Raiders of Atlantis | Varied Celluloid

Raiders of Atlantis

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 20 - 2010

The Plot: Our film opens in the distant future of 1994, where we follow mercenaries Mike (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammed (Tony King) as they are paid by a colonel to kill a man for $50,000. After pulling this job successfully, the two plan on getting away and heading to Trinidad until the heat blows over. At the same time, we follow Dr. Cathy Rollins (Gioia Scola), a expert in pre-Colombian dialects, who is brought aboard a rig located in the Atlantic ocean. She is brought in by the US government who has placed Dr. Saunders (George Hilton) responsible for her. Saunders asks Rollins to decipher a tablet that is dated over 12,000 years old and was recently found on the ocean’s floor. After some quick research, Dr. Rollins decides that this tablet could very well prove the existence of Atlantis itself! When the scientists begin diving for more research and using a submarine to possibly lift Atlantis, the great underwater paradise rises from the ocean’s floor. When it rises, the rig is destroyed and leaves Dr. Rollins and a select few stranded. Mike and Mohammed, on their way to Trinidad, find them floating and soon this group is off and traveling. They stumble upon San Pedro island where Manuel, Mike’s friend and guide, goes insane and tries to kill them. On San Pedro, the island has been turned into a war zone, bodies are strung up on buildings, and the streets are empty. A gang known as The Interceptors are killing off the entire population. Now Mike, Mohammed and the two doctors have to find a way to survive and put an end to this curse from Atlantis!


The Review
Ruggero Deodato is a filmmaker of special interest to me. He seems to be a filmmaker who always wanted to do more and make films that were better than his particular staple of genre cinema, but failed more often than not. With that said, his films are almost always genuine in their entertainment value and he has never delved completely into hack territory from what I have seen (and I have seen more than your common fan). Deodato’s main calling card has always been and always will be his greatest success: Cannibal Holocaust, but his filmography is littered with works of interest for fans of Italian trash cinema. With even his worst films, such as the dreadful Body Count, his work had a viable atmosphere that retained at least some level of respectability. Between the years 1980-1985, Deodato made his greatest and most consistent string of films. With Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park, Raiders of Atlantis and Cut & Run Deodato ostensibly solidified his name in the pantheon of great Italian genre filmmakers. Looking at this list of films, I absolutely see that with each successive film his work was becoming more and more diluted, but Raiders of Atlantis catches Deodato before the well had gone completely dry.

While Cut & Run is likely my least favorite of this impressive run, I give it credit for its rather clear narrative comportment. With Raiders of Atlantis, a film I find infinitely more entertaining, I can not deny how utterly ridiculous this whole project is. From a critical standpoint, no this is not a “good” movie. The special effects are laughable, some of the acting is atrocious and the general plot is made up entirely of head scratching moments that deny probability. Yet, when this movie finally decides to get up and start moving, it does so with a unabashed sense of urgency that can’t be denied. The first half of Raiders of Atlantis is comprised of establishing information primarily, but it still comes off entirely as fluff. We know next to nothing about the characters of Mike Hall or his companion Mohammed/Washington, despite their being our leads. So, it becomes rather difficult to say that the first half is dedicated to character exposition when we aren’t entirely sure what it is that our lead characters do for a living. It is obvious that we watch Mohammed and Mike commit murder and we see them collect money for doing so, apparently from a colonel, but how did they get wrapped up in this business? Are they mercenaries? What has happened with these men to have lead them to this? Do they have families? How long have they been doing this? Are they cruel? There is very little time spent explaining who these men are, despite it being crucial in understanding the characters.

Raiders of Atlantis is a rare combination of post-apocalyptic stereotypes, some jungle survival and science fiction mystery. Taking place eleven years in the future (why 1994?), the film attempts to grab the audience with its science fiction angle early on. This ultimately fails because setting your movie in such a near-future doesn’t show much change in the landscape. Maybe military killings, such as the one Mike and Mohammed commit, are the usual in this near-future? Well, if that were true I suppose our two heroes would have no need to run off into hiding. It is interesting that we ultimately get to “see” the process of this apocalypse, as opposed to a film being set in the distant future where gangs already traverse the landscape. That unfortunately doesn’t make up for this bizarre version of 1994 that looks a LOT like 1983. No, I’m afraid there isn’t much special about this future world, other than Atlantis being dug up. Mentioning the inevitable rise of Atlantis brings up another inconsistency in the movie that becomes apparent early on, because now I have to mention the special FX work.

Deodato reveals his lack of technique in the world of science fiction as we see Atlantis raised from the bed of the ocean. A director more experienced in this form of special FX may have been able to save some of these scenes, but as it is Raiders… features some of the absolute worst miniature FX on record. You begin to understand how brilliant a filmmaker Ishiro Honda was, that his Godzilla movies and giant monster flicks could still look so good fifty years later, when a movie made recently in comparison could look so awful. In the book Cannibal Holocaust and the Savage Cinema of Ruggero Deodato, the writers correctly described the FX work as “boat in a bath tub stuff”. The “waves” that come rushing towards the camera have no frothy edge to them like you would expect in such a mammoth tidal wave, the props are lacking in detail and the sequences overall come across as embarrassing. Still, for b-movie fans looking for a laugh, there are plenty to be had here.

In completely opposite fashion however, Deodato delivers some of the best action set pieces I have ever seen in an Italian film. There is a great chase sequence that takes place on a bus as our leading man tries to evade a helicopter, but it enters into the realm of ridiculous Jackie Chan style stunt work as we see the character of Mike having to climb on top of the speeding bus in order to shoot down the helicopter. We also see an assassin jumping FROM the helicopter on to the speeding bus in courageous fashion. If that was not daring enough, Mike also has to climb aboard a moving helicopter from atop the parked bus just a few short minutes later. This is simply one sequence in a second half that is filled to the brim with shootouts and various moments of gore thrown in to spruce things up. The gore shouldn’t be overhyped, this being a film from Mr. Cannibal Holocaust himself, but there are a few choice moments throughout; including a excellent decapitation as well as an arrow through the throat.


The Conclusion
There are other interesting aspects I should probably cover. The film features George Hilton in a supporting role, and despite the fact that he doesn’t get to do a whole lot he still manages to be his charismatic self. The backdrops that Deodato shoots in are also pretty amazing and he does a swell job in making San Pedro appear as a nightmarish post-war landscape using very few sets. The bits that ultimately take place on Atlantis, a landscape that deeply resembles the Amazon, are equally as amazing to look at. The general plot for this one might not make sense from even the most basic of points, but all of the tiny little things add up to an entertaining ninety minutes that really shouldn’t be passed up by Eurocult fans. I give it a solid three out of five that teeters on the edge of a four. Definitely check this one out!




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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