- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hen “The Mummy” stormed into theaters in the summer of 1999, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was a decade old. People were obviously clamoring for another likeminded hero, but there wasn’t a studio around willing to gamble on a movie that would instantly draw comparisons to the famous archeologist. Give Universal and director Stephen Sommers credit, then, for not only having the cajones to produce such a film, but to do so while shamelessly ripping off the many adventures of Dr. Jones.
The film opens in ancient Egypt where a forbidden love affair between High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and the Pharaoh’s mistress, Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez), leads to them murdering the Pharaoh in cold blood. When the king’s guards catch wind of the traitorous act, Anck Su kills herself, and Imhotep is forced to run away with the knowledge that he has the power to resurrect her. He’s captured before he ever gets the chance to do so, however, and his punishment is harsh: live mummification and a curse meant to contain him within his tomb for eternity.
Flash-forward 3,000 years and American-turned-French Foreign Legionnaire commander Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his fellow soldiers have stumbled upon the lost city of Hamunaptra (the burial site of Imhotep). When they’re driven back by a desert tribe sworn to protect the city’s secrets, however, O’Connell is thrown into an Egyptian prison to live out his final days. Lucky for him, an English researcher named Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) requires O’Connell’s services to reach the fabled city, and after bartering for his release, the pair – joined by Evelyn’s older brother, Jonathan (John Hannah) – journey to Hamunaptra to uncover whatever treasures may exist. Instead, they accidentally awaken Imhotep from his millennia-long sleep, and in order to prevent the mummy from destroying the free world, they must retrieve the mystical book necessary to send him back.
Though Imhotep doesn’t actually appear in mummy form until midway through the movie, it’s a blessing in disguise. Stephen Sommers can get a little crazy when it comes to overusing special effects (see: “Van Helsing”), and while The Mummy is meant to be the main attraction, introducing him any earlier would have made the spectacle less impressive. As it stands, the CG work in the film is top-notch for its time, and though it isn’t entirely necessary to the story, it sure makes everything look really slick. Some might even think the “Indiana Jones” franchise would have benefited from a little CG had the disastrous “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” not already proven them wrong. Still, while the special effects in “The Mummy” do get a little heavy toward the end, they never quite get in the way of the performances.
Brendan Fraser is no Harrison Ford by any stretch of the imagination, but he pulls off the comedic action hero with the ease of a seasoned veteran. This is his bread-and-butter, and though “The Mummy” might not be his best work to date, it’s definitely one of his most enjoyable. Rachel Weisz, on the other hand, is terribly cast as Fraser’s love interest. She’s far too good of an actress to be running around in an action movie, and she never makes the most of her character’s assumed quirkiness. Thank God for John Hannah, who assumes the role of O’Connell’s partner-in-crime, even if they never really talk to one another throughout the course of the film. There’s really no straightforward equivalent to his character in the “Indiana Jones” universe, unlike the others (O’Connell is Indy, Evelyn is Marion, Imhotep is Mola Ram, and Kevin J. O'Connor's Beni Gabor is Satipo). Instead, he’s an amalgamation of Indy’s closest allies, including Sallah and Marcus Brody.
All similarities aside, “The Mummy” has one thing going for it that none of the “Indy” films ever had: an established villain with more than 60 years of cinematic history. Sure, Harrison Ford battled the ultimate movie bad guy (twice) when he took on the Nazis in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Last Crusade,” but he never fought a supernatural force quite like The Mummy. Still, when it comes to adventure films, no one does it better than the fedora-wearing doctor. “The Mummy” is a decent substitute for anyone who enjoys a playful homage to 1930s movie serials, but this CGI-fueled “Indiana Jones” clone will never match the legacy of its predecessor.
Deluxe Edition Blu-Ray Review:
With so many versions of “The Mummy” available on DVD, not to mention the upcoming release of the third installment in theaters, it was a no-brainer for Universal to feature the action blockbuster as one of their debut Blu-ray titles. The single-disc effort isn’t very different from past editions, but there are some new extras to help entice fans into buying the Blu-ray version. The best of the bunch is undoubtedly Universal’s U-Control feature, which includes optional picture-in-picture interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and other goodies that play in the corner of the screen. The previously released audio commentaries – with (1) director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay, (2) star Brendan Fraser, and (3) co-stars Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr and Kevin J. O’Connor – also appear, as does the making-of featurette “Building a Better Mummy," a handful of storyboard comparisons and visual effects before-and-after shots, and two minutes worth of deleted scenes. Rounding out the set is a new production featurette on creature effects (“An Army to Rule the World”), a look back at the legacy of the original “Mummy,” and a sneak peek at “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”