Film Reviews

Turning 20: The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy is one of my favourite films. I’ve seen it countless times, can quote it word for word and know every story beat and musical cue. I adore the characters; the adventure and it’s got one of the best romances in an action-adventure film ever.

If you’ve managed to miss The Mummy, here’s the general plot. Librarian Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), with the help of her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) and former French Foreign Legionnaire Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), travels to the ancient city of Hamunaptra and accidentally awakens Imhotep (Arnold Vsloo), a mummy who wreaks havoc as he searches for a way to bring back his long-lost love. Instead of running away the three join Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr), a Medjai who has sworn to keep the Earth safe from Imhotep, to try and stop him.

This month marks The Mummy’s twentieth anniversary as it had it released in UK cinemas 25th June 1999, and you may have noticed a few tweets about it as The Mummy isn’t just one of my favourite films – it seems like a good portion of the internet loves it too.

But what is it about The Mummy that makes it so great and so well-loved twenty years after its release? I think it’s down to two things; one, it’s a proper action-adventure movie and two, the characters.

Let’s look at The Mummy in terms of genre first. It’s a very loose remake of the 1932 film of the same name, and while it has a lot of comedic moments, it can still be pretty scary too. There are the flesh-eating scarabs that crawl under a person’s skin, the swarm of locusts, the Egyptian boobytraps. And then there’s Imhotep himself. The sounds that he makes, his still decomposing body, his incredibly wide jaw, it’s enough to make your hair stand on end.

 

 

But The Mummy isn’t just creepy, it’s also fun and romantic too. The chemistry between Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz is off the charts and it’s one of a few films where I’m actively willing the leads to stop and kiss one another. The Mummy is the sort of action-adventure film that has more similarities with the Indiana Jones films than differences. You’ve got your intellectual adventurer, supernatural elements, a good romance, and the action sequences and spectacle are still well put together and enjoyable.

Honestly, I don’t think you get such pure action-adventure films with a dusting of romance and/or humour nowadays. At least not ones that are aimed at adults as well as children. Having it set in the 1920s adds a certain charm to the whole thing too and means that any outdated special effects don’t seem out of place.

Then there’s the cast and the characters they play. I love every single character in this film, and I think the characters and their relationships are one of the reasons The Mummy is loved so much. People just enjoy spending time with them. Our band of heroes are all perfectly cast and have so much chemistry with one another.

Brendan Fraser’s Rick is dashing, an Indiana Jones-like character while still being his own version of smart and is surprisingly romantic. I mean, he steals an archaeological toolkit to give to Evy! Rick’s main solution to life’s problems is screaming at them and if that doesn’t work, he shoots at them instead. He is charming, brave, resourceful and 90s Brendan Fraser is just very good looking. Though let’s be real, the entire cast of The Mummy are very good looking.

Rachel Weisz’s Evy is smart, confident and a bit of a klutz. She’s the one who raises Imhotep from the dead, but she’s never blamed for it and she’s the one who wants to stay and stop it rather than run away like every other character does. Evy is a different kind of badass compared to the action-heroines we see a lot of the time nowadays. Yes, in the sequel she is a badass who can throw a punch and use a sword (The Mummy Returns is an equally brilliant movie, there’s no third Mummy film featuring Brendan Fraser and John Hannah though) but in The Mummy she’s a woman who’s super smart and passionate about her interests. She can translate ancient Egyptian, saves Rick’s life a couple of times and will sacrifice herself to save her friends.

 

 

John Hannah’s Jonathan is the most perfect comedic sidekick to be in any film ever. He may be a thief and a liar who’s sarcastic and funny, but he’s also competent, smart and fiercely loyal. Jonathan’s sleight of hand saves the day multiple times and he might not be as good as his little sister at reading ancient Egyptian, but he can still get the gist of it.

Then you have Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay who was supposed to be both covered in tattoos and killed at the end of the film before director Stephen Sommers saw how good-looking he was and decided that wasn’t going to happen. Stephen Sommers is a genius. Ardeth Bay is a mysterious character, but he fits in with our main trio incredibly well and brings some seriousness to the increasingly dangerous situations they end up in.

And those are the heroes! The bad guys are just as engaging too. Arnold Vsloo’s Imohotep doesn’t say a lot but he has a commanding presence whenever he’s on screen – his glare is super intimidating. Then there’s Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor) who was once Rick’s friend but now is a greedy coward who will do just about anything to survive. The interactions between Rick and Beni are some of the funniest in the whole movie. Who else is thinking about the line about the horses/river as I say that?

The Mummy is just a wonderful and perfect film and I found it difficult to put into words why it’s so wonderful and perfect. It is the characters, it’s the script, it’s the humour and it’s the action. The Mummy is like lightning in a bottle and I’m sure in another ten- or twenty years’ time, there will still be countless people singing its praises. I know I will be.

 

Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Wesiz, John Hannah, Oded Fehr, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor

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