Sunday, July 13, 2014

Jack Hunter and the Quest for Akhenaten's Tomb (2008)

Indiana Jones sure has inspired a whole genre of films, some more overt in their inspiration than others==. One example is the Jack Hunter trilogy. These are considered a miniseries, but only because that's how they were aired. In actuality, this is less a miniseries and more three individual but connected movies. I stumbled upon two of the three yesterday, and was pretty wary going in, but they actually turned out to be very good! I haven't seen the first film, but I won't bother tracking it down to review first before this, because unless you were looking for these movies, chances are you found them out of order, so I'm here to tell you that that's ok, and doesn't impede on the experience in the slightest.

Archeologist Jack Hunter has been forcibly drafted by the NSA to help them track down the powerful Star of Heaven artifact (said to wield extraordinary powers), and Albert Littman, a fugitive who used to be associated with Jack until he murdered his friend. Jack is called to Egypt by an associate who's discovered an ancient obelisk from the Ugarit civilization-who created the Star of Heaven-and Jack and his team desperately try to hunt down the Star before Littman and his mob associates close in...

The second entry in this series, The Quest for Akhenaten's Tomb doesn't require you to have seen the previous film, and does a pretty good job establishing everything (minus what the Star of Heaven is).

This film (and the series in general) continues the trend of archeologists being gun-toting adventurers who regularly come across supernatural artifacts, and more regularly shoot bad guys dead (though nowhere near as many as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series). Is it goofy? Yeah, but you can't really complain about it, unless you're not a fan of the Indiana Jones trilogy, and are willing to levy the same complaints you have here against those.

Speaking of Indiana Jones, is this a blatant ripoff? Not at all, no matter what the hilariously plagiaristic foreign posters, or the DVD trilogy release's font would have you believe. The only obvious connection between the two aside from 'unrealistically adventurous archeologist' is the similar (if not identical) hat Jack wears.

The set-work here is fine, although there is some subpar CGI in places for certain effects, such as stone doors opening. The score is very good, accentuating moments badass and triumphant very well. And the Egyptian locale looks very pretty.

The acting's all good. It was off to a shaky start, but it's all mostly fine. Even the constant mispronunciations of Akhenaten's name stop after the first twenty minutes.

Ivan Sergei is pretty stoic as the main character. Jack Hunter is kind-of an asshole, but not really. He's almost likeable. Joanne Kelly of Warehouse 13 fame is very good here (even if she's not Syrian like her character's meant to be), and you stop seeing her as Myka Bering pretty quickly (although this film will probably leave you with an insatiable desire to rewatch that show).

One of my favourite aspects of this film is definitely comic relief sidekick Tariq. When he first appeared, I thought he would only appear in this one scene, which I thought a shame, as he seemed entertaining. I wished he'd be a main character...And he is! In fact, he is in not only this entry in the Jack Hunter series, but the other two as well! Some, however, find him too silly, and I can't blame them, really. He's like a human Jar-Jar Binks, just not annoying (to me at least).

Another character who also appeared plenty, just as I hoped, is the Egyptian Colonel, who's also likeable, even if the actor's soft-ish line delivery can sometimes be hard to understand (not helped by a lack of subtitles on the DVD). Susan Ward is pretty meh. Her performance here isn't as good as in other films I've seen her in, but she only shows up for a couple of short scenes, so she's not unbearable or anything.

Thure Reifenstein's Albert Littman isn't in the film much, as he's predominately a sub-villain for this outing, with the evil Cult of Akhenaten taking centre-stage. They're fine villains, even if their leader is pretty sucky (in the respect that he kills a henchman at the start for failing to capture Jack Hunter, then promptly spends the rest of the movie failing to capture Jack Hunter!).

The Jack Hunter series is no Indiana Jones, but really, what is? And it is in the same league as the Librarian trilogy, and that's a pretty good place to be. I recommend The Quest for Akhenaten's Tomb, although you'll probably want to hunt down the first movie beforehand...

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