Artisan // 2003 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // November 15th, 2003
Loved by a king. Hated by an empire. Erased from history. She could be the biggest find since King Tut.
This is one mummy that should have stayed sleeping. Nefertiti Resurrected is an uncommonly bad documentary from the Discovery Channel, whose name usually assures quality in a product. Wait a minute! Glancing at the box, I notice that the distributor of this disc is Artisan, whose name usually assures disaster.
The material is there for an interesting, informative documentary about one of the most mysterious figures in Egyptian history. But director Matthew Wortman and writer Shaun Trevisick haven't the foggiest idea of how to construct a coherent documentary, never mind an interesting one.
The documentary is mainly about the efforts of a British scientist, Joann Fletcher, to recover the missing body of Queen Nefertiti, a woman with a shnozz that could rival Barbra Streisand's. With the University of York Mummy Research Team and financing from the Discovery Channel, she manages to find a mummy that could be the queen herself. This footage is balanced with recreations of Nefertiti's life and death.
How do you know you're watching a bad documentary? When you see the narrator's name (Tamara Tunie) and start thinking of Mario Cantone's hilarious putdowns of said narrator. Seriously, it's the poor structural and pacing skills of director Wortman that do Nefertiti Resurrected in.
The opening half hour is an excruciating, butt-numbing experience. It is so slow and stilted that many will turn off the player at this point. I did, but I dragged myself to watch the rest of the film later. The things I do for you readers out there. The final half hour is much faster paced and has some worthwhile material, but by then, this disc will already be on the shelves of pawnshops everywhere.
The recreated scenes are poorly done. With every flashback, we get what I call "The Nefertiti Shuffle": a long shot of the queen sitting on her throne, followed by a medium shot, followed by an extreme close-up of her eyes. This is repeated endlessly throughout the documentary. Faked footage has always bothered me in documentaries. It's the main reason why I didn't care for This is Elvis (1981). A documentary has the power to reach so many people. To be sure, the best footage in Nefertiti Resurrected is about the expedition and examination, not the recreations.
WARNING: This disc should not be used for drinking games. With all the repetitious shots and incoherent mumbling, someone out there will surely die of alcohol poisoning.
Artisan is notorious for their full frame discs of poor quality. For Nefertiti Resurrected, Artisan has given us a 1.66:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer of poor quality. The recreations have grain galore, looking like they were shot in the middle of a sandstorm. The expedition footage has a hazy, almost sterile quality that is distracting at times. It's not much better than a print you would see on broadcast television.
The sound mix is okay of its type. It's presented in a flat Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that doesn't wow the viewer but won't elicit many complaints, either.
Extras are limited to promotional trailers for two other Artisan/Discovery Channel discs and three trailers for other documentaries. The most valuable extras are the two interactive galleries. "Explore the Evidence" gives you a first-hand look at the evidence. "Video Forensics" is comprised of outtakes featuring Dr. Fletcher talking about what she has found. These are superb, better than anything in the final cut.
Artisan is charging $19.99 retail for this travesty. My advice: save your money and catch this on TV, if you're interested. Otherwise, stay far, far away.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Promo Trailers
* Interactive Galleries