The trailers and commercials for Sahara clearly express Paramount's hopes for an adventure film in the same thrilling and charming tradition of the Indiana Jones trilogy. Or if nothing else, the same league as the recent Mummy movies and late 2004's surprise smash National Treasure, which both appealed to audiences despite critical complaints. The ads even use a similar "Unravel the clues … make a discovery that will forever change history" campaign that clearly derive from Nicholas Cage's hit treasure hunt.
More importantly, Paramount and the filmmakers undoubtedly have high hopes of starting a successful film franchise. Sahara is the eleventh of eighteen pulp novels by best-selling author Clive Cussler, whose Dirk Pitt character has attracted a loyal following since first appearing in 1973. Pitt was created to be the ultimate Renaissance man—a combination of Indiana Jones's archaeological exploits (before Dr. Jones was ever dreamed up, of course), MacGyver's scientific improvisation (ditto), and James Bond's maverick action hero charm. Fans and astute film historians may recall a previous Pitt film adaptation, 1980's Raise the Titanic (starring Jason Robards and Richard Jordan), a box office failure that inadequately captured Cussler's story.
Sahara involves another lost ship even older than the Titanic. Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) is a key member of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a privately funded archaeological salvage team headed by Admiral Sandecker (William H. Macy) that assists governments around the world in recovering their lost cultural treasures. At the film's start, NUMA's state-of-the-art ship is working off the coast of West Africa to recover lost treasure.
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