It has a good introduction to the film, with a well crafted fight where I cared about the people that got injured as soon as it happened, not the point, I know, but it boded well for me caring about the characters during the film. It also has a pretty energetic opening titles sequence with a great title card; literally, and then we see all the pictures again later when a character wakes up in that room and I just like little things like that, makes it feel more real. The film has a great cast, Matthew McCounaghey is a perfect choice for the lead role, he fits the part perfectly and his character has a great name; before we see Steve Zahn's face he sounded like Owen Wilson and wouldn't that be fun to see, but he fits well and is very funny. The film was overall very funny, even if that head of the board person seemed a little over the top, it did make me laugh that Dirk was looking for something with the name 'Texas' in it; I also liked the little cigar reference that is in this film, it is a nice little nod to fans of the series. Penelope Cruz was also a good choice and she did a good job as well, I liked how the two characters met up again later into the film as it wasn't the clichéd, she is about to go on her mission but then has a change of heart right at the last minute and goes with Dirk because of reasons. I also like that there isn't a forced romance between the two, while it would make sense for Eva to be more friendly to him because of what he did for her, that doesn't automatically mean there has to be something; sure the characters spend some time together at the end, but that was only something little, and it worked. There are other great cameos in this film but I do not want to spoil them.
It's set in a different location, for a change, and it's a very beautiful location as well, it is one I love very much, the film looks absolutely beautiful and it also has a very good soundtrack as well. The visual effects were quite impressive as well, the action scenes were fun and like I mentioned earlier, were excellently staged, and the explosions actually looked very real as well, which is something highly noteworthy; they didn't have that many but they knew how to spend their budget wisely to make them look real. The film had a very fast pace and was just overall fun to watch.
The only real problem I had with the film was its tone, it looks like it'll be a fun fantasy film, I mean the poster just screams classic action adventure and while it is for the most part, I found that it got surprisingly dark at points. Something happens at the start to Eva and it seemed really oddly dark, hell, her whole story seemed pretty dark, but then it'd cut to Dirk's story and it seemed pretty light-hearted. Our characters get attacked while they're in a boat and it all seemed very real, which probably in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but I didn't have the feeling that this was a fantasy adventure, wherein people don't really get hurt, they just brush off bullet wounds and they just have big dumb action set-pieces that don't make sense. People get killed quite often, hell there was a pretty awesome death at the end where a character falls onto something, not saying what it is as to spoil it, but surely if normal people were to pick up a gun and shoot people, surely that would affect them in some way, but then this is a fun adventure film right and perhaps I am thinking about it too much? I don't know. It did kind of seem like it had two stories going on at once, which were both interesting and well developed but there was a point where I said it could have ended but then they go to find the ship which was the whole point of this adventure in the first place, which I guess I forgot about in the moment. Perhaps the tone issue wouldn't have happened if Cussler had been given the script and then the whole legal battle wouldn't have happened. However, it does have a big fun ending to it and it all wraps it up pretty nicely; I did question where Al had gotten to, as well as him owing Dirk a case but that was just a joke. He was lucky his cards didn't blow into the sea but I thought that was going to happen; as well as Dirk not losing that coin when they were trying to escape. There's a part where a football rolls away from Al and what happens after is a coincidence, but it worked as it was the only one of its kind, it's just that that is used a lot.
As is to be expected, negative reviews were comparing the film to the desert of which it is named, but seriously, it wasn't bad and I really do not understand why what happened to this film did, and I guess Cussler is still unhappy. Despite what I said about the tone, I managed to have a good time with the film; it zipped by, was interesting to watch and had a certain kind of innocence to it, was well acted and was overall a fun and enjoyable time.
Then the film finally reaches a point where they have to choose which of the franchises to follow. And they choose wrong. And I'm not just saying that because I prefer Indy to Bond. The hunt for the ironclad is the impetus for the entire plot. The plague is almost an afterthought. And the random conspiracy that they come up with to explain that disease occupies the entire climax of the film. Once this is done they have to throw in the ironclad as an afterthought just to wrap up the original plot.