Movie Review – Warlords of Atlantis (1978)

Director: Kevin Connor

Stars: Doug McClure, Peter GIlmore, Shane Rimmer, Lea Brodie, Michael Gothard, Hal Galili, John Ratzenberger, Donald Bisset

On an expedition to find Atlantis, a Professor (Bisset), his son Charles (Gilmore) and Greg Collinson (McClure) find a large golden statue, which they bring aboard. However, when the rest of the crew see this they realize that there’s actual treasure, and they betray the adventurers, cutting the chain to the diving bell, which sends them hurtling down into the depths of the sea. The boat is then attacked by a giant squid and is hauled under too, and they all find themselves in the lost world of Atlantis, where they’re greeted by Atmir (Gothard), who welcomes them with civility and assures they’re safe. But they soon realize that if they are too escape Atlantis they must act swiftly and they enlist the help of Delphine (Brodie), who was part of a group of humans that was captured a long time ago. 

Warlords of Atlantis had the ingredients to be a film I was going to really enjoy. There are monsters, adventure, and an exploration of a lost world. However, the sum didn’t quite equal its parts. The story was very thin, in fact, there’s barely a story at all. Almost as soon as they reach Atlantis they’re trying to escape, and there was only a minimal struggle from one person that wanted to stay, and even that only lasted a few moments. Because of this the film felt very rushed and there wasn’t any time to get to a core theme of the story, so the whole thing felt shallow. 

I liked the underwater scenes and the creatures designs were good. The action was done well and I especially liked the effects when Atmir controlled huge bursts of water. I also liked the aesthetic of Atlantis as well. Even the land is bathed in this shimmering gold light that gives a sense of majesty and royalty. The soundtrack helps with this, supporting the visuals with a triumphant score. But when we actually get to a main city the sets are small and they lose the sense of grandeur. There’s also a bizarre piece of the story where the Atlanteans have given humans gills so they can adapt to the atmosphere, and this means that they can never return to the world outside Atlantis again. However, the main characters never undergo this surgery yet they don’t have any problems breathing in the atmosphere. 

The love story is, well, they meet, have a few conversations and that’s it. The only main struggle is when one of the characters gets a chance to advance his mind (little does he know that the Atlanteans have another agenda and are only using him) and I feel that the story is trying to put forward a certain morality but it never quite manages to express it clearly enough. Even the story of the betrayal isn’t developed well, since when they’re in Atlantis it’s not referenced at all. It also seems that the statue they recovered came out of nowhere, since there’s nothing similar seen in the city they visit. I would have liked to have seen more impressive treasures while they were in Atlantis. 

Warlords of Atlantis didn’t really do much for me, despite the promise of the premise. I found it watchable but I didn’t find much substance in the story so it wasn’t very engaging. I would have liked to have seen much more of Atlantis and probably do away with the whole betrayal storyline, but as it is it’s a pretty poor effort. 

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