Friday, October 30, 2009

The Mummy (USA, 1999)

A supposed remake of the original which has little to do with any of the previous mummy films, be it the 1936 production with Boris Karloff (trailer), the tacky Hammer production with Christopher Lee (trailer) or any of the numerous sequels of both earlier versions. Other than the facts that one character goes by the name Ardeth Bay – Karloff's "human" name in the original version of The Mummy – and that the High Priest Imhotep gets his tongue cut out before being buried alive, there are few similarities between John L. Balderston's original screenplay of the Karl Freud Universal film and the special effects extravaganza Stephan Sommers serves up. The Mummy, in this case, is more closely related to James Cameron's Titanic (1997 / trailer) than the cheesy Hammer production or the artful original. For fans of state-of-the-art special effects (ala 1999) the film is a must, but anyone looking for depth, involvement, characterization, tension, suspense or anything else that might make the film enjoyable shouldn't bother.
Not to say that it is an unwatchable film. The Mummy is simply a by-the-number Hollywood product for the unthinking, uncaring masses. It is as sterile as it is predictable, as perfectly made as it is unsatisfying. More hokey and dumb than camp and enjoyable, the movie features too much second-rate Indiana Jones and not enough of a logical story or even of a mummy. Much too long, the film never excites or involves, though the effects sure do razzle and dazzle. That all the effects are computer generated is not the problem; the problem is that the film itself feels as if it were made by a computer. Sommers' direction is competent enough, but he is no master when it comes to intelligent scriptwriting, and is definitely better suited to doing more unabashedly trashy work, like his script to Gunmen (1994 / trailer) or his entertaining and almost equally computer generated (but miles better) monster flick Deep Rising (1998 / trailer). The script to this mummy movie is definitely much too flawed to warrant it's seeming A-production, though the money it has brought in at box office does little to support this thesis... but then, the taste of the masses has never been understandable, as is easily proven by such things as varied as Sly Stallone movies, Bush’s two terms as president, Sex and the City and the death penalty. Perhaps if Brendan Fraser (as Rick O'Connell) had taken his shirt off and shown more of the excellent physic he paraded in George of the Jungle (1997 / trailer) the film might have been a bit more interesting, but regrettably he, like Rachel Weisz, stays clothed throughout the whole film.
The biggest flaw to the story is the very idea behind the mummy's power. In ancient Egypt, when Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and Princess Anck Su Samun (Patricia Velazquez) kill the pharaoh, Imhotep is punished by being buried alive with a curse that converts him into a godlike creature should he ever be awakened. (Excuse me? He basically gets converted from being a mere mortal into being an evil god as a punishment? Is there something I don't understand here?) Of course, the Egyptians then form a secret society that guards the grave for centuries, killing all who try to open the tomb but who don't really bother all that hard to stop the newest group of infidels from doing so. Most escape, so the big bad magic man follows them to town and reclaims the various urns stolen that contain the innards needed to revive his love, killing the predictable victims and visiting various biblical plagues onto the masses along the way. Though he can be stopped only by cats, the heroes don't even bother to take a single kitty with them when they go to save the kidnapped Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz). (Despite the fact that he didn't require a human sacrifice during his first attempt to revive his babe centuries ago, the all powerful godlike creature suddenly needs one in the 20th century. Not only that, but it just has to be Evelyn.) There is a brief interlude in which everyone gets transported into the movie Jason & the Argonauts (1963 / trailer) which is rather enjoyable, but it seems to me that for such a powerful creature the mummy fights rather sloppily.
Of course, all is well that ends well and our three surviving heroes ride off into the sunset, a fourth hero that by all accounts should be dead suddenly popping up to wish them well. As to be expected, The Mummy went on to spawn (to date) two unnecessary but widely popular sequels, The Mummy Returns (2001 / trailer) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008 / trailer), the last of which is the best of the three.

1 comment:

Kalib said...

I agree that this movie would have been better if brendan fraser had done the movie without a shirt. At least we have nice shots of his nice beefy butt in those tight breeches!
And I can't turn down a hot guy in a nice tall pair of boots either! :-)

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