"Our faces will be in the papers!"
Pharaoh's Quest: The Curse of Amset-Ra is an animated film and Mustache Maniacs Film Co.'s first foray into animated historical fiction. It is the fifth film in Project U and is based on LEGO's Pharaoh's Quest building sets.
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
The film opens in Ancient Egypt, where Professor Archibald Hale narrates the events. In 2900 B.C.E., Amset-Ra ruled Egypt with an iron fist, greedily grabbing everything that his subjects possessed, including all of Egypt's treasures. Wanting more, he instructed his sorcerers to make him six treasures that would allow him to rule the world. But before he could use them, the peasants raided his palace, captured the pharaoh, and locked him into his pyramid with his most loyal guards and treasure. The six treasures were scattered throughout Egypt, but a spell was placed on Amset-Ra, reawakening him millennia later.
A newsreel summarizes World War 1 before the Battle of Beersheba begins. Among the troops are Jake Raines and Mac McCloud, who are ordered to secure the wells in the city. They race into a courtyard, but are ambushed, so they take cover inside the well, Inside, they discover an Ancient Egyptian scarab shrine, where Mac discovers the Golden Crystal. Before they can escape, however, a giant scarab statue comes to life, attacking them, they escape and blow up the scarab.
Once they emerge from the well, Jake and Mac discover that the attack has resulted in a victory. Jake mentions that their discovery has inspired him to seek out lost treasure, which in the following years, turns Jake Raines into a living legend.
The year is now 1924. Archibald Hale has called to meet with Jake Raines, who meets him at the Barrel Bar in the Windsor Officer's Club. There, he explains to Jake that he has uncovered a prophecy that foretells the return of Amset-Ra and that, according to his calculations, he will be returning a week from next Tuesday. Jake doesn't believe Archibald at first, but Archibald wins him over by explaining what happened in the Beersheba well in detail, as well as the fact that Jake lucky crystal is one of the six treasures needed to stop Amset-Ra. Jake agrees to help as long as he brings along Mac and another adventuring pal, Helena Skvalling, and Archibald gives Jake the location of his camp.
The following day, Jake meets everyone at Archibald's tent, where Archibald discusses what needs to be done to stop Amset-Ra. After debating with Jake over the whether or not to leave the Golden Crystal at camp, Jake laments and allows Archibald to lock it inside of a drawer. They split up, with Helena and Archibald going to the Cobra Shrine, and Jake and Mac going to a Jackal Shrine. At the Jackal Shrine, Jake and Mac are pursued by mummies, but discover that the Golden Staff is missing. Jake discovers that the Jackal Shrine is actually an entrance to a cave, and the two dive inside. Inside, Mac defeats a mummy and grabs the Golden Staff.
At the Cobra Shrine, Archibald and Helena approach the shrine, only to find out that the Golden Scarab Shield is out of reach. A mummy enchants the Cobra Statue, bringing it to life and causing it to attack the pair. Their jeep is destroyed as Helena and Archibald race to outmaneuver the cobra, but figure out that its attacks are slowly crumbling the statue. Tricking the statue to bash its head into the shrine, Helena is able to destroy the mummy, the cobra statue, and the shrine. She recovers the Golden Scarab Shield and a camel wanders in, allowing them to get back to camp.
After a night's rest, Archibald informs them the next morning that he misread the map, and that Amset-Ra will be rising that evening. They decide to split up again, with Jake and Mac travelling to an obelisk and Helena and Archibald going to a jackal-headed sphinx. However, as Jake and Mac rev up their bi-plane and take off, Archibald mentions that someone recently spotted flying mummies. Jake dismisses the claims, but they are soon attacked by flying mummies, which are after the Soul Diamond. After making some evasive maneuvers, Jake destroys the obelisk, driving the flying mummies off. After recovering the Soul Diamond from the rubble, Jake rebuilds the wreckage of the plane into a sailboard, using it to sail through a sandstorm.
Unable to see where they are going, the pair crashes into the sphinx. Archibald and Helena arrive and begin to excavate the hiding place of the Golden Sword. They quickly recover it, but this awakens the sphinx, which attacks the sailboard. Mac gets everyone into Archibald's hot rod and races of, the sphinx in pursuit. They ultimately defeat the sphinx by quickly racing over quicksand, which the heavy statue sinks into. With all of the treasures in their possession, they return to Archibald's camp.
When they do return, however, they discover that the camp has been destroyed and that the mummies have taken the treasures that were present. They all plan to head to the Scorpion Pyramid, with Helena staying behind to guard the Golden Sword and the Soul Diamond. As the three leave in the half-track, Helena is captured by a mummy.
As the half-track pulls up to the Scorpion Pyramid, a flying mummy swoops in and grabs Mac, carrying him into the pyramid. The remaining two face off against a giant scorpion statue perched on the pyramid, which Jake manages to blow up with a stick of dynamite.
Inside the pyramid, as the pair makes their way through the chambers, Archibald and Jake discover that Amset-Ra's authority was given to him by a space alien named Hypaxxus-8, who will return at Amset-Ra's signal to help him regain his control. Other wall carvings predict future events, which confuses Archibald Hale. However, the sound of Mac's voice draws Jake further into the pyramid.
Inside the burial chamber, Mac and Helena are being held against one wall, while mummies use the treasures plugged into an alien generator to reawaken Amset-Ra. He immediately attacks the pair with the generator, but they are able to outwit him. Jake manages to grab the Golden Sword, which he uses to free Mac and Helena. They all engage the mummies, which are quickly defeated. Amset-Ra, unwilling to admit defeat, sends his remaining mummies to reclaim the treasures, but they too are defeated. Using the treasures, Jake and his entourage force Amset-Ra back into his sarcophagus, the only thing that will hold him, and use the treasures to put him back to sleep. The four breathe a sigh of relief.
In the present day, Dr. Hiram Aziz pays a visit to the Amset-Ra exhibit at the Egyptian Museum, where he is interrupted by a phone call. While he is on the phone, Amset-Ra and the mummies in the room come back to life. It looks like the end for Hiram, but before Amset-Ra can strike him down, Amset-Ra and his mummies suddenly fall back to sleep, confusing Hiram.
The idea of creating a film based on the Pharaoh's Quest LEGO sets is almost as old as the LEGO theme itself. However, since interactive adventures were being heavily explored at this time (a development that would eventually lead to both The Lost Ruby: An Interactive Adventure and Shady Acres Super Sleuth), the original version of the film was actually going to be a game, where players could explore the environment and fight Amset-Ra and his mummy army. However, as the technology to match the vision had not yet been fully explored, coupled with a eventual disdain for the concept, the game idea was scrapped by Summer 2011.
However, in a 2012 survey, fan response showed that people were very interested in a Pharaoh's Quest-based film, with that theme out-performing all of the other themes in the survey. Because of this, work on writing a more traditional film adaption started in Fall 2012, most of which used the original script file for the interactive version. While this did cause some writing problems, since all of the information about player interactivity had to be written out, the first draft of the script was finished early in 2013.
Filming itself wouldn't start until April 8, 2016, mostly due to complications with finishing production for Alpha Team: Mission Deep Jungle, but the script did see one major change just before then. Most people mistakenly think that Johnny Thunder and the Secret of Marco Polo takes place in the 1930's when it actually takes place in the present day (as in 2008), and have subsequently accused the film of not accurately representing a time period in which the film doesn't actually take place. To strongly clarify this and also to accurately represent 1924, the script for this film was rewritten again to make it as historically accurate to 1917 Beersheba and 1924 Egypt as possible. This consisted of script re-writes, extensive research, and accurately-built models. Even the poster was designed to evoke 1920's travel posters.
However, as development lagged in the fall of 2017, the release date, which was set for December 22, 2017, had to be pushed back in order to maintain quality control for the film. The film's release was moved to Memorial Day Weekend 2018, then to July 27 before finally moving to November 9, 2018, just two days before the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. It was delayed again to an undetermined date.
Meanwhile, on January 5, 2019, bricksinmotion.com hosted THAC XVI, which was planned as another release time for a new Mustache Maniacs Film Co. movie. The film that was created for it, The Bartender's Tale, was cancelled after falling behind schedule, but as it reused sets and events from this film, it was announced the next day that The Bartender's Tale would become part of Pharaoh's Quest: The Curse of Amset-Ra and that this film would be released in the summer of 2019. After the re-release of Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients on March 29, 2019, it was announced that this film would be released on August 9, 2019.
However, as that day approached, it became clear that the film would not be done on time. Originally, the film was going to be released in two parts, with part 2 coming in late 2019, but as the post-production process began to linger due to technical issues, the film was eventually delayed to an unannounced date later in 2019. The film's poster was likewise updated to simply read "coming soon" in place of an actual release date.
In March 2020, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, this film finally finished nearly four years of production, with this film's production phase concluding also signalling the beginning of production for A Future in the Past, which shares some of this film's sets. Then, after editing (which had been on-going during production) was finished, it was formally announced on April 1, 2020 that this film would finally be released on April 17, 2020. During the weeks leading up to this date, Dylan Johnson composed the film's score.
The film has received praise for its interpretation of the LEGO theme that it is based upon, as well as being finally released after several delays. In addition, this film has become a source of new fans for Mustache Maniacs Film Co., who have boosted this film's ratings long after its release.
In response to this, a sequel titled Pharaoh's Quest: Tyrant of the Chaco (which is not part of Project U) was green-lit the day after this film was released. That film was formally announced on February 1, 2021 and is expected to be released in 2027.
- Continuity Error: After the collection arm on the Spirit of Luis Bi-plane is extended, mummies surround the Soul Diamond, forcing Jake to ram the obelisk. As the bi-plane is charging the obelisk, the collection arm is oddly retracted until the bi-plane smashes into the obelisk, when the arm is extended again.
- Continuity Error: As Jake and Mac stand around the wreckage of their bi-plane with their flight goggles up, Jake reaches down and grabs the Soul Diamond. As he stands back up, his flight goggles are back over his eyes, which he lifts up again.
- Jake Raines (Andrew Adkins)
- Mac McCloud (Alan Hom)
- Professor Archibald Hale (William Osborne)
- Helena Skvalling (Teresa Bermudez)
- Amset-Ra (Dylan Johnson)
- Col. Hawking (Dylan Johnson)
- Mummy Snake Charmer (Alex Hoxie)
- Supervisor (Al Bermudez)
- Chariot Driver (Andrew Bermudez)
- Angry Peasant (Daniel Bermudez)
- Sorcerer (Andrew Bermudez)
- Dr. Hiram Aziz (Steve Hoxie)
- Museum Director (Andrew Adkins)
- Amir Samara (Daniel Bermudez)
- Ernest Kerry (Al Bermudez)
- Andrew Bermudez - Writer; Director; Animator; Voice Actor; Editor
- Daniel Bermudez - Voice Actor
- Teresa Bermudez - Assistant Writer; Voice Actor
- Al Bermudez - Voice Actor
- Alan Hom - Voice Actor
- William Osborne - Voice Actor
- Dylan Johnson - Voice Actor; Composer
- Alex Hoxie - Voice Actor
- Steve Hoxie - Voice Actor
- Andrew Adkins - Voice Actor
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
Pharaoh's Quest: The Curse of Amset-Ra contains examples of the following tropes.
- Adaption Expansion: The film draws most of its inspiration from the official LEGO Pharaoh's Quest online comic and The Quest online game, but several other details not from the official story, such as the Battle of Beersheba, were also woven into the plot.
- Adventurer Archaeologist: The four adventurers, to varying degrees. While Archibald Hale leans towards the archaeologist side of the spectrum, Jake Raines is far on the adventurer side of this.
- All There in the Manual: According to the official canon, the smiling soldier that seemingly follows Jake Raines and Mac McCloud during the Battle of Beersheba is the exact same person as the bartender, Amir Samara, in the Barrel Bar. Originally, the film was going to explicitly show this, but executive meddling changed the scene, removing any in-film connections between the two.
- All There in the Script: Some of the character's names are never mentioned in the film. However, full character names are in the script, which was consulted for writing this wiki page and are featured in the end credits.
- Ancient Astronauts: Inside Amset-Ra's tomb, Archibald Hale discovers that Amset-Ra secured his power over Egypt through the help of aliens led by Hypaxxus-8.
- Ancient Egypt: The film begins with a prologue set in Ancient Egypt, telling the story of Amset-Ra.
- The Artifact: Why are there yellow and red round plates scattered around at the beginning of the Barrel Bar sequence and in part of the Battle of Beersheba? Originally, Amir Samara's story and flashback was going to be its own film created for THAC XVI titled The Bartender's Tale, but this film was cancelled when editing began, as there was no way to get the film done on time. The yellow and red pieces were THAC XVI's mod elements, but there was no way to edit them out of the shots for their re-tool for this film.
- Artistic License - History: In spite of all of the research that went into this film, there is one notable inaccuracy: Ancient Egyptians were more casual about nudity in real life. This film, however, shows the Ancient Egyptians modestly-dressed. This can be justified, since the target audience wouldn't really want to see that much nudity in the film's first three minutes.
- The Bartender: The character of Amir Samara.
- Born Unlucky: It's somewhat downplayed, but Mac McCloud is considered to be very unlucky and constantly finds himself getting injured throughout the movie.
- Build Like an Egyptian: Naturally, Amset-Ra is buried inside of a pyramid, and one with a giant scorpion mounted on top, no less. This is also where the finale takes place.
- Continuity Nod: There are a few in place, though they may be hard to find. They are:
- Inside the Barrel Bar, Amir Samara and Ernest Kerry discuss Jake Raines' recent discovery of the legend of the Heart of Osiris, which in 2010 is consulted by Johnny Thunder and Hiram Aziz to find the actual treasure in Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile.
- Speaking of the Heart of Osiris, Amset-Ra is seen briefly holding it in the prologue before the peasants raid his palace.
- The Barrel Bar itself is located inside the Windsor Officer's Club, which later became the Windsor Hotel, the hotel that Johnny Thunder and the Adventurers stay in during the events of Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile.
- At the end of the film, the Egyptian Museum's Amset-Ra exhibit is visited by Hiram Aziz, who is also from Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile.
- Cool Bike: Jake Raines and Mac McCloud take a motorbike to the Jackal shrine.
- Cool Car: Our heroes get a whole slew of them, including a hot rod, a half-track, and a jeep.
- Cool Plane: Jake's plane, The Spirit of Luis, is used to recover the Soul Diamond.
- Curse of the Pharaoh: Oddly, this trope is subverted in that the Pharaoh's curse is to take over the world, but it's not a by-product of anyone defiling Amset-Ra's tomb. He is revived by his own will, or at least by alien technology.
- Deadly Dust Storm: Jake and Mac race through one on their way back to camp after retrieving the Soul Diamond.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: It's downplayed, but the film is not shy about how archaeology used to be handled in the 1920's. Archibald Hale is the only scholarly member of Jake's entourage, as everyone else is more interested in money and fame.
- Desert Warfare: The battle sequence takes place during the Battle of Beersheba.
- Egypt Is Still Ancient: This trope is both justified and averted. On the one hand, seeing so much Ancient Egyptian architecture stems from the fact that Jake and his entourage spend most of their time in Ancient Egyptian ruins. On the other hand, the parts of modern Egypt that are seen (such as the Barrel Bar) very clearly show Islamic and colonial influences.
- The End of the World as We Know It: This is what Amset-Ra is trying to achieve.
- ET Gave Us Wi-Fi: It's revealed near the end of the film that Amset-Ra's six magical treasures are actually alien weapons, and his powers to conquer the world are actually generated through an alien homing beacon that the treasures plug into.
- Flat-Earth Atheist: Jake Raines initially doesn't believe in any of the curses and prophesies that Archibald Hale has researched. He does eventually come to see the severity of the situation, however, and does figure out that Amset-Ra's powers are just alien weapons.
- Foreshadowing: For both within and outside of this film, there is some abounding.
- During the prologue, as a sorcerer gives Amset-Ra the Golden Staff, a space alien can barely be seen behind him giving the Golden Crystal to another sorcerer. Anyone could pass it off as a visual gag, but it's actually hinting at the reveal at the end that Amset-Ra's magic is just alien weapons.
- The black-robed sorcerer's identity is kept secret, as that reveal comes in A Future in the Past.
- Inside of the globe room inside of the Scorpion Pyramid, Archibald Hale discovers an image of two familiar figures conspiring. These two figures are Ogel and Baron Typhonus, which foreshadows the events of Legends of the Universe.
- As the adventurers are forcing Amset-Ra back into his sarcophagus, a beam of...something...shoots inside briefly. This foreshadows the Amset-Ra room scene, and the answers to this mystery are featured in A Future in the Past.
- Gentleman Adventurer: The character of Prof. Archibald Hale.
- Historical Domain Character: Briefly during the news reel, General Allenby, the commander of the British campaign in the Middle East during World War 1, is mentioned for context.
- Historical Fantasy: Essentially, this is the film's genre.
- Living Legend: Jake Raines is one for his adventuring and heroics.
- Living Statues: Jake Raines and his entourage encounter four throughout the entire film: a giant scarab, a giant snake, a jackal-headed sphinx, and a giant scorpion.
- Mummy: Amset-Ra and his guards are this in 1924.
- Nepharious Pharaoh: Amset-Ra was one of these both before becoming a mummy and after.
- Newspaper Backstory: The newspaper that Ernest Kerry has with him serves as one for Jake Raines, which is shown right before the Barrel Bar sequence begins.
- Plot Coupon: Amset-Ra's six treasures are these, as they are needed to put Amset-Ra back to sleep.
- The Punishment: Amset-Ra was cursed to live inside his pyramid for all eternity with his most loyal guards, turning them into the undead. It's subverted, though, in that the one who planted the curse is actually loyal to Amset-Ra, anticipating the pharaoh's return.
- Pyramid Power: The Scorpion Pyramid contains, among other things, wall carvings that predict future events, a giant living statue of a scorpion, and an alien device that can signal Hypaxxus-8's fleet to return to Earth.
- Real is Brown: To evoke the dry atmosphere of the desert of Egypt, the colors used throughout the film are within the realm of yellowish-brown. Dark red and dark blue are mainly used as accent colors.
- Retired Badass: Essentially, Jake and Mac count, as they are veterans from World War 1.
- The Roaring 20's: The film takes place in this era, minus the battle and prologue.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: When Amset-Ra and his loyal guards were enchanted when they were buried, they became this, turning them into the undead.
- Shown Their Work: The scenes set in 1924 use actual 1920's slang. On top of this, the Barrel Bar set is an exact replica of the actual real-life location.
- Spinning Paper: One concludes the prologue and acts as a transition into the World War 1 newsreel. Two more conclude the Battle of Beersheba.
- The Stinger: If you thought Hiram Aziz was doomed, wait until after the end credits. There, it's revealed that, ready to strike down Hiram, Amset-Ra suddenly freezes and goes back to sleep on the floor, along with the surrounding mummies.
- Stock Footage: The newsreel summarizing World War 1 between the prologue and the Battle of Beersheba uses actual footage filmed during the war. The present-day epilogue also recycles a deleted scene from Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients.
- Thirsty Desert: Most of the film takes place out in the desert of Egypt.
- Two-Fisted Tales: Even more so than the Johnny Thunder Saga, this film plays into the archetypes of works from the 1920's, with a bit of the reality of the era thrown in (as mentioned in the Deliberate Values Dissonance entry above).
- Urban Warfare: The battle takes place in the town of Beersheba.
- Stagehand Visible: As the peasants look over at the death of their supervisor, a grip who was accidentally caught on-camera covers himself up with a palm leaf. He later checks to see of the camera has stopped rolling. It hasn't.
- Special Prop: In his throne room, Amset-Ra literally has all of Egypt's gold, including a gold kitchen sink!
- Hidden Character: Inside the Barrel Bar, one of the patrons is Jock Lindsey from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Special Prop: Hanging on the wall of the Barrel Bar is an edition of the Daily Prophet from the Harry Potter films.
- Stagehand Visible: As Jake pulls up to Archibald's tent, a boom mic operator can be seen peering from behind some vehicles.
- Special Props: Archibald's tent is filled with unique props, such as a pair of yellow epaulets from LEGO Pirates, a Kanohi Pakari from BIONICLE, a red clay statuette, a cow skull, a trident, an Aquazone Stingrays Helmet, and other special surprises!
- Stagehand Visible: As Archibald, Jake, and Mac reach the Scorpion Pyramid and disembark from their half-track, a production assistant can be seen in the background, meddling with a palm tree.
- Out of all of Mustache Maniacs Film Co.'s film adaptions, this one is the most faithful to its source material.
- Throughout the Pharaoh's Quest product line's run, Daniel Bermudez frequently commented on how the theme was a blatant rip-off of The Mummy. When the script was first penned in 2011/2012, Andrew Bermudez took this comparison and ran with it.
- The battle at the beginning of the film represents the Battle of Beersheba, a real-life World War 1 battle.
- Despite its fantastic story, director Andrew Bermudez emphasized historical accuracy throughout. The uniforms for the soldiers were thoroughly researched, builds made just for the film were modeled after their real-life counterparts, and a dictionary of 1920's slang was consulted for writing Jake's and Helena's dialogue.
- The first teaser for this film debuted at Chroniclers' Convergence 2016, the first time that Mustache Maniacs Film Co. has used an outside event to promote one of its films.
- This film is Mustache Maniacs Film Co.'s first flagship film to not have a promotional tagline on the official poster.
- The second trailer for this film was scheduled to be released on October 31, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the actual Battle of Beersheba. This second trailer was pushed off to a later date.
- The secret incantation that the snake charmer uses to wake up the Cursed Cobra Statue is actually "Buy soda and popcorn at the snack bar," but spoken in reverse.