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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:

  • 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.
  • Asshole Victim: Lee and Tom Parkinson
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Death by Adaptation: Lee/Kawakita and Frock
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Horror Hunger: For human hypothalamus.
  • Hot Scientist: Margo is especially fanservicey when she's changing into her dress for the gala.
  • 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.
  • Infant Immortality: 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.
  • Jerkass: 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.
    • Tom Parkinson as well, due to being a loud-mouth who ignores the warnings of D'Agosta of the case not being closed.
  • Kill It with Fire: Margo takes out the Kothoga by setting a lab on fire.
  • Lockdown: The damaged security system effectively locks everyone in the museum with the monster.
  • National Geographic Nudity: In the opening, Dr. Whitney is in the company of South American natives who wear little to no clothes.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: It is just trying to survive by the new diet it has been given.
  • 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.
  • Off with His Head!: The Kothoga's mandibles make it able to easily chop heads off from its victims.
  • 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.
  • Send in the Search Team: The SWAT team sent into the museum to rescue those trapped and kill the Kothoga.
  • 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.
  • Tragic Monster: Kothoga, once its full origin is revealed.
  • 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.
  • Was Once a Man: The Kothoga.


Example of: