Hollywood has is pros and cons, but such is life. You cannot always get the positive without some negative.
Hollywood’s false elaborations and action packed movies are meant for entertainment and that is just what they provide. Hollywood does what it can to preserve the historical content, but they really only tell stories, and they cannot and should not be taken as fact. Hollywood has to give the audience what they want…action. Hollywood uses themes like aliens and resurrected mummies to give the movie a necessary kick to grab the attention of its audience. This could be taken as good or bad, depending on personal opinions. There are theories that aliens built the pyramids, and since we cannot figure out how to build an exact replica of an Egyptian pyramid using the tools they had available, how can we count the option out. Who knows, maybe there is life beyond our little planet. Hollywood movies have opened the door to Ancient Egyptian culture and a little embellishment is necessary.
By presenting new and ancient cultures, Hollywood is, in a sense, providing the incentive for new generations to become interested in new and different things. Hollywood movies should only be viewed as a source of entertainment; they are meant to thrill the senses of its audience not to educate. Simply put, if you want historical facts go with more reliable sources like the History or Discovery Channel, or even better…a book.
“The most vital concept to keep in mind when viewing films about antiquity is that the film directors are artists, and as artists they have the right to adapt, change, or eliminate matters of history in deference to their cinematic art.”
While Hollywood may have its downfalls, it also has a few high points. Very few elementary schools or high schools promote the study of ancient Egyptian culture or any other ancient culture for that matter. Hollywood produces movies that offer a mystical and action packed view of ancient civilizations, but at least it’s a view. When younger generations see movies like The Mummy, Cleopatra, and Stargate, their minds begin to think and see things in a way they may have never thought of before. New concepts and ideas can find their way into young minds and prosper into new generations. Children can be exposed to these cultures and come to new realizations about the world such as: there are other ways of life different from what we know; there are other gods and religions that are worshiped; there is a whole world out there to see and discover for yourself, with different languages, cultures, religions, etc. This kind of positive reinforcement can lead to another realization: “That is a place I would like to see for myself.” With new found realizations, maybe these young minds will travel and get first-hand experience which may lead to the next great discovery in history or anthropology.
“Films in themselves are a special kind of experience…They leave less to the imagination than a book on the visual and aural planes, but they leave more to the imagination in so far as the feelings and personalities of the persons portrayed are concerned. Special kinds of imagination ‘filers’ have been developed for the films. Just as the novel-reader has to accustom himself to imagining the scene described almost as a picture, so the cinema-viewer has to build the separate shots into a whole three-dimensional world” (Jarvie 127).
Movies have the advantage of visual confirmation. Theories can be displayed on screen, making them interesting and easy to see. This can allow everyone, not just scholars, to have an opinion.
Money makes the world go round. Some people might counter with “money isn’t everything,” but in Hollywood, the goal is to boost sales and make more money. The typical movies of the time depict action, romance, horror, and drama; the view of Ancient Egypt is no different. What would antiquity movies be without mummies that come to life, ancient cults protecting the land of the dead, Queens that charm a nation, reincarnation to protect the future, aliens building pyramids, and let’s not forget war, guns, knives, death and lots of blood…it just wouldn’t be the same. Hollywood produces a massive amount of action movies stuffed full of violence, sex, and drugs. These movies grasp the short attention spans of the new generations, translate easily so they can quickly be sold into oversea markets, and create a large profit.
Hollywood has a habit of recreating movies using new technologies. Sequels and remakes allow Hollywood to produce a movie without actually thinking of a new idea, produce a movie that had previously done well in order to create new profits, and recreate interest in a product that may have been forgotten.
The original Mummy produced in 1932, now a classic, was considered one of the top horror flicks of its time. The movie showed very little in terms of violence, using shadows and foreshadowing methods to create suspense. The newer version of The Mummy produced in 1999 is the opposite. The story of the mummy is elaborated on, and action scenes create suspense by showing violence and blood. In 2001, Hollywood produced The Mummy Returns, showing even more violence and building on the original character stories. Again in 2002, Hollywood continued the tale with The Scorpion King, a spin-off of the Mummy series. This film carried on the theme of Egypt but blurred history into a common action flick to produce a profit. The result is an original, a remake, a sequel, and a spin-off that have almost nothing in common but an overall theme.
Cleopatra is another classic movie filmed in 1963 that has since been remade several times; but the most well known remake is the 1999 version. Both movies depict the same characters and information with a few differences. The 1963 version was six hours and the 1999 version was only three hours. The 1999 version cut many scenes involving the details of Cleopatra’s relationships with Caesar and Antony, and increased the number love scenes. The 1999 version provided more of a summary than the detailed description of events from the 1963 version. In addition to removing some of the details, the 1999 version of Cleopatra added some of the glitz and glamour of 20th century Hollywood.
So what’s the difference? Does it matter? Well, it might matter to older generations that are fond of the older films, but it will definately matter to younger generations. Most ‘kids’ will not watch old films. Anything in black in white is pretty much out of the question. In my opinion, the remakes are a good way to reintroduce old stories to the younger generations.
The Prince of Egypt is one of Hollywood’s animated films that depict Egypt. The story is based on the Biblical story of Moses and the Hebrew’s against Ramesses II and Egypt. The film accurately depicts the Bible’s story, and uses some comedy and graphic effects to keep the audience interested. While the Biblical references may be correct, the actual references to Egypt made the Egyptian culture seem cruel and evil. While the workers that built the pyramids and temples did tough manual labor to do, they were not treated as badly as the movie depicts. Egypt was known to care for their workers, always providing the best foods so they could keep up with the manual labor. In addition, it was usually voluntary to join the workers, or a way to pay taxes. The workers found the building of the Pharaoh’s temples more of a privilege than a punishment. In fact, many workers traveled hundreds of miles to work on the pyramids and temples. For The Prince of Egypt, if you believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, it would be accurate; however if you follow historical facts, the movie fabricates slave labor and the use of Ramses as the evil pharaoh. Unfortunately, neither theory has historical and scientific proof to back them.
Cleopatra (1963 & 1999) is based on historical facts of the life and times of the last Queen of Egypt. The original 1963 version of Cleopatra was about six hours long, which allowed for many details, historical facts, and events. However, the 1999 version of Cleopatra was only three hours long and left out many details, while heightening the sexuality and violence of the tale. Both movies outline the life of Cleopatra and her love affair between two of Rome’s most powerful men, Caesar and Antony. The story elaborates on Cleopatra’s beauty and manipulative powers, and accurately describes the time, including lack of money and Rome’s control. The movies depict Cleopatra as a caring Queen of Egypt who is often controlled by her desire, and as a temptress and whore to the Romans. Cleopatra the movie was created to be a form of historical remembrance with the only real flaw being the elaborated and stressed love affairs that attract the attention of the American people.
Stargate (1994-present) is another movie/television series that should not be taken as truth. Stargate attributes the pyramids to a race of parasitic aliens that ruled Earth as Egyptian gods. A similar concept was also used by a few scientists who believed the pyramids were too perfect to have been created by humans and believed that the answer lied somewhere in the alignment of the pyramids to Orion’s Belt. Stargate the movie and television series both have good use of hieroglyphs and they use the Mythology of the gods correctly, even into extreme details of the colors and symbols used by specific gods. There is a large emphasis of the Egyptian gods throughout the film and episodes including Ra, Hathor, Seteh, Horus, Ptah, and many others. Even with the good use of Egyptian mythology and historical information, the series is still based on the concept of aliens using humans as hosts and slaves, and is purely for the action/sci-fi entertainment, much like Star Trek and Star Wars.
Another film that uses alien conspiracies is The Fifth Element (1997). The Fifth Element is an inaccurate source of information about Egypt, and attributes the pyramids to aliens, but instead of the aliens being evil aliens, they are the protectors of Earth. According to The Fifth Element the pyramids are temples that hold a weapon of defense against evil in the galaxy that awakens every 5,000 years. The movie does not provide any good information about Egypt and does not use hieroglyphs correctly. This is a movie specifically created for its action and drama scenes.