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The Mummy
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2001

Format: Movie
By:   Stephen Sommers
Genre:   Adventure / Horror / Comedy
Review Date:   May 10, 2001
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

Here's the skinny: Do you still get a kick out of watching the original King Kong? Do you like the Indiana Jones trilogy? Romancing the Stone? Did you even watch and maybe (admit it) enjoy those Richard Chamberlain Allan Quatermain movies? Then you'll probably enjoy The Mummy. Are you looking for a truly scary horror movie? Do you get annoyed when remakes of classic movies turn out to be re-interpretations? Do historical inaccuracies put a bur in your bum? Then maybe you'd best skip this one.

The opening sequence of The Prince of Egypt contains a spectacular Egyptian cityscape, complete with pyramids and statues, and magnificent buildings still under construction. The Mummy opens with a shot that looks exactly like The Prince of Egypt shot. The problem? The Prince of Egypt is a cartoon. Let's rewind and watch it again…. Oooh, that's gotta keep the filmmakers awake at night. Did ILM give that entire opening effects shot to one of their interns? Or to the lunch lady? ILM did a better job on the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi with just a matte painting on glass and some rear projection. But wait! They even included a bit on it in the DVD's Special Effects Sequence menu. Have they no shame? Fortunately, the rest of the effects sequences hold up very well, at least on DVD at home on a 17-inch screen TV. (Maybe that's why I was so disappointed by some of The Mummy Returns' effects.)

Director Stephen Sommers steals shamelessly from Indiana Jones (plenty of torches, booby traps, and creepy-crawlies), but he does it so well and so openly (there's even a reference to Indiana's "Snakes. I hate snakes." line) that it's hard to hold it against him.

The whole thing, from the opening narration on, is unapologetically hokey. And yes, the movie is also a bit dumb. Why do Imhotep's powers correspond to the Biblical plagues of Egypt? Who knows? And, if Imhotep is so afraid of cats, why don't our heroes surround those afflicted by the mummy's curse with a couple dozen catnipped felines? That's easy. Because then the movie would end before it gets really interesting.

On the other bandaged appendage, The Mummy's sense of humor and comic timing are perfect (admittedly, both of these are also partially swiped from Indiana Jones). Witness the two competing parties of treasure hunters pull guns on each other repeatedly. And check out the heroine's self-serving and selectively brave brother; and the relationship between hero Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his weaselly sometime-sidekick Beni Gabor.

Arnold Vosloo, who plays the mummy Imhotep, doesn't have many lines, but his amazing screen presence makes for a great villain. And there are plenty of glittering treasures and darkened antechambers to go around. So buckle your swash, and load up those six-shooters that always seem to miraculously fire way more than six bullets. There's a difference between an action movie and an adventure movie. The Mummy is the latter (action movies don't have camels and bookish yet comely Egyptologists).

Stephen Sommers clearly went to the Stephen Spielberg school of action movies, wherein characters exist solely to keep up a steady and satisfying body count. (Jurassic Park: The Lost World Of Disposable Supporting Characters, anyone? How about Indiana Jones And The Search For The Lost Temple Of Expendable Nameless Extras Of Either Middle Eastern Or German Descent?).

It is to Sommers' credit, however, that he realized that (SPOILER AHEAD) his directive to kill someone off in every scene was getting a little out of hand. Some mummy-types are chasing our heroes, and O'Connell uses some dynamite to block off a tunnel. Later, mummy-types are ready to emerge from yet another tunnel, and O'Connell still has dynamite left, but he doesn't use it. Instead, this is clearly the scene in which supporting character Ardeth Bay nobly sacrifices himself for the good of the team. Luckily, (this tidbit from the DVD commentary tracks) Sommers' later realized that he was being an ass (maybe he was already thinking "sequel") and saved one of his best characters from an apparent (and entirely pointless) demise.

The Mummy is pulp, like Tarzan, Conan, and James Bond. Some like their orange juice pulp-free. For others, the pulpier the better. Those who watch The Mummy are likely to end up divided into two camps: 1) people who like it because it is a quick, shallow, juvenile and quite goofy homage to the adventure serials of the 30s, and 2) people who dislike it for those same reasons. Both are right.

No, The Mummy is not the second coming of Indiana Jones, but it's something to snack on so you don't starve to death waiting for that fourth Indy flick.

The Mummy: The Ultimate Edition DVD

Okay, you wanna know if The Mummy: The New Super Special Spankin' Deluxe HooHa Edition DVD is worth getting.

Well, there's a lot on the two-disk set, but maybe not as much substance as you'd like. The three commentary tracks, while not necessarily spellbinding, are worth putting on if you have to clean the house, or as background noise while you unpack the brain-scrambler from your Acme Home Mummification Kit. The section that allows you watch FX shots in various stages of completion unfortunately repeats much of the same info found in the "making of" featurette (check out Arnold Vosloo's nifty bug-crunching trick).

There's also an Egyptology section where, among other things, you can get the quick and dirty on Egyptian gods; and a look at The Mummy Returns that I recommend you not watch if you actually plan on seeing the film. The "deleted scenes" were so interesting that I've already forgotten what they were about. There are a few additional things that I would categorize as filler.

DVD Rating: 7/10

Nasty little editors like Jason Myers always get their come-uppances.

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