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The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box Blu-ray Review

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2014) movie poster The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box

Theatrical Release: January 10, 2014 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Jonathan Newman / Writers: Christian Taylor, Matthew Huffman (screenplay); G.P. Taylor (novel Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box)

Cast: Aneurin Barnard (Mariah Mundi), Michael Sheen (Will Charity/The Great Bizmillah), Sam Neill (Otto Luger), Ioan Gruffudd (Charles Mundi), Keely Hawes (Catherine Mundi), Xavier Atkins (Felix Mundi), Lena Headey (Monica), Mella Carron (Sacha), Vincenzo Pellegrino (Grendel), Brian Sonny Nickels (Grimm), Oliver Stark (Glocky Boy), Tristan Gemmill (Isambard Black), Daniel Wilde (Cleavy), Rory Mullen (Sacha's Father), Sule Rimi (Chef), Richard Elfyn (Childers)

Buy The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD

The cast and title make The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box look like a basic cable TV movie. One could easily imagine TNT, airer of Noah Wyle's The Librarian movie series, producing, heavily advertising, and ultimately disappointing with this ambitious project. As a matter of fact, this film, a true independent attributed to more than a dozen international production companies,
was released to theaters, albeit just 82 of them and only for a week in mid-January. It comes to Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday from Image Entertainment.

Adapted from the first of three novels in G.P. Taylor's late-Noughties Mariah Mundi series, The Adventurer is set in 1885 London. There, brothers Mariah (Aneurin Barnard) and Felix Mundi (Xavier Atkins) are half-heartedly listening to their father (Fantastic Four's Ioan Gruffudd), an Oxford University professor, deliver a speech at a museum about something historical. Afterwards, Mariah is approached by Will Charity (Michael Sheen), a knowledgeable weirdo in need of medical assistance.

Eventually, Mr. Mundi and his wife, fellow professor Catherine (Keeley Hawes), are abducted by Otto Luger (Sam Neill), a collector of powerful artifacts, and his henchmen. The two Mundi children narrowly and dangerously escape their pursuers at home. Unable to find work or charity, they briefly end up in a reformatory, where they are rescued by a fully-healed Will Charity. He informs the brothers that he and their parents belong to a secret government agency called the Bureau of Antiquities that is designed to stop the plundering and theft of important relics.

Young hotel employees Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) and Sacha (Mella Carron) go on a daring adventure in "The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box."

Will informs them of Luger's quest for the Midas Box, a small but tremendously powerful chest that can turn anything to gold. It might also have the power to heal or to instantly extinguish; that part remains to be seen. What is certain is that Luger wants the box and that the two-piece amulet that Mrs. Mundi passed to her children before disappearing points to it. While Felix goes missing at the hands of Luger's goons, Mariah takes a job at the Prince Regent Hotel, an upscale establishment owned by Luger and managed by the fetching, hands-on Monica (Lena Headey).

No longer a boy but not quite yet a man, Mariah goes searching for his brother and the fabled box, finding an assistant in young hotel seamstress Sacha (Mella Carron) and another in the Great Bizmillah, an accomplished Russian magician performing at the hotel who you might recognize as something other than he claims.

The Adventurer is cinematically produced, shot and scored. It's comfortable in the 2.40:1 wide aspect ratio. Despite his filmography of domestic British comedies, director Jonathan Newman seems at ease with the large canvas and fantastical demands. After a solid first hour, though, the movie ceases to be interesting. By the time its tiresome climax begins, you've already checked out and have to assume the subtitle didn't imply we'd be seeing sequels to this.

Sam Neill doesn't always eat steak, but when he does, he addresses it in an evil monologue. Michael Sheen hams it up even more as the Great Bizmillah, a Russian magician you recognize as Will Charity in disguise long before anyone else.

There's just no way that this internationally funded English production can approach profitability. Though its estimated $25 million production budget is modest for big screen fantasy adventure, the film has grossed a grand total of $6,399 in North American theaters and another $7,981 in Lebanese ones. Consider that those revenues have to be split with theater owners. Also notice the five-digit Amazon sales ranks of Image's releases less than a week before street date, which cannot be acceptable at a time when home video sales continue to plummet.
What happens to that $25 million spent on the film? Where did it come from? Will any of it be recovered? I can't answer these questions, but I can tell you that if I were in film financing, this isn't a project I would have chosen to back. Maybe the film stands to find an audience in its native UK, though its lack of even a release date there does not hold promise.

All this is unfortunate for a movie that even at its worst remains better than the TV movie it looks like. It lacks the contemporary excitement of National Treasure, the period splendor and sharp action of Sherlock Holmes, and the distinctive fantasy and rich characters of Harry Potter, but at least it has ideas and a narrative you can care about. Top-billed Sheen enjoys hamming it up, especially when he dons an obvious fake nose and bizarre Eastern persona. Young Barnard, aptly cast as the spawn of Gruffudd, performs adequately in the lead role, though his voice seems to change sometimes from line to line. There are slight indications of reshoots and rewrites, which might explain why IMDb lists production as lasting an entire year.

A stupid, largely meaningless twist partway into the end credits suggests hopes for continuation, but they seem almost certainly misplaced now. And though The Adventurer is occasionally enjoyable in a corny, old-fashioned way, no one will cry if there are no additional adventures in this franchise.

The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($27.97 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Adventurer certainly looks like modern cinema on Blu-ray Disc. The 2.35:1 picture is sharp, immaculate, and sufficiently detailed. Per the Victorian settings, the visuals are often dark, but what color there is remains rich and deep. More impressive than the video is the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. Making use of all the speakers, this potent and immersive mix showcases the film's top-notch sound design. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Concept graphics envision the Victorian England streets created for the film. Sam Neill crouches under the title logo on The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box's Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's only bonus feature is an HD making-of featurette (20:43). It's got its share of diverting delusion:
the director describes it as filling the void left by the Harry Potter series, Michael Sheen voices hopes for sequels and a crew member overestimates the audience that will be taken on this journey. Otherwise, it provides the usual information, as actors describe their characters, behind-the-scenes location footage illustrates the joys and challenges of production, and crew members discuss the fun of crafting the film's Victorian setting, particularly Luger's hotel.

The scored menu plays clips in a rectangle next to a reworked bit of the cover art. The disc does not support bookmarks, but it does resume unfinished playback of the film.

An eye-catching embossed slipcover featuring the same artwork below tops the insert-less keepcase, whose disc label takes its imagery from the rear cover.

Have no fear! Will Charity (Michael Sheen) is here! Monica (Lena Headey) delights in measuring the shoulders of Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Adventurer goes roughly a full hour until becoming the generic, uninspired fantasy it looks like. This film starts promisingly enough, but loses your interest well before it's finished. It still manages to be a bit better than the cable TV movie you expect and the costly flop it is. Nonetheless, the fun it serves up is never enough to satisfy.

Image's Blu-ray provides terrific picture, even better sound and an unintentionally amusing making-of featurette. Though the best release the movie will get, it's not enough to deserve your time or money.

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Reviewed February 5, 2014.



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