Under The Mountain (2009)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Jonathan King
Writers Matthew Grainger, Jonathan King
Starring Tom Cameron, Sophie McBride, Sam Neill
Genre Young Adult
Tagline Believe in the power of two
15 second cap Gingers must ignite dormant volcanoes to save Auckland and the world from evil aliens.


After the death of their mother twins Theo and Rachel are sent to Auckland to live with their Uncle and Aunt. Were you aware that Auckland is built on seven extinct volcanoes? - if not you will be by the end of this movie as it's apparently the one topic of conversation all JAFAs share. Anyway, not soon after arriving the twins suffer through a minor earth tremor, hey from the Bay that would be a minor one for us, become intrigued by the enigmatic Wilberforce house just across the lake, and run into the mysterious Mr Jones.

The Twins quickly learn their destiny is to defeat an evil alien force, the Wilberforce clan, with the help of a good alien, Mr Jones. Oh and they have super powers based on their bond as twins. Naturally it's not going to be as easy as lobbing a magical stone into an extinct volcano and bringing it back to life to destroy an alien power, the Wilberforces are not going to go quietly into that dark night. Can Ginger power overcome Alien gross?

First up confession time, no I haven't read the Maurice Gee novel of the same name that the movie is derived from, and no I haven't seen the mini series TV NZ put out a few decades ago. So I was going into this one blind, although I would add that people need to view the movie as separate from the book, they are two entirely different mediums with entirely different requirements on their paths to entertainment. The requirement here was to get my Young Adult on and see if Jonathan King could deliver something entertaining for the tweens, teens are simply too cynical to go with a message movie in the modern era.

I have to say the script was entertaining and the plot had me involved fairly early in the piece, and maintained that involvement right to the final scene. While the actual message behind the movie is somewhat laboured, Disney would have made it more so, the movie romps along throwing spills and thrills at the audience as we gradually learn just what is going down. A couple of young people have to overcome their own disbelief, battle cosmic forces, and cast the ring into a stone into an extinct volcano on an Island off the coast of Auckland. It's pretty involving stuff and Jonathan King is all over the requirements.

While primarily the movie is a fantasy tinged with Sci-Fi outing, Director King goes to his horror grab bag to add some darker tunes to the opera. Some pretty gnarly creature transformations and organic backdrops from Wheta Studios, a house that looks like it should be spook central, and our main characters in danger from gross looking Aliens. Awesome stuff and I certainly enjoyed the darker ride King delivered than is apparently available in the earlier adaptation or the source novel. Keeping in mind even the target Audience are unlikely to be hiding behind the sofa at any stage, and the blood don't run. There's still a dark and brooding nature to some of the scenes, particularly in the Wilberforce house, with Director King managing to throw his leads into harms way without the Audience simply waiting on them to escape unscathed ready to rock in the next scene. The Director surprisingly does manage to leverage some tension at differing stages.

While Director King has his dark genre mojo on, well as far as possible given the source material, he and fellow script writer Matthew Grainger are well aware of their Audience and don't stint for one moment in having the Falstaff of the piece, the twin's cousin, spending time trying to score with his girlfriend. Humour here is used to tone down the darker aspects of the movie, though they don't distract from some pretty entertaining effects, a car made from organic material for example. The social message is there for anyone who decides to dial into it, oh bliss non warring siblings, but isn't pushed to the detriment of other aspects of the movie.

For older Audience members, or those who need explosions every five minutes to compensate for their short attention spans, Under The Mountain might be a slight chore to get through. Weta deliver the special effects, Jonathan King doesn't allow his movie to drag at any stage, and we get good performances from new comers Tom Cameron and Sophie McBride, but things still remain geared to Young Adults. Guess the movie is caught in the vortex know as “family entertainment” that the House of Mouse gave a real bad name to. There's a slight feel of plastic to things with actions and dialogue geared down to the target demographics rather than being perfectly natural. Poor Mr Neill in particular has to deliver some overly dramatic lines that sound to older Audience members slightly too pompous.

All in all I had a good time with Under The Mountain, the effects were a whole bunch better than I expected, and the Acting was well above average. While the hint of popcorn and cookie cutter permutated throughout, the movie doesn't take itself overly seriously and romps along to the pyrotechnics that surprise at the end. A good fun movie with a darker edge, perfect for those rainy Saturday afternoons when you need to entertain young folk.

If after additional information then hit NZ Videos to get the full skinny. While there check out the comprehensive listing of Kiwi films, many of them dark genre efforts. Kia Ora Charles!

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Family entertainment that pretty much hits the spot.