TUTANKHAMUN

PrintE-mail Written by Ryan Pollard

Who would’ve thought archaeology would end up in soap-opera dramatics? ITV’s Tutankhamun retells the events of how the unlikely team in Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered the resting place of the titular king in ‘the Valley of the Kings’, yet it also glamourises elements of it for dramatic purposes. The embellishment is ultimately the major problem as the series focuses more on that than telling the actual events, which is high drama in itself without all the romantic embellishments. It almost felt like as if the writer, Guy Burt, felt that a proper retelling of the events wouldn’t keep the audiences’ attention, so he feels the need to include or alter things in order to make it more acceptable to the modern day crowd.

This includes changing the age of the Carter from his fifties to his twenties/thirties in the hope of making it feel modern, which just goes to show the intelligent wisdom that went behind this series. The fact is that you don’t need the stereotypical attractive young male lead to carry everything. This certainly isn’t helped in the casting of Max Irons as Carter who, while surprisingly solid in the central role, is simply miscast due to his youthfulness. Also, Burt felt the need to bolt on a typical romance plot between Carter and Carnarvon’s daughter Evelyn, even though it has been well-recorded that their relationship was purely platonic and that any indication of a romance was pure speculation. During these romantic interludes, it felt like it started to morph into another episode of Downton Abbey that was full of melodrama and turmoil. Why would anyone want to watch a soap opera switching back and forth? It’s irrelevant to the main story, which was about Carter and Carnarvon’s partnership and their discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

When it focused on what it was supposed to be about, it became an engrossing drama as you constantly began to wonder whether or not they could find and recover the tomb, and if they could avoid trouble from the outside world looking in. If the entire show was like this, then this could easily have been a damn near flawless series. Just a shame it all had to get bogged down by unnecessary, historically-inaccurate balderdash. The production and costume design is very top-notch, which helps make everything feel as rich and authentic as it should be, and the gorgeous cinematography helps enforce that. Also, Sam Neill nailed his role as Lord Carnarvon, bringing a real sense of weight and gravitas to the role and he’s the one you truly invest in the most throughout the series.

Overall, Tutankhamun is something of a mixed bag with a great important story about the greatest archaeological discovery that’s unfortunately bogged down by inaccuracies galore, soap opera melodramatics, relentless padding and modern youthful sheen that’s deeply distracting. It’s solidly acted and pretty on the eyes, but the brain’s still craving for a better-told story, which is sadly buried in here somewhere under all that schmaltz.

TUTANKHAMUN / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: PETER WEBBER / SCREENPLAY: GUY BURT / STARRING: MAX IRONS, JONATHAN ARIS, SAM NEILL, AMY WREN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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