So states the introductory titles of The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, an economically-produced attempt at a franchise kickoff that was barely released to theaters in 2013. Directed in workmanlike fashion by Jonathan Newman, it superficially replicates some of the atmosphere of the Indiana Jones films. English author G.P. Taylor wrote the Mariah Mundi young adult novel series upon which the film is based. While it’s unlikely to spawn any sequels (as originally hoped for), this Victorian Age caper is passably entertaining family fare that may appeal to pre- and early teen viewers.
Captain Will Charity (Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2) works for the Bureau of Antiquities, an organization dedicated to preventing the theft of supernatural artifacts. He’s closely following the search for the Midas Box, described in the opening titles. Dastardly Otto Luger (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park), England’s foremost dabbler in the magic arts, is hot on the trail of the box. Anyone with the power to literally create an endless supply of gold also has the power to collapse the economy and control the world’s wealth.
As the young hero Mariah Mundi, Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard looks distractingly like Elijah Wood. That aside, he doesn’t convey a terribly interesting screen presence. Barnard isn’t well known to U.S. audiences (he is apparently quite acclaimed for his stage and film work in the U.K.) and The Adventurer isn’t likely to serve as a breakthrough. Mariah and his younger brother Felix (Xavier Atkins) are put in a great deal of danger when their mother, Catherine (Keeley Hawes), gives each of them one half of an amulet needed to open the Midas Box once it’s found. Catherine and her husband, Charles (Ioan Gruffudd), are in fact agents of the Bureau of Antiquities as well. When Felix is abducted, Mariah is introduced to Captain Charity and has his mind blown when informed of the depth of the plot he’s now involved in.
It’s all, quite frankly, a little difficult to follow and probably could’ve benefited from some serious streamlining of the plot. It all brings to mind another U.K. young adult novel adaptation, Stormbreaker, which also failed to find an audience. The Adventurer takes a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a pinch from the Harry Potter films, a dose of National Treasure, and on and on. In other words, it’s too derivative for its own good. The cast is somnambulant; not only Barnard and Sheen, but also Mella Carron as Mariah’s seamstress sidekick Sacha. Only old pro Sam Neill brings any real life to his character. Even so, there’s a level of competence throughout that keeps The Adventurer afloat. There’s just enough pep in its step to satisfy some of the less discerning youth audience it’s aimed at. The PG rating is well deserved, too, as this is a mild adventure—safe for all viewers, no matter how young.
The Blu-ray from RLJ/Image Entertainment is quite strong. Unax Mendía’s digital cinematography is moodily evocative. It looks splendid here, with deep, solid black levels—especially important, as much of the film unfolds in darkness. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also extremely satisfying. It’s not especially immersive, but the rear channels are smartly employed for key moments. Fernando Velázquez’s pensive score is spread nicely throughout the surround mix as well.
The sole special feature is “The Making of The Adventurer,” a 20-minute piece that includes the standard mix of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and film clips. It’s entirely promotional in nature, but they make no bones about the fact that this was intended as a “new” Harry Potter-type franchise. Ultimately, whether due to screenwriters Christian Taylor and Matthew Huffman or director Jonathan Newman (or more likely a combination of various participants), the thrills and derring-do required for a movie like this were unfortunately mostly left out.