Centuries ago, the race of man dabbled with powers they could not fully understand. Among these troublemakers were the Egyptians. The rulers of the desert dwellers made several efforts to channel the powers of the gods. One powerful Egyptian ruler managed to harness and to contain the power of Ra, using an amulet to trap the King of the Gods from walking the earth. The Egyptian lords used a spell to make Ra become human, and then trapped his power in a small talisman...
...which they then buried about six inches into the sand.
Flash forward to 1923, where director Cecil B. Demille (“you’ll never take me alive, see?”) is directing his movie, The Ten Commandments. Once filming was completed, Demille ordered the entire set buried under tons of sand, but evil (or whatever the supernatural is supposed to be in this film) always finds a way to the surface of a sci-fi film. A young man on the set of the Demille film buries a box of trinkets, including the mysterious talisman. The boy calls the box a time capsule, and Demille (Simpsons veteran Castellanetta) blesses the boy’s efforts. The set is closed, and buried, and with it, the talisman that can mean the release of ultimate evil on the world is once again buried...sort of.
Flash forward again to present day, when the boy, John Tevis (George Kennedy) is accompanied by his Iraq war veteran grandson, Mark (Victor Webster - Charmed, Mutant X) as they travel to uncover the most recent in John’s many digs to discover to the secrets of Mr. Demille. Viewers also meet Dr. Alice Carter (Morena Baccarin - Firefly), a professor leading a dig on the old movie site. Alice allows John and Mark to dig on the site, and they find the time capsule.
The pair opens the time capsule, with disastrous consequences. John is killed as he faces Ra beneath the sands. After a brief but touching conversation, Mark agrees to join Alice’s crew. His expertise is in moving large resources, and Alice only has two weeks before the set is washed away. Even as Mark is hired, Alice’s soon-to-be-ex husband, Jesse, shows up, offering his own expertise. Just as the pissing contest between the men is set to begin, they are interrupted. Members of Alice’s team discover the centrepiece to Demille’s set.
And here’s where things come off the rails: Enter the CGI scorpions and computer-model corpses. Kill the genuine scares and actual emotional investment as the cheap animation cuts the film off at the knees. Alice, Mark and Jesse manage to build the mystique of the film. DeMille’s set contained something none of them could have foreseen; a prison cell for the deadly demigod. In-La Ra, the left hand of God, is the beast set to unleash the seven plagues on modern day mankind. The archaeologists, paired with the war veteran, are the only ones who understand the depths of the danger unleashed on mankind.
Ra soon begins to do damage through his possessed servant, Meagan (Abigail Williams - As the World Turns). She becomes the vessel for his power, ensuring that the god will never again be held prisoner. Jesse begins efforts to recreate the prison while Mark and Alice learn the history behind the efforts to contain the Egyptian god. The prison is under construction. The evil God is loose. The protagonists learn the truth of the evil being's power and scope.
All roads lead to the final conflict between undead Egyptian demigod and would-be heroes. The bad guys are represented by more awful post-production CGI animation as the good guy actors run like hell. Unfortunately, the finale follows the same formula. Alice and Mark fall in love along the way, just as the completely fake enemies rise in size and power.
Enter the dune buggies and cop cars, sending the film from The Mummy into something out of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mark and Jessie battle in an all-out fistfight as the forces of good and evil converge in the California desert. In the end, the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and the whole project comes across like one more average sci-fi film shot against a green screen with action scenes more comical than acceptable. The film’s third act relies very heavily on post-production image generation and shock, but the best of the movie is outside of that. For the most part, the actors are better than the end result, but not 100%. There’s still plenty of CGI for viewers to hate among the Sands of Oblivion.