Tut full movie review - A pleasant surprise
Saw the trailer on the same day Tut premiered on Spike and watched the first episode out of little more than curiosity: What in the world could they do with a character who, despite being a twentieth century celebrity, is unknown in detail?
From the first, Carter's discovery of Tut's tomb has generated an enormous body of speculation and inspired an entire sub-genre of movies: The Mummy, from Karloff to Fraser and Weisz. But, as for Tut himself, we know virtually nothing: only a few names such as Anhkesenamun, Ay and Horemheb - all verifiable historic players, but little in terms of their histories except for Horemheb. From Anhkesenamun we have a touching letter she wrote to the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma, imploring him to send her one of his sons because, upon the death of Tut, she distrusted her suitors.
As for Ay, we know of his existence, both in Armarna and Thebes, and of his assumption of the throne following Tut but little more.
So there are a few scant bones to hang a melodrama on following Tut's death but nothing to script his life.
Which turned into a very big plus for the screenwriters, who ignored any possible history and, seemingly, updated the plot lines from The Egyptian and Land of the Pharaohs, very successfully.
The story is simple, Tut is portrayed as a strong willed young king anxious to prove himself in battle but becomes embittered, after being wound in a skirmish with the Mitanni, by his first taste of betrayal. Resulting, as he returns to Thebes during Ka's investment ceremony, his murder of Ka and re-establishment as Pharaoh. And thus begins an increasing complex struggle within Tut as he tries to reconcile his existence as an individual and his responsibilities as Pharaoh.
Anhkesenamun, meanwhile, follows a similar struggle. Enraged by Tut's murder of Ka she, too, wrestles with her feelings as an individual and responsibilities as Queen.
Those are the basics but what elevates "Tut" is the way they're handled. That being the script, which is superb. All of the characters are written as flawed human beings trapped in webs of culture, politics and their personal ambitions and the plot unfolds organically from those elements.
As for that plot - it isn't history or even close (Tut never faced Mitanni raiders or Tushratta, who was most likely dead by the time of Tut's reign). But, then, when has Hollywood cared about such things. A good story is a good story. And the writers have definitely produced a good story, focusing on the characters and using the details of the action as a motivational backdrop.
It all works and all the principles are well acted, especially Ben Kingsley who plays Ay as an ambitious enigma.
The production values are equally outstanding and,this time, true to the grandeur of Egyptian palaces and temples in the 18th Dynasty, as well all of its environments.
Final notes on the fractured history - a plague and the chaos it engendered is a significant element of the plot. No such plague occurred during Tut's reign, it belongs to the Amarna period.
The Mitanni are portrayed as, ethnically, sub-Saharan Africans - in reality their ruling class had roots as Indo-Aryans while their subjects belong to a language group known as Hurrian. Mitanni itself was primarily an Anatolian Empire. But, again, Hollywood.
In summary, the history is totally fractured but, in a very general way, appropriate to the period.
Once you've swallowed that, "Tut" is outstanding: well crafted script; engaging, complex, believable characters; and production values true to the period. A very pleasant surprise.
Just read all the reviews and, guys, get your ethnicities straight: though there was certainly interactions among trading partners with mixed offspring as a result, the Egyptians of the late Pharaonic period were not sub-Saharan, nor were any other populations of North Africa. Neither were any Semitic (Arab), except those influenced by the above caveat.
Not that that really makes any difference: for reference the Nubians produced a culture that rivaled Egypt and, during the first Millennium, as Egyptian political power waned and waxed, installed a few 'Black' Pharaohs.
Wikipedia does have a short article outlining a few instances of Egyptian/North African DNA analysis, bu it's far from definitive: showing all of the earmarks of mixed populations you would expect from thousands of years of trading: kind of like trying to establish a 'dominate' American genome.
Point being: while the further back you go the more the likelihood you'll find ethnically isolated genomes, by the New Kingdom all you're going to find is a melting pot.
Leading to another point: we all came from Sub-Saharan Africa, off-spring of many ancient migrations so if you're looking for bragging points you can always point to that fact.