One of my the things I enjoy about sequels is how the secondary characters are brought back into the action. If you read our review of “Jack Hunter And The Lost Treasure Of Ugarit” yesterday, you’ll have read of the Syrian antiques expert Nadia Ramadan, played by Joanne Kelly (who’s Canadian). Well, the action has moved on from Syria to Egypt, so you might reasonably expect Nadia to go back to her day job – that is, if you’d never seen any films before. As Jack is getting the details of his new assignment from his NSA contact / almost love interest Liz (Susan Ward), he’s told that Nadia will be accompanying him to maintain his credibility? Lucky she doesn’t have anything else to do, like her job, or a family that might like her around! Also back from part 1 is Tariq, their driver / general assistant / comic relief, and his reasons for returning is that he’s contracted for all three movies. If you’re going to come up with a lame reason, best not to bother having any reason at all.
In this second instalment of the Jack Hunter saga, he’s whisked away to Cairo, to find the second part of the Eye Of MacGuffin. Evil German guy Littman has the first bit, the weird glowy thing that vapourised the building at the end of part 1, so they’re all after the second bit. What will it do? No chuffing idea, but after seeing the cold open, where a group of Anubis-headed soldiers and a massive fire demon destroy a group of Egyptian archaeologists, it’s something pretty impressive. There’s a small obelisk with a bunch of Ugaritic text on it which was found, and as Hunter is the world’s greatest living expert on the language, he’s brought in. Littman is also hired by Doridanov, your generic Russian mobster, to find the second part.
So, from here, we get the same film as part 1, pretty much. Jack and Nadia feud, the secondary characters all show some red-herring-y behaviour, and fights are had in a number of beautiful locations – this time, judging by the crew names, we have Turkey standing in for Egypt. Looks great, and some of the ruins they found to film in are amazing, so kudos to the production designer (or whoever it is who has the job to find these places). They go to a place, find a clue, go to another place, etc. Part 1 – we had a friendly Syrian family, and in part 2 we get a friendly Egyptian army unit, indicating SyFy Channel didn’t want to upset anyone in the Middle East or that SyFy Channel thinks people in that part of the world can accept no criticism, even fictitious, of anything in their countr.
I’ve two main things to talk about in this review, though. One of them is sort of unrelated, and the other is right at the heart of why I want to write about low-budget cinema. Let’s do Akhenaten first. He’s sort of an interesting fellow, ruling Egypt for 17 years until around 1336 BC, but we only found out about him in the 19th century, as his successors had tried as hard as possible to wipe him from the historical record completely. This is due to him getting rid of the area’s traditional polytheistic religion and attempting to bring in worship of a single deity, the “Aten”, and his reforms were removed by future Pharaohs, including the next dynasty who referred to him as “that criminal”. He’s also the father of the most famous one of them all, Tutankhamun, but were it not from the excavation of the city he created by famed Egyptologist Flinders Petrie and people working in the same area as him, we might never have known anything about him.
This, in and of itself, is pretty interesting, but it’s more his status nowadays that interests me. “Ancient Aliens”, the fact-free show where a bunch of hucksters pretend whatever will make them the most money that week, have portrayed Akhenaten as an alien in several episodes, and there’s a mini-cottage industry of books and “documentaries” in this vein. Freud thought he was the founder of Judaism, and he’s been featured in dozens of proper legitimate books and movies too, far more than most other real figures from Egyptian antiquity. The mystery created by the almost complete wiping of him from the historical record has ensured his survival long past the date his successors have been completely forgotten.
Most importantly, though, is the movie’s portrayal of women, wildly different from part 1 yesterday, which (bear in mind) was written and directed by the same people. Accompanying Jack, Nadia and Tariq on their journey is Swedish archaeologist Lena Halstrom, representing the Egyptian Antiquities group and played by Alaina Huffman. Even though Jack and Nadia are not quite as friendly as they were, they might as well have dubbed in cat-fighting noises when she and Lena meet, as Lena is a former “friend” of Jack’s and Nadia is jealous, to the point of accusing her of being a plant from the bad guys at every opportunity. This ludicrously sexist treatment of two independent women, to the point they have a hair-pulling fight at the end while the men are properly kicking ass, completely drags down what ought to be a throwaway bit of fun.
There’s no need for it. If you think on any level that lower budget cinema shouldn’t have to hew so closely to boring societal norms, as it has fewer masters to please, having it repeat the worst sexism of the system is extra-disappointing.
Anyway, that’s quite enough on part 2 of a three-part miniseries. It’s still lots of fun, but I’ll reserve a rating until part 3 tomorrow.