The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy (1999)

Genre: Adventure and Supernatural Horror Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.

Release Date: May 7th, 1999 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Stephen Sommers Actors: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor, Jonathan Hyde, Oded Fehr, Erick Avari, Bernard Fox, Patricia Velasquez

 


 

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n Thebes, home of the 19th-century pharaoh Seti I (Aharon Ipale), resides Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), the high priest. Imhotep risks his life for the love of Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velasquez), a woman possessed by the pharaoh. When she kills herself for freedom, Imhotep attempts to resurrect her in the City of the Dead, an ancient burial site for the sons of the pharaohs, outfitted with massive treasures. But he’s captured by the guards before the ritual is completed and sealed alive in a sarcophagus for all eternity (though having flesh-eating bugs dumped on his bandaged body surely made his suffering briefer than that).

For 3000 years, men have fought over that land, never knowing of the great evils and powers that lie beneath the sand – save for the Medjai, the descendants of the pharaoh’s bodyguards, who slay anyone who nears the sacred tomb. But when Egyptian garrison soldier Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) barely survives an incursion in the desert, he grows determined to revisit and unearth the secrets of the terrain – except that he ends up imprisoned by the authorities. Three years later, in Cairo, clumsy librarian Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) receives a puzzle box with a map inside, retrieved from an archaeological dig, which can lead her to the City of the Dead. Unfortunately, she needs O’Connell as a guide.

“The Mummy” is an obvious attempt to merge the adventures of Indiana Jones with the supernatural chills of Universal’s classic monster movies. Sadly, however, the action sequences never reach the complexity or bravado of what they’re trying to copy, though they definitely try to be reminiscent – especially when particular scenes mirror – too closely – moments from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (as well as director Stephen Sommer’s other adventure film “The Jungle Book”). It’s also the kind of production that favors guns that never run out of bullets and the plain, generic romance between the perfectly opposite leads. The basic formula is entirely anticipated: a rugged adventurer is acquired to lead a team of inexperienced scholars into an unforgiving world, in search of knowledge – and riches. For the most part, it amuses, though it rarely rises above a merely tolerable derivation of better action-oriented fantasy thrillers.

Part of the problem is the overabundance of comic relief, including the supporting characters of Evelyn’s caricature of a brother (John Hannah), the goofy warden-cum-partner (Omid Djalili), sniveling rival guide Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor) and his American employers, and even the bit parts of flabbergasted library owner Bey (Erick Avari) and inebriated RAF Captain Winston (Bernard Fox). To make matters worse, the leading man is a tongue-in-cheek buffoon who can survive a hanging, while the leading lady is a blundering, book-smart nerd who conveniently removes her glasses to become gorgeous. All of these players’ frequent contributions to the jokiness makes it harder to appreciate the intermittent seriousness.

Despite a few grisly concepts (obscured, of course, by PG-13 constraints), the mostly ineffective stabs at humor continue, rather incessantly, to drown out the action and horror. Nevertheless, the booby traps (including pressurized salt acid), killer scarabs (with very inconsistent eating behaviors), juicy decomposing corpses, and the ten plagues of Egypt impart a mild yet memorable severity that tries to match the notable components of Indiana Jones’ superstition-bound, occasionally gruesome exploits. Plus, the ample amount of CG imagery works to amplify the former limitations of Universal’s horror staples, specifically with Imhotep’s magical capabilities, colossally sandy transformations, and repetitive (and literal) jaw-dropping facial contortions.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10