The adventure film genre seems to be a dying one. Today, it seems like the genre is largely clumped in together with the action film genre, and very few true adventure films are being released anymore. For the most part, an adventure film is one that displays high energy, usually in a plotline involving a quest for lost content or a treasure hunt of sorts. The prime example that always comes to mind for me is Raiders of the Lost Ark, which established the character of Indiana Jones as one of the most iconic ever.
Still, since maybe the early 2000’s, the genre has produced a lot less offerings. Most family films seemingly started to gear more towards comedy than adventure, which gives these films a much more broad audience. Trying to bring back the genre in a way is The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and while it’s far from being a great offering from the genre, it is a solid throwback to adventure films from the past.
Mariah Mundi’s life is turned upside down when his parents and brother are kidnapped. With the help of his father’s friend, they follow a trail to Prince Regent Hotel, where the hidden Midas Box artifact may lie.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the film is the performance of Michael Sheen. Sheen is a great talent, who has given great performances in weighty films like The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and the underrated The Damned United. Also, he has shown that he can have a great deal of fun in an out-of-the-box role, most memorably in Tron Legacy in which he steals the film as this crazy night club DJ. Here, he delivers more of that fun loving energy.
Sheen is just having a blast here, playing this Sherlock Holmes-type eccentric government agent. Sheen really is able to ride a fine line between showing his fun-loving nature, and not going overboard and hamming it up. Many overlook these kind of performances in films like this, but finding that balance is something even great actors in serious roles can not do. He is just a very versatile talent who needs to be given more roles.
Supporting him also is a cast that holds their own. Young Aneurin Barnard is given the task of being the lead, and he is largely able to hold his own. He shows a real sense of being this kind of relatable person stuck in this unordinary adventure, while not being overwhelmed by his supporting cast. Both Sam Neill and Lena Headley have played mustache twirling villains in the past, and execute that cliche in a very fun way as well.
Directing an adventure film is never an easy task. There really is a lot to manage for a film in the genre to work, which is why many adventure films just simply do not work. Director Jonathan Newman has not directed much of note, but here Newman gives a solid effort. He is able to give this film a swift pace, a consistent tone, and direct the action setpieces of the film very well. To me, those are the essentials to making an adventure film work.
Newman also does a nice job of making this film always quite fun. It’s clear that The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is inspired by the Saturday Morning Adventures of the past, and very much has that same kind of entertainment factor. Both kids and adults can enjoy this film equally, which is rare to see in most films targeted towards family audiences.
Still, this film often times suffers from issues that plague adventure films. This film presents an interesting and unique Victorian setting, but the script does a really poor job of fleshing it out. Adapting a novel by the same name, Christian Taylor and Matthew Huffman present many inconsistencies in the world they set up here. There are some odd occurrences that do not make sense from what this world establishes. It feels like the writers are stuck deciding if this should be more fantastical or realistic.
This film at times is restricted by its budget. This film was developed largely by independent studios, so executing a film to this scale can be quite the challenge. There are moments where these limitations are apparent, from really bad CGI to awkwardly put in green screen. It just seems like there would be ways to cut some of these scenes out, as a few of the really awkward CGI moments serve little purpose to the story as a whole.
Back to the script; the story here is really lackluster. Essentially, this film creates a very mundane adventure storyline. There is some sort of hidden artifact that the good guys want to find to keep safe from the bad guys. The item being looked for here is the Midas Box, which is about as generic as you can get. Once you see what this thing does in the end of the film, it makes this item kind of insane and nonsensical.
Plaguing the film mostly, though, is that it follows the cliches of adventure films to a tee. All of the subplots you have seen from any adventure film are present here, from the generic love story to the characters’ motives. It’s just kind of disappointing when the screenplay here largely craps out, when mostly everything else present works so well. It holds the film back from being a really good adventure film.
As it stands, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box is a fun Saturday morning adventure film, whose screenplay woes keep it from being anything too memorable. Still worth a watch if you are searching for an adventure flick.
Take a Drink: for each cliche
Do a Shot: during the dreadful flying cards scene
Do a Shot: for Sam Neill’s mustache-twirling villain actually having a mustache