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Film / The Relic

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The Relic (or Relic) is a 1997 film adaptation of a novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, directed by Peter Hyams, starring Tom Sizemore, Penelope Ann Miller, and Linda Hunt.

A string of gruesome murders plagues the Chicago Museum of Natural History in the days leading up to a massive gala to open a new exhibit. The strange mutilations of the bodies suggests the killer may not even be human. But with so much at stake, the museum officials decide to push through the opening despite the dangers.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: The Kothoga is considerably larger than in the book, where it is described as being roughly the size of a grizzly bear, while in the film is about as big as a small elephant.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The monster in the film is called the Kothoga, possibly because actually saying "Mbwun" out loud is a lot harder than reading it. In the novel, the Kothoga was the name of the tribe of which the monster is the legend of, but the tribe goes unnamed in the film.
    • Dr. Julian Whittlesey, the monster's human identity, becomes Dr. John Whitney in the movie.
    • Gregory Kawakita becomes Gregory Lee. Also, doubles as a Race Lift with Greg being Chinese-American in contrast to his novel's counterpart being Japanese-British.
  • Adapted Out: Pendergast was cut from the film, though some of his characteristics were merged with D'Agosta. Smithback isn't as lucky to even afford that (somewhat fitting in a meta sense, considering his character) and his role is completely absent.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the original novel D'Agosta was in his late 50's and very out of shape and overweight (although in later books in the Pendergast series he does get back into shape and slim down a little). In the film, he's a lot slimmer and in his mid 30's.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the novel, Cuthbert was an arrogant Obstructive Bureaucrat. The film's version of the character is more of a Reasonable Authority Figure.
    • In the novel, Gregory Kawakita does a Face–Heel Turn at the end and started selling the Mbwun reovirus as a drug, here Greg Lee never did such a heinous thing like that, even he is still a Smug Snake whose only worst action was locking two of his colleagues in the offices.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the novel, Gregory Kawakita was an intellectual loner; in the film, Greg Lee was an underhanded Smug Snake.
    • Tom Parkinson's book equivalent Ippolito was working to cover up the Mbwun, but only because it was his job, and was more out of his depth than anything. Parkinson, however, is doing it against Cuthbert's orders and is a total Jerkass.
  • Asian Rudeness: Dr. Lee, who is Chinese-American and a Smug Snake Slimeball.
  • Asshole Victim:
  • Black Dude Dies First: The black security guard Frederick Ford (played by the same actor who is the raptors' appetizer in Jurassic Park) is the first to get it. With a slow zoom on the reefer he was smoking in the restroom as he's mauled off-screen, no less. Drugs Are Bad, folks, and can result in a Karmic Death (that said, D'Agosta makes a point of insisting that cutting the guy's head off and removing his brain is too harsh of a punishment for what amounts to a misdemeanor).
  • Bioweapon Beast: The Kothoga is actually this: the tribe uses the plants to mutate someone into the Kothoga, then cut them off the plant it needs to survive so it will have to kill their enemies to get the hormones from their brains.
  • Brain Food: The Kothoga. Human brains aren't its first choice, though; it prefers to eat the plants from the Amazon used as packing material in some specimen crates, which have much higher concentrations of the hormones and such it needs. The events of the novel happen because the crates are moved to a more secure area of the basement after a curator notices they've been broken into, forcing it to search for alternatives (read: brains).
  • Buxom Is Better: The Mayor proudly boasts that his wife's cleavage won him the last election.
  • Cat Scare: An inexplicable cat is aboard the cargo ship. It serves to make the audience jump and to once again point out that D'Agosta is superstitious.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The maceration tank and the storage area Margo walks D'Agosta through.
  • Composite Character: The film version of D'Agosta contains characteristics of both his novel counterpart as well as the novel-exclusive Aloysius X.L. Pendergast.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Kothoga’s method of killing is a VERY horrible and nasty way to go.....
  • Death by Adaptation: Lee/Kawakita and Frock
  • Decomposite Character: D'Agosta's part in the last act of the book is largely taken over by Hollingsworth in the film, with D'Agosta filling Pendergast's role.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original book, the monster was killed due to Margo shining a light on a weak point of it, giving Pendergast an opening to shoot it dead. In the film, she gets it lit on fire and then blown up.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Discussed. One of the CSI guys makes a joke about the fact security guard Frederick Ford had been smoking a joint when he was killed, and D'Agosta points out that smoking marijuana is only a misdemeanor, and that "decapitation is a little over the line," saying Ford didn't deserve to die for smoking one lousy joint.
  • Dr. Jerk: Dr. Lee throws his hat in against Margo for a grant he doesn't even need (and she will have to close down without) and then to up his odds of getting said grant, he has her "accidentally" locked into the labs during the party so he can brown nose the benefactors in peace.
  • Foreshadowing: D'Agosta jokes that the storage area would be a bad place to light a match.
  • Gender Flip: Dr. Ian Cuthbert from the original novel becomes Ann Cuthbert.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Margo calls Greg a gerbil.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: The Kothoga rips a member of the SWAT team in half as his squadmates try to pull him to safety.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Margo doesn't see any worth in Dr. Whitney's anthropological expeditions.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Deliberately averted, almost to an unwatchable degree as it's very difficult to see much for the second half of the movie. Long story short, blame the home video producers. Thankfully, the Blu Ray release is far better and more accurate to the theatrical cut.
  • Horror Hunger: For human hypothalamus.
  • Hot Scientist: Margo is especially fanservicey when she's changing into her dress for the gala.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Mcnally is seemingly killed when the monster throws him through a glass display case, as he's seen lying still with a piece of glass sticking through his neck.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Margo manages to light the Kothoga on fire with chemicals. This only results in it continuing to chase her while completely on fire and it only dies when caught in a huge explosion that blows it to bits.
  • Indy Hat Roll: Panicked party guests try to flee the museum as the security doors are activated. Some don't make it and are caught and crushed by the steel doors. Seeing as what the rest were trapped with, they were probably the lucky ones.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Dr. Frock refuses to let D'Agosta and Margo take him everywhere due to the urgency of the matter and how much his wheelchair is slowing them down, in spite of how aware he is of the dangers of remaining alone.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Averted in the novel, as the first museum victims are two young boys who wander off in a closed area. The movie turns and plays it straight though, changing the boys to the discoverers of the body and the victim becomes the old black security guard.
    • The Kothoga encounters a dog, but ignores it because it doesn't have a suitable hypothalamus to consume. This is in contrast to the novel, where one of the monster's earliest museum killings is a dog (since the monster still has to eat food along with hormones).
  • It Can Think: Kothoga is able to recognize traps, hide bodies, and do what it can to stay out of sight from humans, justified by the fact that it used to be human itself.
  • Kill It with Fire: Margo takes out the Kothoga by setting a lab on fire. Played With, as the fire itself only results in her being chased by a flaming Kothoga, and it takes the following explosion to finally kill it.
  • Kill It with Ice: Margo attempts to utilize cold against the Kothoga. While not enough to kill it, it's one of the only things that can effect it at all.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Kothoga is incredibly strong, fast, and can tank bullets with next to no damage.
  • Lockdown: The damaged security system effectively locks everyone in the museum with the monster, with this being triggered by the mad dash of people trying to get out, many of them too slowly, breaking things and setting off alarms.
  • Mauve Shirt
    • The museum security guards are all killed easily by the creature but get faint characterization.
    • CPD officer Evans and Bradley the K-9 cop, who both get some prominence accompanying D'Agosta and his partner into the tunnels, getting some characterization and useful moments in the process. Evans survives the movie despite having not really appeared beforehand, or having much to do afterwards. Bradley is less lucky.
  • Menacing Museum: A giant mutated beast called the Kothoga is on the loose in the Chicago Museum of Natural History, chomping up people and leaving their much-bitten bodies lying around it in the run up to the gala.
  • National Geographic Nudity: In the opening, Dr. Whitney is in the company of South American natives who wear little to no clothes.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Bailey and McNally are fairly competent, likable guys, but by finding a homeless guy with a record for violent crimes (who Bailey shoots when the man charges at them) they convince the mayo and museum officials that there is no more threat to worry about, causing the gala to go forward.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The Kothoga is just trying to survive by the new diet it has been given.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Tom Parkinson, due to being a loud-mouth who ignores the warnings of D'Agosta of the case not being closed.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Kothoga, more so than the book: Mbwun was recognizably human once, with saurian legs and tail, a gorilla-like head and apelike facial features. Kothoga still has the saurian legs and tail, but the head looks like a Lovecraftian cross between a lizard, a tiger, insect, Xenomorph, and deep-sea fish. It also definitely had a lizard-like tongue.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Featuring the slowest moving explosion of all time.
  • Overly Long Tongue: The Kothoga has one, as shown when it uses it to taste Margo (including her breasts...) when it has her cornered and is sampling her before trying to eat her.
  • Off with His Head!: The Kothoga's mandibles make it able to easily chop heads off from its victims, which is its prefered killing method.
  • Plot Hole: The movie places the first murder and the break-in for the crates on the same night. If the Kothoga had gotten to the crates, why did it need to kill?
  • Police Are Useless: The SWAT team sent in are immediately picked off one by one by the Kothoga. None of them even attempt to shoot it and apparently sending them in one at a time is not a good idea. Averted with D'Agosta, Hollingsworth, Bailey, McNally, Evans, and Bradley, who are all more diligent in investigating the museum and/or evacuating the guests.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Lee, who seemingly stays behind as the other guests are evacuating just to try and schmooze a pair of important museum sponsors, and early locked a colleague in he r office in order to have more opportunities to do the same.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: It’s essentially “Jaws; in a Museum”, particularly in its subplot of the police detective clashing over bureaucrats wanting to keep the museum open, despite the danger.
  • Send in the Search Team: The SWAT team sent into the museum to rescue those trapped and kill the Kothoga. The first few to enter are swiftly killed by the Kothoga, forcing the rest to hang back.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Although Cuthbert didn't die in the original book, he was Driven to Madness by the end. The version here fares a lot better.
  • Stock Scream: Greg lets out a Howie Scream as he's being killed by the Kothoga.
  • The Juggernaut: The Kothoga is so strong, powerful, and durable meaningfully slowing it down is a task onto itself. Best highlighted late into the film when its chasing Margo and plows through doors and walls without even slowing down. Even setting the dang thing on fire with chemicals isn't enough to kill it and it takes actually being blown to bits to finally put it down.
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Bailey and McNally, with their partnership and banter, to the point where they're reluctant to split up during the climax.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Parkinson, Lee and the wealthy married guests who stay behind in the exhibition area while everyone else including the Mayor evacuates through the sewers. You would think after seeing the body of a headless Police Officer fall from the ceiling and along with being ordered by a extremely competent and experienced Detective to get out through the sewers that they would listen and get the hell out of dodge to safety right? No they choose to stay and wait for the rescue team to break through the doors despite the very real danger that is present. Any guesses what happens to them all next?
  • Tragic Monster: Kothoga, once its full origin is revealed.
  • Villain of Another Story: The homeless man who was killed by the cops was a serial rapist and an actual murderer.
  • Viral Transformation: The retrovirus creates monsters out of anything that ingests it by inserting saurian and reptilian DNA into host cells; but the victim needs a steady supply of specialized hormones to retain its new form, the victim-turned-monster; in order to acquire these hormones, the victim must go right to the richest source available and eat the hypothalamus of its victims or go mad from the pain of being unable to sustain its new form.