Judge David Johnson hates sand. It's itchy and it gets everywhere.
Some secrets should never be unearthed.
A pair of Whedon alums team up to square off with a demonic sand-sucking bastard with an axe to grind.
Facts of the Case
The first 15 minutes of this SciFi Channel original movie spans three eras, as a voiceover informs us about some supernatural craziness that went down with an Egyptian demigod thousands of years ago, then we bounce ahead to the 20th century to find Cecil B. Demille scrambling to bury his last movie set and hide a mysterious secret and, then, finally, we're at "present day," with Mark (Victor Webster), a wannabe adventurer and combat veteran, and his crusty grandfather (George Kennedy) sifting through the sands of the very same site looking for loot.
When the two men inadvertently unlock a long-buried tomb, that ancient evil first seen in the opening sequence shakes off the cobwebs and gets down to business, ripping off limbs, unleashing a plague of scorpions and generally causing lots of trouble for everyone. Mark and his new friend Dr. Alice Carter (Morena Baccarin, Firefly) and Dr. Carter's shifty ex-husband (Adam Baldwin, Serenity) will be forced to confront this Old Testament evil and, maybe, just maybe, survive…the sands of oblivion!!!
First things first. Holy Cow, Morena Baccarin is gorgeous.
Now that that's out of the way, how about Sand of Oblivion? It's not horrible, but let me qualify that with "for a SciFi original movie." That sounds like a dubious compliment and I suppose it is, but I've seen many, many, many S.O.M.s and this film is one of the most original out of that crop. The story is interesting and the mythology is surprisingly complicated, but never to complex for its own good. It gets a little close, when Exposition Man, who appears about an hour in, unloads the back story and everything from cursed Egyptian artifacts to Freemasonry makes an appearance.
Eventually, the narrative turns into a straight-forward chase film, as our heroes desperately try to outrun the evil pursuing them which has possessed one of the characters and turned him into an acne-ridden summoner of giant sand snakes and locust swarms. This represents the entire final third of the film, and it's also the most entertaining. You get a dune buggy chase and a frantic escape from evil insects and a sand tsunami and an inventive final battle scene at an Egyptian ruin. The flick really moves here and it has nice, comic touch that keeps things light and fun. That end sequence where Mark battles a hieroglyphic come to life is a real stand-out with a page borrowed from Young Sherlock Holmes and represents the best use of CGI in the film.
And I know it's hacky to beat up on the quality of the visual effects, especially in made-for-TV movies, but hey, we still have to fill some space—the CGI is uneven throughout Sands of Oblivion and that's putting it nicely. Some times the visual effects will look decent, that hieroglyphic smackdown for example, and the gore effects, which are nearly all computer rendered. And then you'll get some excruciating stuff like the sand cobra or the snakes that emerge from the ground or even some of the virtual exterior shots. On the other hand, the practical costuming and the creature design are cool.
Overall, is Sand of Oblivion worth seeking out? Probably not. The best the film does in the plot and character department is "decent" and the corny effects are a big minus. If you do find yourself roped into watching it, however, I don't think you'll be miserable.
Strong visual (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) and audio (5.1 surround) aspects will ensure that your system will appreciate the disc, but just one extra—a 10-minute making-of documentary—is disappointing.
Did I mention how gorgeous Morena Baccarin is?
Go stick your head in the sand for 15 minutes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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