Review: Sahara

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  April 8, 2005 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

Dirk Pitt is probably one of the best kept secrets in adventure fiction today. Novelist Clive Cussler created the heart-throb deep sea adventurer in 1973's "The Mediterranean Caper", which launched 18 adventures for the popular character. It wasn't until 1983's "Pacific Vortex" that Dirk Pitt's first adventure was revealed.

"Sahara" is definitely one of the most famous and popular books of the Dirk Pitt series, but it's no place to start when introducing a new audience to this character. It would be like making From Russia with Love first.

Sahara also isn't the first incarnation of Dirk Pitt to hit the silver screen. The first attempt to bring this adventurer to screen was 1980's Raise the Titanic, which starred the late Richard Jordan as Pitt.

Dirk Pitt's creator never started at the beginning and it worked for both James Bond and Indiana Jones, so what happened?

Sahara is the 11th Dirk Pitt adventure in the series and the filmmakers decided to drop the audience right into Pitt's world. Pitt, this time played by rugged Matthew McConaughey, has been obsessed with tracking down an infamous Civil War battleship known as the "Ship of Death". Just as he gets his closest clue yet, Pitt rescues Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz) a W.H.O. doctor from a gang of thugs. Pitt learns that the doctor has stumbled upon a growing epidemic that is sweeping across Africa. And in some sort of twist of fate, both the epidemic and the ancient battleship seem to be linked. What secrets will both adventures reveal?

Sahara in its silver-screen incarnation has been reduced to something that resembles Jake Speed; or a tamer Further Adventures of Tennessee Buck; or basically a very sandy and sloppy Indiana Jones rip-off; or is it a James Bond rip-off? You decide.

Rookie director Breck Eisner seems to know how to map out action sequences, but really has no idea how to pull a story together. That could also be the fault of the 4 screenwriters who cobbled this film together. How can it take four extra writers to produce a script, based on already produced material, without an origin sequence or explanation?

Because the message board opening is so effective. Pay attention class, there will be a quiz later.

I guess by about half way through the film, I found myself locking my brain away in the back of my head. I found myself really enjoying the chemistry between McConaughey and his sidekick Steve Zahn. I loved the stranded-in-the-desert sequence and most of the solar plant scenes.

Then it just seemed to go no where.

I really liked McConaughey as the action hero, especially when he allowed for his hero to get beaten by every guy he had to fight. It was never really easy for him. I also really enjoyed Steve Zahn as the comic sidekick to McConaughey's straight-faced hero. These two were great and I kind of wished that they would come back for another Dirk Pitt movie that would be smarter, thrilling, and intense like a Dirk Pitt adventure is supposed to be.

I have always thought of Dirk Pitt as closer to Doc Savage than James Bond. Not only is Pitt pulled into the adventure, but so are the people around him, whereas Bond is more of a lone wolf. Doc Savage had his associates and Dirk Pitt has his crew.

It really is a shame this film was so sloppy and didn't finally give Dirk Pitt a home on the silver screen. Maybe the next time. (2.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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