Movie Review | The Mummy (1999)
Movie summary: At an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion accidentally awakens a mummy who begins to wreck havoc as he searches for the reincarnation of his long-lost love. (IMDb)
It's funny to think back now to the underwhelmed reaction that followed the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; everyone was so disappointed that the movie was such a disappointment (although certainly not flat-out bad) after such a long wait. The thing is, The Mummy filled that gap between Indy films for me, and still stands up to the task now.
It's funny, action-packed and filled with great performances from actors clearly having a blast, which makes it even more enjoyable than it really should be. No-one is taking the material seriously and neither should they - it's a straight-up action-adventure movie like any of the Indiana Jones movies, but it simply brings in the more supernatural elements a lot earlier and makes them central to the plot.
Speaking of the plot, it's certainly not The Mummy's strongest point: an ancient Egyptian mummy awakens in the twentieth century and proceeds to rampage about, causing all manner of chaos to unfold in his wake. That's all there is to the story, but it's the characters that make it all work and give a reason to make sequels as they're all so much fun to watch and spend time with.
There's no real surprises in how events play out, but neither is there any need for a twist to liven things up. If anything, even the characters seem to be aware what kind of movie they're in, best highlighted when Brendan Fraser's Rick comments on how the wind seems to mysteriously howl when discussing the tomb containing the titular antagonist.
Fraser is fun in the role, even if he's no Harrison Ford. Rick is practically a stereotype of an action hero lead, but Fraser is goofy enough and his performance self-aware enough that he never feels like a parody or someone to dismiss as a caricature. Hell, at least Fraser's solid build lends some authority to the action scenes, as he definitely looks like he can handle himself with everything he has to deal with.
Rachel Weisz, however, is the real star of the film - much like Fraser's Rick, her Evelyn isn't written with any great depth or strong characterisation, but Weisz is full committed to the part and lends the role far more empathy and complexity than it truly deserves. She's great fun to watch and, despite the movie centring the story around Rick as the hero, Evelyn never feels like a damsel in distress, instead trying to think her way out of the predicaments she finds herself in.
John Hannah as Evelyn's brother, Jonathan, doesn't really do too much to elevate his role, which was a little harder as he's clearly there as the comic relief to Rick and Evie's romantic interest in each other. Hannah is still clearly having fun though, and is unquestionably the funniest character in the film - he might not have done anything special, but he did what the script asked him to do perfectly.
If anything, The Mummy's greatest weakness is the title monster, played by Arnold Vosloo. Formerly a high priest of Ancient Egypt known as Imhotep, he spends most of his time in the twentieth century as a walking visual effect and it does unfortunately age the movie. Some of the shots still stand up, but most don't and it really does look like a movie coming up on its twentieth anniversary.
As for the supporting cast, they're a bit of a mixed bag: the Americans hopelessly out of their depth and little more than ciphers to be killed off; the old British pilot - whose entire character seems to be that he's old and British; Kevin J O'Connor is enjoyable to begin with, but his weaselly character, Beni, grates after a while; leaving Oded Fehr as the best of the rest, playing the medjay, Ardeth Bay.
The Mummy is not a movie to take seriously, but neither is it one to simply dismiss out of hand either. The leading trio are all excellent in their own rights, and their chemistry together is some fortunate brilliance. It's a movie that feels very aware of the kind of movie it is, winking at the audience on numerous occasions to just enjoy the ride - which is exactly what you probably will do.
The Mummy is a really fun film that would probably do even better today than it did upon its original release - although the CGI would need to be given an upgrade. The cast look like they're having a lot of fun too, with the central trio having fantastic chemistry with each other meaning even the quieter moments are still enjoyable to watch.