Shortland nails the film’s spy-action component; it has a good tone and pace, the fights and set pieces are all well done, the comedy is well placed (see the awkward helicopter reunion after prison break), and the VFX looks good, save for in the sky. Despite good performances, the family drama has more issues; for such a traumatic and complex situation that’s steeped for 20+ years, the attempts at laughs feel misguided, and the dinner table scene does not come close to justifying the resolve.
Despite great turns from the three leads, it initially comes off feeling a little long, cold, and empty (though the style is fabulous–see the elaborate costumes and sets contrasted with the curt, crass dialogue; the marvelous cinematography and editing–love those fish-eye shots and slow cross-fades). Upon further rumination though the chilling arc for Stone’s Abigail comes into focus, as does the intriguing commentary on the volatile mix of political power games with romance and relationships.
The deadpan delivery of this disturbing dystopia is darkly witty and effectively creepy but starts to wear a little thin near the middle–but then in a brilliant move, the madness reaches its blood-on-the-bathroom-floor pinnacle, someone breaks (emotionally and literally, making a break for it), the pendulum swings, and the weird world is expanded. Strikingly shot and scored, this film raises fascinating questions on relationships and identity. Could’ve done without most of the narration though.
The script reaches new levels of ridiculousness (mummified pygmies, dog armies, a woefully neglected child), which bring with them new levels of cringe-worthy CGI (I nearly vomited in my mouth upon seeing the reincarnated Scorpion King) and green screen scenes (see the flight over Egypt, standing on the pyramid). Decent action/adventure set pieces and a few self-aware quips courtesy of the self-preserving Uncle Jon (“Ah, the old ‘wipe out the world’ ploy”) keep this from being a total wreck.
Cheesy, in some bad ways and some good ways: The opening historical background sequence is just horrendous in its melodrama, dated CGI, and outlandish “Egyptian” costumes, and these things occasionally pop up again, but the over-the-top characters (see Weisz’ awkward British lass, the trigger-happy, bourbon-drinking Americans) and goofy sense of humour (“You probably won’t live through it” *happily* “You really think so?”) combines well with the spooky adventure tale for an overall fun watch.