Film Review: The Real Tomb Hunters

i-1f00fa8e915a63d197f471513886c12f-realtombhunters.jpgBack in July I panned the History Channel’s documentary on the peopling of North America, Journey to 10,000 BC. Their publicist then sent me a recent re-issue of a 2005 film about adventurous archaeologists, The Real Tomb Hunters — Snakes, Curses and Booby Traps. Here are my impressions of that picture.

Real Tomb Hunters, though not a very good documentary, is far better than Journey to 10,000 BC. This is because a) it doesn’t rely on cheezy computer animation, b) it aims much lower, intending only to be exciting, not to present any research results or debates. We get to follow a number of archaeologists through the history of the discipline who have done adventurous fieldwork in exotic locales. (A palaeontologist is also slipped in without special comment. I guess a fossil bed is a kind of tomb if you’re willing to stretch it…)

The film is good edutainment, but has a number of flaws. Most seriously, though the team has been able to travel around the world, they haven’t had enough time on each location, so the same few clips are repeated endlessly and we get a lot of unprovenanced archive footage that also tends to get repeated. Every time the narrator mentions a snake we see the same clip.

Stylistically, the viewer soon tires of the ominous music that is constantly playing in the background, and the narrator sounds like he’s trying to sell something rather than tell a story. In a documentary where almost all the talking heads are men, a female narrator would have provided balance.

For some rousing yarns about real archaeologists hacking through the jungle, crawling into ancient tombs and getting shot at by the militia, the film is not bad at all. But if your main interest is things that happened before about AD 1900, this film is not for you.

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2 thoughts on “Film Review: The Real Tomb Hunters

  1. Oh yes, I’ve seen both of those. But believe it or not, I’ve also seen much, much worse. There was the one about the guy who went to Armenia to look at something dark that “proved” to be the remains of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. There was the one which “proved” that not only had the Sphinx once had a lion’s head and been rained on a lot, perhaps a million years ago, but it was carved originally by little, green men from Mars! And you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen the docu-comedies on creationism which purport to explain how science proves there really was Biblical Flood, evolution never happened, and all those dinosaur fossils are just the remains of Mr. Leviathan! They always show the name of THEIR experts too, as they discuss these things, and we know they’re experts because their credentials are shown just like on the real science shows: Joe Schmoe, EXPERT.


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