The Mummy (1999) Review

I don’t think anyone is actually trying to convince me that Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy, a soft reboot of the 1932 flick with Boris Karloff as the titular Mummy, is a tightly crafted high-quality production. In fact I doubt many people even went into this expecting that, the trailer’s from back in the day evoke the tone of the film well, minus the constant banter between the cast. Growing up I was never a fan because I took a childish dislike to Brendan Fraser that meant I denounced these movies before I even took a peak. I don’t know why — I think it was his hair — God I hated him.

Distinct and quite frankly unfounded hatred aside, I’ve grown up and can respect the direction Sommer’s took here. I still think Fraser is a discount Indiana Jones but the overall scope and design of the movie is satisfying, and perhaps that’s exactly what Sommer’s wanted Fraser to be, and I think that might be okay.

Needless to say, there are artifacts, many artifacts, and the only think I can honestly tell you about them is everyone seems to want them. Brendan Fraser’s Rick O’connell will be rescued from captivity using the simple trick of sexual assault, to win the trust of Rachel Weisz’s character of Evelyn. As a bumbling librarian, she is a stereotype and fairly ineffectually portrayed by Weisz. She is accompanied by British sidekick Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) who is along for the ride to find the lost city of the dead, or Hamunaptra. He teeters on the edge of being annoying without fully dedicating himself to it, and by the end his performance as a British caricature was funny on the occasion. Fraser of course knows where to find the lost city and so the group set off, perhaps they will encounter a certain Mummy willing to kill to revive his one true love. Beauty is only skin deep.

The sense of adventure is here, much in the way Gore Verbinski captured it in Pirates of the Caribbean four years later, but often feels like an inferior version of that film. It lacks the polish and humour that made Pirates so popular after this franchise had mostly lost steam. That said, The Mummy is a tighter experience that doesn’t quite outstay it’s welcome, it nearly does, but not quite.

I just find that Brendan Fraser doesn’t have enough charisma for the role but to his credit he is clearly trying his best and perhaps he just simply isn’t being given the writing that suited him best. Regardless considering his role as lead he is simply underwhelming, and the side characters don’t help much either. Weisz plays a weak woman who instantly falls in love with Fraser after a single non-consensual kiss and is often literally carried away from the more important characters that reminded me of the ‘man-talk’ butt slap from Goldfinger. You know the one. I simply found the romance lacking in any chemistry, and the way Fraser treats Weisz felt more scummy than charming. I wasn’t fooled.

Despite all this nonsense, including an unnecessarily dirty Arab character played by Omid Djalili that may offend some, although I admit to chuckling at a few lines. He just reminded me of an Arabian Charlie Day, which I think I kinda like. I’m getting sidetracked (but seriously listen to him the voice is there) because despite this silly tat, The Mummy is still a good time. A very silly, very shaky, good time.

It’s a movie of set pieces and they are memorable. I had a flashback of sorts when I watched that scarab crawl under a mans skin up to his face, it was an… itchy moment, but it demonstrates Sommer’s allure for special effects driven action sequences with a twinge of horror. Nearly twenty years have passed since the film’s release, but the Mummy, inhabited by Arnold Vosloo, is suitably presented. The toilet paper rags are done away with from his first appearance so we see him in all his undead glory and it works. Some effects are a little hammy but taken in context it works for the pulpy atmosphere.

There is a distinct flow to the film, which is likely what saves it and it lives in the memory fondly due to the ever present feeling of genuine effort that went into every aspect of the movie, except maybe the writing though I think it is trying to emulate a pulpy atmosphere with little substance. I feel as though I should dislike it, I just don’t and I wouldn’t even mind watching it again, I hope the future films retain this sense of fun and don’t descend into a serious, grey action adventure like the new Tom Cruise remake appears to be. I look forward to that one, but it does not suit the people in front of and behind these particular cameras. It failed to engage me, but I don’t regret the experience.

I still think his hair deserves a Razzie.


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