By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
No reasons were fully revealed about why the cinematic adaptation of The Anubis Tapestry by Illumination Entertainment was removed from schedule. I had to seek out the book and wonder what was I missing? It’s doubtful that the story was untranslatable to screen. Author Bruce Zick is no stranger to the industry. He worked on the development of successful films like Prince of Egypt, Hercules and Wall*E. The project seemed like it was in perfect hands since the tale had all the elements required for a fun-filled adventure!
The story about a young boy wishing to be closer to his dad is good. When Chance Henry is left to his own devices to entertain himself, it’s not so much about the gang he hangs out with, but rather the distance growing between father and son. Mother died a while ago and when pops is often preoccupied with work, there’s no time for the two to bond. The senior is the curator for the Portland Museum of Eastern Antiquities. When two new mummies arrived for him to get ready for display, neither would realize Egyptian curses are real!
Here, the young protagonist undergoes a traditional rite of passage. When his father becomes transformed into a mummy (a vassal for an evil spirit) by Sehti, the plot is simple—save his soul. To help the lad, the other mummy, Osirious, awakens to teach him the ways of Heka. This form of magic involves reciting incantations and knowing the theology of the Ancient Egyptian culture to make the spell strong!
On the flipside, The Maat is not as vividly explored. Christian Jacq’s Ramses series was far more detailed on how the belief permeates into the everyday culture of this old world. Zick instilled some of this essence in the role of Osirious, the advisor to Chance, but did not go very deep. He teaches the lad everything he needs to know to survive and to get past the gates from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This collection of writings offers spells to the deceased to ward off evil in his travels to Hall of Judgement. Should the individual deviate, even the living cannot make it out alive!
Chance’s friends — Holly, Hayden and Christie — eventually find out what he’s up to and help. He’s been dodgy lately, ever since he inherited the tapestry, and ultimately only he can make the journey into the underworld and nobody else. At this book’s core is an adventure story akin to many a mythic work, namely Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Unlike other adaptations and similarly created works, setting up a successful franchise is tough.
Similarly structured toons like Transformers (Prime) had the backing of a 40-year-old property, Trollhunters with del Toro’s name attached to it and Ben 10 created by industry veterans to make them a success. Why Anubis Tapestry did not get to market may have been due to lack of enthusiasm by investors than producers.
To not fully develop the villain may have been one problem. Perhaps the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy doomed this work since not everyone was receptive to another Mission Impossible. This book was also volume one of an unknown number of sequels. No further stories were released. The publishing label Actionopolis looks more like a springboard platform for ideas to get off the ground. Many genres are covered in its vast catalogue and none of them has hit the mainstream in a strong way, otherwise I would have noticed. This story should not get buried either.
Perhaps Universal heard of this film’s development and said this movie is too similar to The Mummy Animated Series (2001-03). Both characters wore a magical object around their wrist and recited incantations to grant them powers to fight resurrected foes. When considering no book to animated film adaptation is ever faithful to the source (just look at How to Train Your Dragon), the executives worry too much.
Hopefully, Bruce Zick can get to penning book two. The tale is enjoyable. I feel it needs to offer to readers an educational experience on top. The four-book series, The Mummy Chronicles by Dave Wolverton, almost escaped my radar if it was not for the fact I’m a die-hard Brendan Fraser Mummy fan. A few pages are all that’s needed to give the fiction a touch of historical context to explain why this Ancient Egypt is so wondrous.