Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Produced by: Sean Daniel & James Jacks
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Hyde & Kevin J. O’Connor
Budget: $80 million
Box office: $415.9 million
Release date: May 7, 1999
As a lover of cinema across all spectrum’s I am perfectly in touch with the fact that not all films are, or even intend to be, capable of invoking anything particularly moving or meaningful in the hearts and minds of its audience, except maybe palpitations if it has naked people in it. I am also of the opinion, like many other film lovers across the globe that this is perfectly okay. Sometimes it’s okay for a film to just allow you to switch your brain off for an hour and three quarters; as long as the film is fun, visually pleasing, humorous and well-paced.
This is where The Mummy comes in. Based loosely on the 1932 film of the same name it managed to recoup more than 5 times its budget costs. Yet despite presenting a case for itself that makes it hard to claim that it doesn’t tick all of the above credentials it got a fair bit of criticism. Currently holding a by no means disastrous but quite unreflective score of 55% on Rotten Tomatoes the film was criticised for having an incoherent story, relying too heavily on stereotypes and a lack of atmosphere. Now, I’m not trying to say that these criticisms aren’t valid or even relevant to the source material but perhaps the critics making them could exercise some common sense and perspective. The Mummy is a film that stars Brendan Fraser, has a plot that centres on a 2000 year old invincible zombie trying to destroy the world and has a tagline that proclaims that ‘The power will be unleashed’; were they expecting Shindlers List?
I am a firm believer that films need to be viewed and approached with a sense of perspective if they are to be critiqued in a fair way and in a way that reflects what they are intending to achieve. The Mummy makes no pretences about what it is and does what it intends to do with a lot of flair and awareness of its audience. It is for this reason that I actually enjoyed it and would whole heartedly recommend it!
First up is the cast. Granted I am not surprised that there weren’t any Academy Awards being thrown out for this one but everybody is fresh faced, enthusiastic and seems to be invested. Like him or hate him, I’m somewhere between the two just for the record, Brendan Fraser is the perfect action star for the protagonist role of Rick O’Connell; his fight scenes and stunts look fairly convincing, his humorous scenes are all at least moderately amusing and his delivery is sharp. Co-star Rachel Weisz has certainly turned her hand to more challenging roles than love interest Evelyn Carnham but you get a real sense that she’s just lapping up the more light hearted tone of this picture and comes across as charming, funny and optimistic whilst looking damn good doing it. However the top performance goes to fellow Celtic man John Hannah as Jonathan, so they weren’t too creative with his name. His portrayal of Evelyn’s cagey, money-loving but ultimately charming and kind-hearted brother is hilarious. Almost every line is spot on, his visual gags and mannerisms are great and despite his cowardly demeanour and attitude he remains likeable throughout. Elsewhere, Arnold Vosloo and Kevin J. O’Connor are serviceable villains and Oded Fehr holds the distinction of being the only actor in it that is actually of any Asian descent.
It’s worth noting that this film did come out in 1999 so understandably its visual effects have lost a bit of their initial sheen. They do still hold up quite well though; the image of the titular villain before he fully regenerates into human form still looks good and environmental effects such as sand storms and faces forming in the sand still hold up well. What also helps the look of the film is its setting. It is said to be set in Egypt and while in actual fact it was shot mostly in Morocco the environments are gorgeous and really give the whole thing a sense of place, even if it’s not quite the place it claims to be!
Without action sequences an action film is pretty redundant so luckily The Mummy has them in spades. From shoot outs on cruise ships, to shoot outs in the desert, to fist fights and sword fights in agent tombs this one is never too far from a good old fashioned brawl. These scenes are well shot, tight and visually pleasing and the actors did almost all their own stunts. Interesting footnote; apparently the scene where Fraser is getting hung in “Cairo” went wrong and he was almost choked out for real, so much so that he needed to be resuscitated.
Similarly if said action film lacks an epic and memorable score to go with the visuals it can come across as flat, drab and forgettable. Again, luckily The Mummy has this covered with Jerry Goldsmith delivering a powerful and hard-hitting orchestral score.
Not unlike Mortal Kombat, if you go into The Mummy expecting a deep message or social commentary then you won’t find what you’re looking for. It’s a brash, fast paced action flick in the classical sense and you certainly don’t want to go using it as a reference point for your dissertation essay on Egyptian History but it’s also a lot of fun. It features strong performances across the board, effective special effects, strong action sequences and a genuinely pleasing sense of humour. The coherence of the plot is a real credit to it as it went through an 8 year development hell before its release and the actors had to contend with the elements of the Sahara whilst filming meaning that their enthusiasm is a credit to them as well. I strongly recommend The Mummy as long as you check your pretences in at the door you’ll have a great time, just be careful with the sequels…