The 1999 Mummy is Brendan Fraser in the role he was born to play. Plain and simple. This re-imagining of the classic monster movie from director Stephen Sommers is an Indiana Jones-esque adventure into ancient Egyptian ruins. It has treasure and undead monsters and beetles that will eat you alive. It’s a freakin’ summer dream of action horror and it’s in many ways how you should bring a classic back. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. We’ll dive in but remember there are spoilers for this 20 year old movie right below the trailer so tread appropriately.
Reviewed by: Jake
It’s the 1920’s in Egypt and there is pretty much a full-on assault on ancient sites happening throughout the country, as colonialism and the native culture battle over historical relics. Included in the skirmish is Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), a treasure hunter with a mysterious past who knows the location of the mythical city of the dead, Hamunaptra. He agrees to take a young librarian, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her brother Johnathan (John Hannah) to the location in exchange for saving his life from a jail. On their way, they run into a group of American trasure hunters led by one of O’Connell’s old acquaintances and all-around piece of shit, Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor). A swashbuckling competition ensues.
They arrive at the ancient city of Hamunaptra and uncover a sarcophagus and the book of the dead. Evelyn reads from it and awakens the mummy of Imhotep, one of the ancient Pharoah’s high priests named Imhotep (Arnold Visloo) who was ritually killed for his crimes against the empire due to his love for the Pharoah’s mistress, Anck-Su-Namun. Not smart. Long story short, the mummy is back and he’s after the treasure hunters who stole Anck-Su-Namun’s organ jars so he can resurrect her. He tracks and kills them all, regenerating partially with each kill and becoming imortal by the end of it.
Imhotep selects Evelyn to be his sacrifice to bring back Anck-Su-Namun, but O’Connell and friends are able to locate the book of life and recite a spell that renders his immortality moot in time to stab his ass dead. O’Connell and Evelyn fall in love because that’s what happens in these stories.
What the Movie Does Right
In it’s most distilled form, Brendan Fraser. This was the role he was born to play. He’s perfect for Rick O’Connell, the badass but also mostly self aware buffoon of an Eroll Flynn type adventurer. He has amazing lines, gives O’Connell great presence through his physical acting and is a general hunk.
And the fact that I’m even talking about Brendan Fraser in this category speaks to the larger aspect of what this film does right. It is a totally new take on the concept of the mummy as a monster. Sure, he’s still a mummy, but this is not an ambling monster silently attacking old scholars in their British mansions. This is an action adventure that goes to the source and places the action in the sands of Egypt. This is basically an Indiana Jones movie, and that’s a really cool thing.
The mummy himself is also depicted in a much more sinister light in this film. He’s graphically buried alive with scarabs which are their own totally bananas idea (they made them aggressive flesh eating swarms) and comes back to suck out the life-juice of fools to re-assimilate himself. Gnar.
I also feel the need to jsut give a quick shout out to Beni here. Beni is one of the biggest pieces of shit I have ever seen in any movie. It works really well in this one as he is the perfect nuisance for O’Connell’s charactere. Without Beni, a lot of the humor in this movie wouldn’t have hit the right balance. Thanks for being a total slimebag, Beni!
What the Movie Does Wrong
This plot is fucking bonkers. Absolute lunacy. It’s convoluted and ridiculous, which granted, is not far off from any Indiana Jones film either, but wow there are some insanely tacked on and inexplicable things in this movie. Why does Imhotep need Evelyn? Why are the book of the dead and the book of life reliant on a key (which wouldn’t even be needed to open these things with the way it’s designed btw)? Why are they even books? Why did the part of the plot with the pilot Winston even need to be in the movie? If the answer was to ensure a bi-plane was included in a movie that was otherwise sans bi-plane, then fine.
Also, and here’s the big one, this movie happened in 1999 which was the peak of movies thinking they can and should just do anything and everything with CG. It doesn’t totally ruin this film because there is also a lot of practical and action which looks great, but to say some of the effects on Imhotep have aged poorly is an understatement.
Story: 5.5 - I’m going to put this down the middle because it’s crazy and convoluted but it’s also like Indiana Jones which is rad.
World-Building / Immersion: 7 - Fraser makes this movie infinitely watchable with an all-world performance. The action/adventure backdrop for the horror story (basically a slasher) is wonderful. There are a lot of nits to pick though and it sucks to have to think about colonialism which could pull you out a bit along with something I’m going to discuss in effects.
Scare-Factor: 3 - This mummy’s origin story is ghastly and there are some more brutal kills in this than in past mummy movies but this is not really intended to be a scary film. The scarabs are a whole lot of nope though.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 6 - The sets, props, costuming and even some of the mummy effects all look good and help this movie immensely, but there is a lot of CG reliance here and a lot of it has not aged well.
Overall: 7 - This is a really interesting, entertaining and noteworthy re-imagining of a classic. It’s distant from the original in almost every way but it is still a mummy character. This is definitely worth seeing.