Can you make a decent fantasy movie on a budget? Under the Mountain is proof that you can with its well-developed characters and interesting story. Although his previous movie Black Sheep was a beautiful bloody mess, Jonathan King decided to try something different here. And while this is clearly a movie for kids, adults can enjoy it too. It’s a perfect dose of escapism from your everyday routine plus it might trigger some memories from your childhood. Well, you know what I mean. On the other hand, I must admit that there’s some pretty good body horror here and I wonder how they got the PG-12 rating for it.
Despite the budgetary restraints, Under the Mountain looks good. The special effects are rare but very well done and believable. Mostly because they remained firmly focused on the beautiful New Zealand landscapes. You might remember them from many great movies but the Lord of the Rings trilogy comes to mind first. The color palette is quite vivid and has this nice dreamy vibe to it. I also love that the story is taking place in a modern environment. This means that kids can perhaps rediscover their natural surroundings and look at them differently. Although I think that’s perhaps too optimistic.
The thing that made Under the Mountain stands out among countless copies is the fact that it’s based on a novel. This gave enough identity and depth to make it engaging, at least to some of the audiences (younger). They will probably miss the problems with dialogue that seem to occasionally surface during the movie and enjoy a bit slower pace. I also have to say that I envy so much these little fuckers. I mean, the scenery and their lives are just so fucking beautiful and perfect that you can’t feel something. How come this didn’t happen to some poor working-class family I wonder? I know, I know, this is not a place for that kind of a rant but I had to say something.
Evil beings called Wilberforces have tried many decades ago to destroy the Earth with the help of giant monsters called Gargantua. However, the Fire Raisers trapped them under the lakes and volcanoes of New Zealand. Somehow The Wilberforces awoke from their slumber and now they threaten to turn Earth into an inhospitable place where no human can survive.
With a runtime of just ninety minutes, Under the Mountain is a short and sweet affair. The cast did a terrific job led by a veteran of many battles Sam Neill. Tom and Sophie, our two main characters were also great and I think they have a great future in movies. One of the main things that bothered me here is the lack of suspense. As the story unfolds you can kind of guess where it’s going and it soon becomes quite dull and boring. However, they couldn’t stray much from the source material and I guess that’s something we will have to accept. So, if you’re up for some easygoing fantasy fun, check out Under the Mountain. And if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend Hunt for the Wilderpeople also starring Sam Neill.
Director: Jonathan King
Writers: Maurice Gee, Matthew Grainger, Jonathan King
Cast: Sam Neill, Matt Gillanders, Gareth Reeves, Oliver Driver, Sophie McBride, Madeleine Sami, Tom Cameron
Fun Stuff: Remake of TV series “Under the Mountain” (1982) – Kirsty Wilkinson, the former child actress, who originally portrayed Rachel, made her cameo appearance as Mr. Jones’ Neighbour.