As the water levels rise and threaten to cover the Earth, the Catholic Church contracts a father-and-son salvage team to retrieve an ancient, world-saving artifact before it falls into the hands of an evil tycoon. It sounds like the setup for an awesomely bad adventure pulp, but sadly it’s just Lost City Raiders, the latest Sci Fi Original Movie to be inflicted on the television watching public. Sci Fi hopes you’ll tune in tomorrow night because it looks like a rousing adventure with an important message. Unfortunately, it’s neither. Mild spoilers ahead.
The Sci Fi Channel has comically billed Lost City Raiders as a combination of two critically panned movies: Waterworld and The Da Vinci Code. In the opening sequence, “Pa” Rubiah (Josh Brolin) tells us that global warming has caused the polar ice caps to melt, and the sea levels have risen to cover most of the Earth. Now the world’s only hope is…the Catholic Church. A group of friendly neighborhood cardinals operating in the city of New Rome have contracted Rubiah and his sons Jack (Ian Somerhalder) and Thomas (Jamie Thomas King) to find a scepter, which, legend says, will lead them to ancient technology that will save the world. And, they have to find it before a generically evil businessman (Ben Cross) can use it to for his own selfish gains. The movie can be forgiven for being packed with stock characters; we’ve got the wise old salt dad, the rebellious action man son, the technologically proficient other son, the hot girl mechanic, the hot lady scientist, and, of course, the villainous capitalist. But the film suffers the mortal B-movie sin of being dull. The plot is contrived to drag its four most attractive leads to the ultimate world-saving discovery, the acting is wooden where over-the-top would suffice, and the archeological exploration scenes lack the tension of its obvious influences: films like National Treasure and the Indiana Jones franchise. Perhaps most unforgivably, the movie fails to deliver on its promise of mutant sharks. Early on, deep sea diving Jack is warned that a mutant shark is on his tail. Presumably, these sharks were created by the same kind of human negligence that caused the polar ice caps to melt. But what do mutant sharks look like? Are they hideously deformed? Can they shoot lasers from their eyes?
Apparently, the filmmakers blew their budget on underwater green screen scenes and creating the submerged buildings perpetually in the background, because all we get is stock footage sharks. I guess maybe they’re bigger than non-mutant sharks. The movie is airing tomorrow as part of NBC’s Green Week, and the actors and marketers have harped on the film’s important message regarding climate change. But the global warming of Lost City Raiders looks strangely appealing. Where we would expect to see overcrowding and food shortages, we instead get a world where people get around by boats and everyone lives near the beach. I mean, the leads sit around in lovely restaurants drinking champagne.
And, if the humanity of the movie is saved, it won't be by science or changing its ways. It’ll be saved by the ancient knowledge of a religious institution, while threatened by business interests. The takeaway point seems to be: Church good, business bad, modern science irrelevant. Ultimately, the most frightening thing about Lost City Raiders isn’t the threat of global warming, but the possibility of a sequel.