Ben Kingsley headlines this Spike Mini-Series about King Tut

Cable channel Spike attempts an ambitious mini-series in Tut, a historical epic with Sir Ben Kingsley leading a mostly unknown cast. The story of King Tut, the boy king of ancient Egypt that rose to power and then died an early death, became instantly famous with the archaeological discovery of his tomb in 1922 and has continued to fascinate many. Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. He is colloquially referred to as King Tut in popular culture. This mini-series tells Tutankhamun’s reign as Pharaoh with epic action and political intrigue, told in a dramatic style similar to other recent cable productions. The cast is better than the uneven storytelling and character development in Tut.

The best thing about Tut are clearly its top-notch production values. Filmed on location in Morocco, Spike mounts a truly epic production in size and scale. Avoiding lazy CGI and digital fill-ins, an impressive set was physically built for Tut and real people were used as extras. His temple has a startlingly presence with its scope and size. The costumes and props look stunningly realistic in battle. Some purists may quibble with the European-looking cast but that is always a problem with these large-scale historical dramas set in foreign countries.

Tut begins as Tutankhamun’s father is dying. Tut (Avan Jogia ) is soon made Pharaoh at the age of nine and wedded to his sister, a common practice for Egyptian royalty at the time. His sister Ankhesenamun (Sibylla Deen) becomes a key force in moving the plot forward. Much of the mini-series revolves around a love triangle between Tut, Ankhesenamun and Tut’s best friend from childhood, Ka. It is a melodramatic flourish that is weaved throughout the first half of Tut. The queen’s jealousy and scheming end up causing more pain for Tut than all his enemies combined.

Originally broadcast over three nights, the strongest segment is Part 1 of Tut. It lays the groundwork for the entire series, showing Tut fall in love with a peasant girl and deal with Egypt’s enemies in battle, the Mitanni. Tut is an inexperienced young ruler controlled by a small group of advisers, including a Grand Vizier (Ben Kingsley) and General Horemheb (Nonso Anozie of Zoo fame). The power struggle between them is the core of Tut’s narrative. The Grand Vizier lusts after becoming Pharaoh himself, the most politically connected man in the kingdom. General Horemheb is a revered war hero with ties to Ka.

The mini-series doesn’t understand subtle as events are laid out in overly dramatic sequences


Tut relies heavily on sex and violence to spice up the slower drama between battles. Viewers that have seen recent historical dramas like Spartacus and HBO’s Rome should have a good idea of Tut’s formula. Over the course of three parts, some of the characters are written inconsistently. Tut’s queen can’t seem to pick between Ka and her beloved brother, a contrivance only necessary to add melodrama. The mini-series doesn’t understand subtle as events are laid out in overly dramatic sequences. Ben Kingsley delivers yet another reliable performance as the Grand Vizier to Tut, there is a reason he keeps getting cast in these roles. His character is given less development than I would have expected but raises the level of any scene he’s in.

The mostly pretty cast works for this kind of glossy historical epic. It is not meant to be a serious, scholarly drama and has no aspirations in that direction. Big on authentic action and impressive production values, Tut is a decent mini-series that probably runs long. A little more polish to the script and dialogue may have worked wonders and turned it into a stellar telling of the boy king’s reign.


It doesn't end well for Tut @ 1:26:44

Paramount delivers a fairly impressive Blu-ray presentation of Tut in this two-disc set. Tut runs over 260 minutes, spread across a BD-50 and a BD-25. The AVC video encode averages an adequate 20 Mbps, allowing a few spots of banding in the pristine picture quality. The banding doesn’t take away from the excellent clarity and detail evident in most of Tut.

Exteriors are incredible, highlighting the fantastic set design in perfect color saturation. This is rich, detailed 1080P video.

If there are problems, some of the darker interior shots contain heavier grain with poor lighting. The pitch-perfect contrast has steady black levels and excellent flesh-tones. Tut is a sharp Blu-ray with occasionally gorgeous scenery. The 1.78:1 widescreen cinematography is rather pedestrian much of the time, though Tut’s grandeur makes for some nice eye candy.

Video ★★★★☆

A sweeping musical score by composer Jeff Russo and powerful surround moments come together in this powerful 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Tut’s surround mix makes a big impression during the explosive battles, booming with clarity and bass. The surround presence has a nice array of discrete and panning cues. Dialogue is clean and clear without getting lost in the wide dynamic range of the soundtrack. The television production boasts solid audio quality and is better than average.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font. A secondary 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack is included.

Audio ★★★★☆

This is an enthusiastic if not particularly extensive set of special features. The featurette about costume design had more useful information than the others, which tended to be superficial and loaded with clips from Tut. Paramount includes an UltraViolet digital copy of Tut as a bonus.

The Costumes of Tut (03:31 in HD) – The cast and costume designer talk about the authentic linen dresses seen in Tut. They were all custom-made for Tut by hand.

History Revealed (06:49 in HD) – An egyptologist examines the famous boy king’s history and discusses his tomb with artifacts in this cursory featurette.

Terminator: Genisys Trailer (02:30 in HD) – Plays before the main menu on disc one.

Unmasking the Legend: The Making of Tut (23:43 in HD) – A boring, repetitive featurette that relies on clips from Tut between the brief cast and crew interviews. It tells much of the plot, avoid if you haven’t seen the mini-series.


Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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