The 9 Most Scathing Critical Responses to James Cameron's Sanctum

Our own Stephanie Zacharek warned you away from the waterlogged cave-bound 3D cheese that is James Cameron's (executive-produced Avatar technology-wasting favor-to-a-friend) Sanctum, and she's not alone: many more esteemed critics made it through the Aussie survival adventure with their spirits, eyeballs, and attention spans barely intact. Some saw Sanctum's terrible B-movie dialogue as amusing unintentional camp; will you be so lucky? Rappel down to the depths of Sanctum's most scathing critiques and survey the rocky terrain ahead.

9. "The writing really is bad in this film, and even talented actors such as Ioan Gruffudd (a Welshman, faking a generic American dialect) and his fellow adventurer played by Alice Parkinson (Australian, faking the same) come off as rank amateurs. Everyone screams and panics and spews cliches, constantly, whether the context is hubris ("This cave's not gonna beat me!") or portents of doom ("This cave'll kill you in a heartbeat") or expositional duhs ("The cave is flooding!") or, after the latest round of hypothermia or petty infighting, some hard-won advice to Those Who Will Go On To Tell The Story ("Trust the cave, and follow the river"). -- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

8. "Wait until the people who thought Avatar had a weak story get a load of this. Cardboard characters, laughable dialogue and performances that wouldn't pass muster on syndicated television collide with a rudimentary plot and less-than-suspenseful action sequences for a film that's almost ridiculous enough to find a cult following as a great bad movie." -- Geoff Berkshire, Metro Mix

7. "Sanctum should be studied in film classes as an example of inadequate film continuity... The movie is a case study in how not to use 3-D. ... I wonder if people will go to Sanctum thinking the James Cameron name is a guarantee of high-quality 3-D. Here is a movie that can only harm the reputations of Cameron and 3-D itself." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

6. "It's The Descent, only supplanting flesh-eating monsters with rising water levels. If that doesn't sound quite as exciting, it's because it isn't." -- Matt Risley, Sky Movies

5. " becomes the stage for what cringingly plays out like a community theater production of The Poseidon Adventure. Only someone who hasn't witnessed The Abyss would dare call Alister Grierson's film visionary." -- Ed Gonzales, Slant Magazine

4. "Whatever his faults as a filmmaker may be, Cameron would never make an adventure flick that felt this bland and generic. When it isn't killing off its characters one-by-one during a cave-diving expedition gone wrong, Sanctum resembles a Hemingway short story without the story part. Or an episode of Flipper without the dolphin." -- Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

3. "It's full of one-dimensional characters doing improbably brave things in a 3-D world, delivering lines like: 'Panic's the vulture that sits on your shoulder' and 'Life's not a rehearsal, Josh. You've got to seize the day.' Avatar suddenly sounds like Shakespeare." -- Steve Persall, St. Petersburg Times

2. "'I am not wearing the wet suit of a dead person!' thunders a character in the 3D underwater adventure Sanctum, and all you can think as an audience member is a) well, at least that's a line I've never heard before, b) said character is doomed, and c) Wet Suits of the Dead would be a good name for a band. As the movie drags on, and more characters are revealed to be doomed, Sanctum emerges as one big advertisement for staying home -- away from underwater caves, and away from the multiplexes." -- Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

1. "Cameron is not the big fish in charge, just bait for the mass audience. As he Tweeted from a junket last week: 'Right now it's a #Sanctum promotion (I'm such a ho).'" -- Richard Corliss, Time Magazine


  • Martini Shark says:

    Am I the only one who always double-takes because that initially reads to me as "James Cameron's Scrotum", or is that Freudian on my part? (Either case, I would not watch.)

  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    We know it's about a watery cave -- and have already heard that it's crap -- so I think our Freudian unconscious probably took it more as "The 9 Most Scathing Critical Responses to James Cameron’s Rectum." But I'm a pre-Oedipal man myself, which usually means no hearing of cave, sanctuary, or auditorium without recalling the womb and the later-term water-wrestling with the denying, suffocating placenta.

  • Jen Yamato says:

    I've been reading it as "Sphincter," though Rectum and Scrotum are much closer. Same difference, in the end.

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