"Excellent, especially since I've been to Egypt,"
an adult viewer commented. I also asked an
11-year-old girl her thoughts. "Cool!" she said,
"we're studying Egypt in school."
The film begins with the death of a young boy ...
King Tut. It tells the tale of many a buried pharaoh
while working its way up the pyramids (so to speak)
until the discovery of Tut's tomb in 1922. An older
gent recounts the story of these elite kings to his
granddaughter as they sit in an Egyptian restaurant.
His narration is fine, however, the acting prowess of
the two is rather dry and arid; fortunately, returns
to the restaurant are equally few and brief.
While making some efforts toward "kiddization" for
the younger viewer, this film is primarily a
documentary of traditional making. As a documentary
it is interesting and educational ... but as an IMAX
presentation, it's rather lacking.
I enjoyed the aerial passage through the Nile and
especially the superimposition of a map of Africa on
the river's surface during the maneuver. Very nice.
Waterfalls, cliff-hanging trees, a rainbow reflected
off the lens. Also stimulating the senses ...
awesomely deep resonances of a heavy stone as it
slides over the tomb of a mummy. An aerial shot or
two of the pyramids stands out as well.
But for the most part ... I didn't feel in Egypt.
I felt in a documentary. Artifacts, jewelry, statues,
obelisks, all displayed as if the IMAX camera were a
35mm SLR still camera. So much more could have been
done to bring me there. The most blaring omission -
Cairo. Some years ago, I spent a week in Egypt ... so
alluring was this city that I allotted six of those
seven days in Cairo. But "Mysteries of Egypt"
completely neglects this vibrant colorful town, even
though three pyramids and the Sphinx lay just minutes
by bus from the city
center. You can barely see it in the background of a
few shots in the film, I'm sure that at least a low
copter sequence from above Cairo out to the desert
would have greatly widened the viewer's perspective.
This fantastic contrast of civilizations screams for
the screen. Better yet, put the camera in a Cairo
cab, even at real time speed, that'd make for an
awesome rush to the pyramids. And if time were a
problem, the whole sequence could be sped up as not
to lose focus on the "mysteries" aspect.
Additionally, not until five minutes to the
conclusion did the production offer us reference
objects to the size of the pyramids. Shot
respectably, we still don't get a feeling for their
immensity, unless a passerby passes by (or a car or a
camel). This would also be a grand opportunity to
show a bit of current culture ... a couple of kids
kicking a soccer ball alongside, etc.
Several reenactments are portrayed. In the most
effective one, workers lug the huge bricks up a mud
ramp. This very nicely communicates the theory.
Perfectly visual, little else need be said. However,
a lone water boy is the only worker who appears to be
scuffed by the dirt or sand and exhausted from his
labors - he alone is believable.
Lastly, in one particular scene Grandpa mentions,
"It takes knowledge of engineering, organization,
mathematics and geometry to create such structures."
While I'm glad mention is made, show me! This is an
IMAX presentation, back up those words with images.
Show me how the math I learned in high school was
used (this could be done quickly - in less than 10
seconds). A geometry teacher scratches chalk to a
schoolroom blackboard, dissolve to an ancient
Egyptian digging shapes into the sand, dissolve to
the pyramid over the sketches. And I want the same
eye-candy for engineering and organization etc. The
mention of astronomy begged for a shot of the stars
... but none was given.
One last missing piece, how did Carter know where
to look for Tut? I think kids would really "dig" the
"hide and seek" sport of this hunt.
Overall, a decent 1970's style documentary, but
this archeological film barely scratches the surface
of the sweeping IMAX potential.