Have you seen Egypt lately? I don't want to say it's a huge story, but when a political uprising in the Middle East even becomes a leading item on Access Hollywood, that's a pretty big deal.
Of course, realistic depictions of Egypt have never been Hollywood's strong point. To Hollywood, Egypt is just an ancient magical land of magic. Here are 5 films who've done the worst job of depicting the birthplace of one of mankind's oldest cultures.
5) Raiders of The Lost Ark,
5) Raiders of The Lost Ark,1981
Plot: Reckless college professor overcomes crippling ophidiophobia to defeat Nazi Archaeologists with the help of his ex-girlfriend, a bullwhip, his Egyptian sidekick, and (of course) the lethal magic of a vengeful Hebrew God. [DVD]
Does it take place in Egypt? Mostly.
Why is it dumb: In the film, The Ark of the Covenant is said to be buried in the "lost" city of Tanis, which it is explained was buried in a sandstorm until Nazi's found it in the 1930's. In reality, the city was a well known site of archaeologists, and was being excavated as early as the late 19th century. Also, to get an idea of how accurately the Egyptian character of "Sallah" is portrayed, it's worth mentioning that director Steven Spielberg originally approached Danny Devito about doing the role.
4) The Mummy "Trilogy,"
4) The Mummy "Trilogy,"1999, 2001, 2008
Plot: All three of of these movies (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Mummy: The Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor) have plots. I'm almost sure of it. What I'm less sure about is if they have mummies. There are a whole lot of computer generated creatures chasing Brendon Fraser around, that's for sure. The last one has a dragon. [Blu-ray]
Do they take place in Egypt? The first two films do. The last one takes place in China, which as we all know is PACKED with mummies. What?
Why is it dumb: I know, it is dumb to expect an action movie called The Mummy starring Brendon Fraser to have an accurate depiction of Egyptians. You know what it is not dumb to expect? Mummies. Not, you know, this guy.
Plot: An interstellar teleportation device is located inside an Egyptian pyramid, and two Americans use it to travel to a planet populated by aliens who resemble ancient Egyptians. I'm fairly sure there is a nuclear bomb involved.
Does it take place in Egypt? Sort of. I mean, it starts out in Egypt. Then ends up in Space-Egypt. You see my problem here, right?
Why is it dumb: When setting out to make a realistic depiction of a culture, Hollywood rarely picks up the phone and says "GET ME KURT RUSSELL." [Blu-ray]
2) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,
2) Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,2001
Plot: Buxom archeologist played by Angelia Jolie defies logic and gravity in attempt to aquire lost antiqities and a series of glowing shapes while wearing as many tight-fitting outfits as possible.
Does it take place in Egypt? In the opening scene, it appears to, as our heroine enters an Egyptian tomb that is guarded by a robot, and has to fight it. Without revealing spoilers, I feel safe in letting you know that real Egyptian tombs are rarely, if ever guarded by robots. Sorry, guys.
Why is it dumb: I told you about the robot, right? Well check it out: after that scene is over, this movie only gets about 5,000 times stupider than that. [Blu-ray]
1) Cleopatra, 1963
1) Cleopatra, 1963
Plot: Julius Caesar comes to Egypt in pursuit of a defeated foe, and encounters the beautiful Cleopatra, sister to the Egyptian Pharoh. Sparks fly. She becomes queen, meets Marc Antony, and more sparks fly. This is a long movie, you guys. It doesn't end well.
Does it take place in Egypt? Yes, but film has been critized for the interiors of the palace not reflecting the styles of the time.
Why is it dumb: Assuming we ignored the fact that this film almost bankrupted a major movie studio, people from the Middle East do NOT look like Elizabeth Taylor whose exact ethnicity is "Hollywood". For more of this phenomenon, see also, Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments, and Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia. [DVD]