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'
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
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