Saturday, March 07, 2009

Amun Rising: The Oracular Power of Junk Culture

Watch the whole movie with its jaw-dropping intro here.

Ever wonder what a remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark might look like if Indiana Jones was portrayed by a square-jawed, straight-to-video stud with the acting chops of a tree stump?

Well, I hadn't either until I'd come across The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006) in a drugstore DVD bargain bin. This masterpiece of cheese was originally a Hallmark Channel (aka "Hausfrau Heaven") mini-series, which just goes to show how fragile our reality consensus has become.

The first 8 minutes of this film alone will make your head spin- King Tut was not a boy-king who ascended the throne when the disgraced Akhenaten was deposed, he was an immortal demigod sent by Ra to battle Set and his army of suspiciously Lovecraftian demons. The special effects might not leave you breathless, but the crypto-Masonic theology of it all certainly will.

In addition to hitting us with some hardcore pseudo-Egyptian occultism, we also get a good dose of trailer park-level conspiracy theory in the form of the Hellfire Council, an Illuminati stand-in comprised of the usual gang of cartoon English bad guys, including Jonathan Hyde (playing "Morgan Sinclair"), Simon Callow and the grand-daddy of them all, Malcolm McDowell.

What is odd to the point of suspicion is that the action is filmed in India and uses Indian actors in place of Egyptians. There's something quasi-racist about this, as if no one can tell one brown-skinned race from another. It's incredibly distracting, but certainly ties into the India Rising memes we saw come to full flower at the Academy Awards. After all, Hinduism is the closest thing we have to the ancient Egyptian traditions today, and it's still being practiced by hundreds of millions of people.

Outside of the Brits, the acting isn't quite Shakespearean. Casper Van Dien (who plays blatant Indiana Jones knockoff "Danny Fremont") and co-star Leonor Varela (as Dr. Azeila Barakat, a clear analog of Rachel Weisz's character in The Mummy movies) are easy on the eyes, but you might find yourself wishing talkies were never invented.

Leonor as Cleopatra as Isis as Ceres

But the two leads certainly synch well to current memes- Van Dien was in Verhoeven's quasi-fascist wank-fest cover version of Robert A Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and Verela was easily the hottest Cleopatra ever in the 1999 miniseries of the same name. McDowell is imbued with all those Kubrick synchs from Clockwork Orange and has been in all sorts of semiotically-loaded genre fodder (most recently Bolt).

It's directed by Russell Mulcahy of Highlander fame. Incidentally, Mulcahy also directed the straight-to-video sequel of the Scorpion King, 1998's Tale of the Mummy and Resident Evil: Extinction, so Egypto-resonant genre fluff seems to be a specialty of his. The screenplay, such as it is, is written by David Titcher, who brought us the similarly-themed Librarian TV movies, which starred the miscast Noah Wyle.

But since I'm not convinced we aren't living in a Philip K. Dick simulacrum of reality, where extradimensional entities are using symbolically-resonant pop culture to send us premonitions of the future encoded in a deep variety of dream-logic language, The Curse of King Tut's Tomb could well be part of the "Amun Rising" meme we are seeing embodied in our president. I'm on record as claiming that Obama is not the new Akhenaten (Bush held that honor) but in fact the new Tutankhamun, and this film offers a tantalizing clue. Or not.

Leonor Varela's character is Azelia Barakat and our last Obama freakout culminated in the above image of Barack-Cat. Yeah, it's pretty lame, but so is this movie. But it does all clock in at 170 pot-boiling minutes, so that counts for something, right?

If any of you guys have some downtime and want to dig into the synchs on this stinker, please do so. I'm pretty busy this weekend but my Spidey-sense tells me there's more afoot in this flick. I'd also recommend any serious Synch-o-nauts pick up the DVD for closer inspection.