History versus Hollywood: The Mummy and Wonder Woman

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A Brief History

On this day, June 21, 2017, two films featuring titular supernatural females are battling for box office supremacy at the global box office.  As of today, Wonder Woman has grossed an impressive $573.5 million worldwide, while The Mummy has grossed $294 million.  Both films, while their main plot-lines and characters are obviously fictional, nevertheless also include historical settings and personages…well, sort of.  Read on for the movies’ historical (in)accuracy!

Digging Deeper

First, The Mummy opens in 1127 A.D. with a group of English crusader knights capturing a large ruby from ancient Egypt and later burying it within the tomb of one of their number in London.  Curiously, characters in the film refer to the Second Crusade, which took place in actual history from 1147 to 1149, nearly twenty years after the date given for the opening scene of the movie.  Moreover, the English crusaders (along with their Flemish, Frisian, German, Norman, and Scottish allies) in the Second Crusade traveled from England by ship and helped the smaller Portuguese army in the capture of Lisbon, expelling its Moorish occupants.  The bulk of the Crusaders that traveled to the Holy Land were French and German, and, as the map below shows, their route did not have anything to do with Egypt.

Map of the Second Crusade in the Levant from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Crusade#/media/File:SecondCrusade_En.jpg

In terms of Crusades with major English participation in the fighting in the Holy Land, the most famous is of course King Richard the Lionheart’s leadership in the Third Crusade (1189-1192).  Later, Prince Edward of England was a leader of the Ninth Crusade (1271-1272).  Probably the most notable Crusader attack on Egypt occurred during the Seventh Crusade (1248-1254) in which French king Saint Louis IX captured Damietta in 1249 but was taken prisoner in the last major battle of the crusade in 1250.  We do not understand why the movie had the years of the Second Crusade wrong and why they chose a Crusade not known for significant English participation or for a major campaign in Egypt.

As for Wonder Woman, the film includes an actual historical figure as one of its main villains: General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (1865–1937).  As in the movie, Ludendorff was indeed one of Germany’s most important generals in World War I (1914-1918), but he did not die fighting in 1918 as he does in the movie.  Rather, he succumbed to liver cancer in 1937, aged 72.  What is more, the movie depicts him as a super-powered super-villain who actually gives Wonder Woman a pretty decent fight.

The historical Ludendorff, seen below, was not quite so much of a bad-ass!

As for whether or not he was a real-life villain, well, in 1923, he did join forces with the infamous Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in a failed attempt to overthrow Germany’s republican government.  Nevertheless, Ludendorff’s opinion of Hitler eventually soured.  Concerning Hitler, Ludendorff declared in 1933: “I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring our nation to inconceivable misery.  Future generations will damn you in your grave for what you have done.”  As we tragically know, this prophecy would indeed come true.

Have you seen either or these movies?  If so, what other historical inaccuracies did you notice?  Please let us know in the comments below.  You may also enjoy our reviews of both The Mummy and Wonder Woman.

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities in Ohio and has presented research papers in Europe and North America.