Prisoners Of The Sun
Three Stars (out of five)
2013. Released by Phase 4 Films. Running time 90 minutes. Not rated. Equipped with closed captions. This was reviewed on July 9, 2014.

Trust me, I know my way around creepy tombs! When I say we're screwed, I mean it! With a name like Prisoners of the Sun, I initially thought this film was a World War Two era drama about POWs being held in a Japanese prison camp. But it turns out to be closer in spirit to Indiana Jones meets the Mummy by way of Stargate (only without the actual Stargate). John Rhys-Davies (who knows a thing or two about exploring ancient tombs, thanks to his roles as Sallah in two of the Indiana Jones films, as well as Gimli in all of the Lord of the Rings films) leads an expedition inside a pyramid located in Egypt once the sand has been blown away by a freakish sand storm, revealing the entrance. And he believes the storm wasn’t an accident, for according to myths and legends this is the first time in 5000 years that a specific window will be open which will lead to…something really bad, one would think.

Is that the best you can do? Those bullets barely tickle me! The problem with Prisoners of the Sun (other than a misleading title) is that it pretty much tells the entire back story right up front within the first five minutes. You learn of aliens coming down to help the Ancient Egyptians build their civilization and then get greedy and try to take over (which, realistically, the aliens should have been able to do easily, since they were far more advanced). While this upfront declaration of the story may make the movie more accessible to some viewers, it robs the overall film of any mystery. Seeing how the back story is actually slowly revealed within the course of the movie, I can’t help but wonder if the needless prologue was tacked onto the film by a clueless studio head.

Boy, that sure is one pointy building! Another problem with the film is that the menace isn’t very well defined. Once they enter the pyramid, the presence of the expedition sets off an ancient alarm clock that "wakes up" a mummy who’s the guardian of the place. However, he’s never really clearly shown, and when he finally goes into action, he picks up members of the team and throws them around without care for the very place that he’s supposed to be protecting. Prisoners of the Sun was directed by Roger Christian, who unfortunately has become famous (or infamous) as being the director of the equally unfortunate Battlefield Earth, the John Travolta vanity project that was so bad it very nearly sent him right back into well-deserved obscurity once more.

Um, should the floor be wiggling like that? But while POTS isn’t perfect, it’s far from being a turkey. The cast, which also includes Joss Ackland, Emily Holmes and Carmen Chaplin (who’s the granddaughter of the legendary Charlie Chaplin) is very good. Christian also wisely takes an old school approach to the material by carefully building up the story in an attempt to get to know the characters--some of whom, like the psychic Claire (Emily Holmes), are pretty interesting. But thanks to the brief running time, everbody feels underused. I can't help but wonder if this had been cut down from a longer length. If this is the case, then I wouldn’t mind seeing a director’s cut where this excised material is restored, because Prisoners of the Sun feels like a movie that should be much better than it is. --SF

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