The time is upon us! After months upon months of teasers, pictures, trailers and anticipation, The Mummy is finally a mere few days away. We here at UMU are of course crawling out of our skin (quite literally) but to the fill the void before she is unleashed I’ve decided to look back at the last time The Mummy was resurrected for a modern audience. This is my Sunday with…The Mummy.
On May 7, 1999, Stephen Sommers brought his vision of The Mummy to the big screen. This was a big deal for several reasons, first of which being it was the first time we have seen the creature since the Hammer days. This version of The Mummy brings us the sprawling adventure of Rick O’Connell and Evie as they try to out run and defeat the newly resurrected Imhotep. Sommers brought to the screen a new vision of a beloved story, and he did it in a fresh way for modern audiences. He combined the horror of the original and masterfully mixes in big adventure and laughs. Whereas the original film was a horror movie, this version could be seen as more of an adventure flick, in the same vein as Indiana Jones. The visuals and effects of The Mummy were beyond impressive as the audience feels completely immersed in both ancient Egypt, as well as Egypt in the 20s. The effects of The Mummy himself were a throwback to the look of the original but improved upon with modern graphic techniques. The end result was something scary and new, yet reminiscent of the original Karloff design. The infusion of the adventure element really helped widen the reach of this film as there was truly something in it for everyone, especially a younger audience who may have not been familiar with the classic.
There were many enjoyable aspects of this film, but one of the things I enjoyed the most is how much deeper the story went as opposed to the original. Sommers dove into the deep end of The Mummy mythos building on the backstory of Imhotep as well as the ancient Book of the Dead. In this updated version they stay pretty true to Imhotep’s backstory as well as his motives, however it is done on a grander scale. Imhotep is much scarier and his powers are more impressive. This of course is due to the modern technology and ability to create these images. However, every time he uses a victim’s skin to return to human form the audience falls deeper into the believability of his power. Instead of relying on the facial expression of Karloff (something that would have been hard if not impossible to do) Sommers used visuals to show the Mummy’s power, the amazing sand storm is probably the most memorable example. Aside from all of this credit has to be given to both Sommers who wrote the script, and Arnold Vosloo, who performed it, for making the Mummy a sympathetic character. The true charm of the classic UMU, to me anyway, is that most of these monsters are sympathetic, and The Mummy is no different. He is evil and violent but it is all rooted in his need to resurrect his lost love, that and of course to rule the world!
The inclusion of Rick and Evie was also a very clever way to update and build upon the original story line. Here we have two new characters that add layers to the story. In Rick we have the rugged shoot first ask questions later character. Perfectly portrayed by Brenden Fraser, Rick is both charming and endearing and that immediately makes him important to the audience. With his inclusion the film is also able to jump more into the action genre as now we have gun fights and chases of all kind. This may not be direct from the original but it is certainly entertaining. The character of Evie was a smart way to almost reincarnate the Zita Johann character of the original. Both are strong independent characters. Evie is book smart as compared to Rick’s brawn. They are a perfect duo for a film like this because they perfectly enhance each other’s character. I also really liked the fact that instead of helplessly becoming the damsel in distress Evie fights against it. This was character development done right as we see Evelyn evolve from a clumsy book worm to a kick ass heroine. I also really loved the inclusion of the Medjai as it was just another small aspect that helps ground the film in mythology.
In my opinion the choice of Sommers to bring The Mummy back to the big screen was an important one, as I have often felt the character is often overlooked. There have been countless iterations of vampires or werewolves, even if they don’t bear the name Dracula or Talbot, we as a society immediately equate what we are seeing to the classics. Even the Frankenstein monster’s story has been done several times. However the Mummy seems to have fallen to the second tier of monsters. Bringing the Mummy back and in a modern way was a great way of making the Mummy important again. The character and backstory is so deep and entertaining it deserves the main streamrespect that Dracula Frankenstein and the Wolf Man.
There were several reasons as to why The Mummy was a successful and enjoyable film, and most of that credit has to be given to the cast. It was really a perfect cast for the tone of film. Starting of course with Brendan Fraser, he was an actor born in the wrong period. Had he been born in the 30s he would have been a Hollywood heavyweight, and that is why he was perfect as Rick. He combined the bone headed action hero with his perfect comedic timing. Rachel Weisz as stated before is a great strong female character. Vosloo also perfectly combines the overwhelming ferocity of an undead Mummy with the sympathetic soft side of a man who lost his love. John Hannah and Kevin O’ Connor provided perfect comedy sidekick material, as they broke up the scary or action packed scenes. The Mummy also sports a great ensemble of side characters including Jonathan Hyde, Oded Fehr, as well as Erick Avari. This great cast helped to bring to life the great script that Sommers came up with, and add a deeper layer of action, humor and horror to the legendary story.
1999’s The Mummy was a great revamp of the original. Universal struck gold at a time when it seemed they had forgotten about their stories past, and helped reintroduce the world to the power of the Mummy. The end result was an action packed adventure that is almost impossible not to enjoy. When The Mummy is mentioned now Brendan Fraser’s name has become as synonymous with it as the great Boris Karloff. Universal hopes to stick gold again later the week with The Mummy, and hopefully add another great chapter to the beloved saga of The Mummy.
(Rob Texter – @GrundyXIII)