Those shots evoke memories of "The Perfect Storm."

As the divers encounter rising water and false exits, the spot takes on water -- or at least a vibe similar to "Buried" and a host of other trapped-explorer narratives (including the Chilean-miner saga). Breathless exclamations of action-movie cliches -- "You'll find a way out" and "We're running out of time!" -- don't help either.

Of course it's hard to see the scope of Cameron's and Grierson's world on a computer monitor, and Cameron has always been about the visual first. Trapped-men stories are also highly dependent on performance and a dozen other nuances. So there's a benefit of the doubt to be given. But those of us hoping that we don't need hundreds of millions of dollars and a voyage to distant Pandora to see some trademark Cameron chops probably won't be encouraged either.

--Steven Zeitchik




Photo: "Sanctum" poster. Credit: Rogue.


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