The Asylum is a name that any bad movie fan will recognize. They’re one of the biggest forces in the bad movie business, churning out bad movie after bad movie to some form of success. In case you don’t know The Asylum, which you should if you’re reading this blog post, let me list off a few of their movies. They’ve been the people behind all of the Sharknado movies. You know, the movies about tornadoes that picked up sharks and led to the destruction of many a landmark? That was The Asylum. They’ve also found success in mockbusters, movies that rip off mainstream movies in order to build confusion and capture some of the profit. The Asylum was behind such great films as Android Cop, Snakes on a Train, and this week’s movie, The Da Vinci Treasure.
In 2003, Dan Brown released a novel called The Da Vinci Code. It was the second book in the Robert Langdon series, and was a much bigger hit than its predecessor, Angels & Demons, had been. The novel took the world by storm. Of course, it would be made into a movie. That movie was the 2006 Ron Howard film The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks. There would be two sequels to the movie, as well as five novels in the book series (Origin, the fifth, was released in 2017). We’re not here to discuss the series as wholes, though. Let’s get back to The Da Vinci Code.
To cash in on the success that The Da Vinci Code was likely to be, the people at The Asylum decided to make their own version of the story. The Da Vinci Treasure was released direct-to-video four days after the theatrical release of The Da Vinci Code. C. Thomas Howell starred as Michael Archer, a forensic anthropologist on a quest to find treasure. His clues to the hidden treasure were within the works of Leonardo Da Vinci. He teamed up with Giulia Pedina (Nicole Sherwin) to solve the mystery, while Dr. John Coven (Lance Henriksen) and Samantha West (Alexis Zibolis) chased him around the globe to steal the treasure from him.
The Da Vinci Treasure was one of the earliest mockbusters that The Asylum produced. It wasn’t the first, though. Snakes on a Train, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and King of the Lost World were released before it. It wasn’t even the first by Peter Mervis, who had directed Snakes on a Train. It was part of what made The Asylum into the force that it was, though.
Early in the Sunday “Bad” Movies, the idea of a set of rules that The Asylum movies followed was formed. The Da Vinci Treasure fit those rules pretty well. Rule number one was the whole mockbuster conceit. The Da Vinci Treasure was a riff on The Da Vinci Code, which meant it played right into that rule. The second rule was that there had to be recognizable faces who weren’t as popular as they had been in the past. C. Thomas Howell and Lance Henrikson both fit in there. Rule three was that there had to be bad effects. Explosions, gunfire, and all kinds of bad effects were in the action of The Da Vinci Treasure. The fourth rule was that there had to be a female scientist, doctor, or stripper. The archaeologist characters were most definitely holding PhDs. Finally, the fifth rule was that, if a mockbuster, it had to be more ridiculous that what it was ripping off. The Da Vinci Code had an evil monk, though, so maybe this one didn’t fit that rule.
The rules don’t dictate whether a movie from The Asylum was good or bad, though. They simply tell someone how much influence The Asylum had upon the movie. The quality still comes down to the filmmakers and what they produce. The Da Vinci Treasure, though a fitting example of a movie by The Asylum, did not stand up in terms of quality. It was a mess.
As The Da Vinci Treasure began, the biggest problem made its appearance clear. The editing was atrocious, and would last the entire runtime that way. What should have been simple cuts were turned into an ugly, technological jump cut dumpster fire. Their idea of showing how engrained in technology the movie was (though the story didn’t rely on modern technology that much) was to have random computer sounds over the colours of the image being quickly blown out, before jump cutting to the same image but zoomed in a little bit, then doing the same thing to zoom jump back out. It happened a lot. A lot. The choice might have been made as a sneaky way to boost up the runtime. That doesn’t matter. What did matter was how bothersome it was. The movie wasn’t about computers, which made the whole editing style unrelated to the story being told. It was unnecessary and irritating.
The action in The Da Vinci Treasure was a little bit better. For a movie that had a fairly low budget, they made the action entertaining enough to service the story. There was a chase scene through a city street that was decently done. The heist of a brick from a museum was, aside from the ridiculously small size of the museum, believable. The explosions might have looked cheap and fake, but they worked well for the story, giving the little action staccatos that kept attention to what was happening. All in all, the action kept The Da Vinci Treasure together, even if it wasn’t the greatest action ever put to screen.
There’s not much to outright dislike about The Da Vinci Treasure beyond the editing and sometimes poor acting. Some of the acting felt like cardboard cut-outs could have done the same job. It was your standard early mockbuster. Enough care was put into it to make it watchable, but not enough was put into it to actually clean it up. It was a messy cash grab based on people getting confused with its title. They surely got some money because of it.
The Asylum has been churning out mockbusters for over ten years now. They’ve dipped their toes into other kinds of movies, including monster/animal attack movies and sex comedies, but they still go back to mockbusters all the time. This year, they have a sequel to their mockbuster Atlantic Rim coming out because the sequel to Pacific Rim is coming out. They’re still going strong with their mockbusters. The quality has risen, as well. Perhaps The Asylum knows that they can’t sustain their company by making movies for the simple sake of ripping off something else. They need to provide fun, too. They need to bring the audience back. The audience was built through the original mockbusters but will remain for the future ones. There needs to be fun to keep the audience. The Asylum has made their movies fun.
These notes might not be fun, but they’re here:
- Other movies from The Asylum that I’ve watched for the Sunday “Bad” Movies are 2-Headed Shark Attack, 3-Headed Shark Attack, Rise of the Zombies, Snakes on a Train, the Paranormal Entity movies, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, Bermuda Tentacles, the Transmorphers movies, The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, the Sharknado movies, Grimm’s Snow White, The Beast of Bray Road, and Little Dead Rotting Hood.
- The Da Vinci Treasure was directed by Peter Mervis, who directed Snakes on a Train.
- One of the actors in The Da Vinci Treasure was Jason S. Gray, who was also in Snakes on a Train and Transmorphers.
- Lance Henriksen made a third appearance in the Sunday “Bad” Movies this week after previously appearing in Monster Brawl and Super Mario Bros.
- A.J. Castro and Reza Riazi were both in Snakes on a Train before being featured in The Da Vinci Treasure.
- Finally, The Da Vinci Treasure had a performance by Kurt Altschwager, who was in The Beast of Bray Road.
- Have you seen The Da Vinci Treasure, or any other movies by The Asylum? What are your thoughts on the company? Let me know in the comments.
- If there are any movies that you think I should watch for the Sunday “Bad” Movies, both Twitter and the comments section are good places to let me know. I’m always up for a movie I might not have known about.
- Sometimes, while I’m watching bad movies, I share clips through my snapchat (jurassicgriffin). If you want to see this kind of thing, feel free to add me.
- Next week, I’ll be going into the world of clowns as I sit down to watch Vulgar. It’s a movie made by a friend of Kevin Smith way back in 2000. I’ve never seen it before and have no idea what I should expect from it. See you in seven days with my thoughts.