Sinbad and the Minotaur (2011)
Directed by Karl Zwicky
My favorite tale of Greek mythology is that of the Minotaur. It’s also the one tale of Greek mythology Hollywood can’t ever seem to do proper justice to. Is it really so hard to make a rock solid adaptation of this story? It amazes me that no enterprising producers out there have figured this out yet in this day of pandering to the tweener audience. It's about teenagers being sent down into a foreboding labyrinth to be sacrificed to a hideous half-man/half-bull monster; one handsome teen vows to end this cycle of death and succeeds in doing so with the help of the evil king's beautiful daughter.
Sure, I can see why some may scoff, what with the ultimate undoing of King Minos and his maze of Minotaurian horror involving the simple use of string, but this is a story loaded with action, adventure, horror, tragedy, and romance; and best of all the source material comes with instant name recognition and is public domain. Taylor Lautner as Theseus, running around lush Mediterranean settings in a loin cloth, romancing Vanessa Hudgens as the princess longing to escape her cruel father’s clutches and saving his fellow teens from a horrifying fate by slaying a man-bull in catacombs of Saw-quality dankness; does that not sound like a license to print money? But while the world awaits word that production has begun on Minolight, those of us looking for our Minotaur fix will just have to settle for the likes of Sinbad and the Minotaur.
Which brings me to a major beef I have with too many Minotaur movies of recent years. The Minotaur is a man with the head of a bull - not an enormous mutant bull. The Minotaur depicted here is nothing more than a monstrously large bull of conveniently shifting size with spiky armor plating and glowing demon eyes. I cannot say I’m a fan of this variation of the Minotaur design. I’d rather a barbarian with a bull head than a dodgy digital effect of a supernatural stag that looks like a beast Skeletor should be riding around Eternia on.
Now the part many of you are probably wondering about right now is what the hell Sinbad the Sailor of Arabian Nights lore is doing battling a monster of Greek mythology. Why not? If Hercules can fight the Minotaur, then Sinbad the Sailor can, too. Robin Hood and the Minotaur; now that might be a stretch. I'd be a little miffed if I were Theseus since he hardly ever gets to be the hero in the legend he is only famous for.
Just as I prefer my Minotaur to look like a man-bull, I also prefer my Sinbad the Sailor to not look like he works out at Conan the Barbarian's gym. The fanciful swashbuckling sailor is played by jacked-up New Zealander Manu Bennett. Bennett currently plays “Crixus” on the Starz “Spartacus” series so he’s certainly accustomed to the time period and the attire. His Sinbad is a snarkier version of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules, all well and good since with a few tweaks to the script, Sinbad and the Minotaur could have easily passed as a two-part episode of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”.
It is rather amazing how a movie made in 2010, even a low budget sword and sorcery flick no doubt destined for Syfy, can look and feel no different than a 15-year-old rerun of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” right down to dialogue that sounds too modern and caves that look an awful lot like they're comprised of plaster and tarp. In trying to recreate the feel of "Hercules" and "Xena", it manages to get everything right except for the proper sense of fun and excitement. For lack of any better words, the storyline simply sucks and the budgetary restrictions do not allow for enough action or effects to compensate for it. I came close to nodding off several times during Sinbad and the Minotaur. That's a damn shame because it really does have its heart in the right place, and the enthusiasm on the part of the cast is undeniable.
The story is centered around Sinbad's quest to find the severed head of the Colossus of Rhodes. I think his intent was to melt the statue's head for gold or something; it strikes me as something of an impractical treasure considering its enormity. His search leads him to the camp of a wicked sorcerer named Al-Jibar (Grives) from whom he needs to steal some object that when combined with another object will reveal the locale where the decapitated statue head can be found. More importantly, Tara (Brisley), one of Al-Jibar’s midriff-baring harem wenches, assists Sinbad in exchange for rescuing her from her despised master. As potential love interests, Sinbad and Tara end up exchanging sassy dialogue as if they’re Sam and Diane from “Cheers”.
Sinbad, his “Iolas”-like sidekick, Tara, and the rest of his underdeveloped crew who all might as well be wearing red shirts sail to the island where the monstrous Minotaur wound up after King Minos of Crete was overthrown (poorly explained in the opening minutes). In the annals of Sinbad movies Sinbad and the Minotaur could very well mark the first Sinbad the Sailor flick where the mythical man hardly spends any actual time, you know, sailing. There's one brief sequence on a boat, and that's pretty much it. Otherwise, he's Hercules/Conan/Ator with a darker tan.
Al-Jibar and his unkillable ghoulish henchman are in hot pursuit. Revenge and fortune initially on his mind, Al-Jibar ends up going stark-raving power mad as all evil sorcerers are bound to do eventually. Bigger trouble arises for everyone good and evil when it turns out the island's inhabitants are all pagan worshippers that sprout horns when paying tribute to their bull god residing within the local volcano. More people will get gored to death on the horns of a charging bull than at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona.
For a film written with a certain degree of Stephen Sommers puerility, Sinbad and the Minotaur gets shockingly bloody at times. Might as well have gone the full Deathstalker route and loaded the film up with sex and nudity as well instead of making what amounts to a family film that really isn't appropriate for the whole family.
1 1/2 out of 5
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