Retro Review - 'The Mummy'
I was in love with The Mummy when it first came out in 1999. The movie was a gateway drug to horror for me; it had action, adventure and some pretty decent scares. The film was also one of the first DVDs I ever owned, and I proudly displayed that shiny gold “Ultimate Edition” DVD on my shelf. Well, with a fresh blu-ray of the film in hand it’s time to dust off the cob webs and give it another go.
The film follows Evey (Rachel Weisz), O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Jonathan (John Hannah) as they journey to Hamunaptra to find ancient treasure. Of course, it doesn’t all go as planned and they resurrect the mummy, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), and must find a way to stop him.
Say what you will about Stephen Sommers, but this is the closest anyone has come to replicating the adventurous spirit of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films. There are tombs, mummies, ancient curses, well-staged action sequences and charming characters that I actually care about.
Brendan Fraser is effortlessly charismatic as O’Connell and strikes a convincing figure as an action star and it’s a wonder as to why this film didn’t catapult him into super-stardom. Rachel Weisz is also excellent as Evey, a character that if played by anyone lesser would have fallen completely flat. She’s smart but also a bit of a klutz. Then we have Arnold Vosloo as the titular mummy, Imhotep. I love this guy, he’s evil, but I couldn’t help but enjoy watching him wreak havoc on Egypt; sucking the souls out of some cocky Americans and building an army of zombified civilians to walk the streets whilst chanting his name. John Hannah plays the lovable buffoon, Jonathan, who is also Evey’s brother, and he’s used just sparingly enough to not verge on being obnoxious.
The action, as briefly mentioned, is for the most part, great. Sommers, who had a growing interest in CGI, was still held back by the times and that ends up working in the film’s favor. The action is mostly practical, with the majority of the CGI being implemented into bringing Imhotep to life, and while it hasn’t aged spectacularly, it still looks leaps and bound better than its sequel, The Mummy Returns. For instance, there’s a great battle sequence that kicks off the film that actually has a pretty grand sense of scale and awareness of geography. There’s also a good number of sequences that cleverly combine action with horror. The mummy kills in surprisingly gruesome ways for a PG-13 movie, and there are some truly scary moments, such as one where one of the Americans loses his glasses in dark tomb, and runs into none other than the mummy Imhotep himself, who proceeds to remove his eyes and tongue. It’s this slight edge that made The Mummy such a joy, and a perfect first step in the ladder to being a horror fan.
Now there are problems with the film, and it’s miles from being perfect. I think the first half of this movie is stronger than the second, by a long shot. The movie gives way to a half-baked middle-act where plagues are unleashed on Egypt. The effects are weak and the threat never feels real. There’s fire raining from the sky, the moon has eclipsed the sun and the water has turned to blood, but it’s sort of shrugged off like it’s not a big deal. Fortunately, the finale is rousing fun and brings things back down to earth and wraps the story up in satisfying fashion, it’s just too bad that Sommers felt the need to over-indulge on needless sequences that don’t really add much to the proceedings.
Admittedly, I watched this film through rose-tinted glasses, and, well, as you may have already predicted; I really, truly like this movie. It has flaws to be sure, but it’s still a riotous good time and it makes me wish Brendan Fraser had had a more fruitful career going forward, because he’s charming as hell here.