The Mummy (1999)

DVD Cover (Universal Reissue)
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Overall Rating 71%
Overall Rating
Ranked #347
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At an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion accidentally awakens a mummy who begins to wreck havoc as he searches for the reincarnation of his long-lost love. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: May 13, 2017
In preparation for the upcoming Mummy flick, I've been moving through the original franchises. I just finished the original Universal run and I have to admit the results were pretty disappointing. Maybe the first time the series was remade will fare better.

Over three thousand years ago, the high priest Imhotep had a love affair with Ankh-su-Namen, the personal mistress of the Pharaoh himself. When their tryst is discovered, the pair kill the Pharaoh. As his bodyguards break through the door, Imhotep is able to get away but his lover is not so lucky. Fortunately, Imhotep has the ability to resurrect her but those same bodyguards interrupt the ritual and finish off their master's assassin. What's more, he's been mummified alive with a group of flesh-eating scarabs in Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead. Fearing Imhotep's powers of resurrection, the descendants of those bodyguards, the Medjai, have guarded Hamunaptra with a lethal determination for millennium.

Flash forward to 1926 and Johnathan Carnahan has his sister, Evie, researching his latest find, an intricate box with a map leading right to Hamunaptra. A rabid Egyptologist, Evie is overjoyed at the possibility of discovering this legendary city but her boss doesn't believe a word of it. What's more, while inspecting the map, he accidentally sets it on fire with a candle. Not ready to give up the legendary riches the City of the Dead holds, Johnathan confesses that his "latest find" was actually from the pocket of a man named Rick O'Connell. When they learn he found the map at Hamunaptra himself, they buy his way out of jail with the promise that he lead the siblings back. Despite his last visit mostly consisting of a massive firefight against the Medjai, he agrees. This time, that ancient sect is the least of their worries as the adventurers inadvertently awaken a pure evil from long ago.

So, the most noteworthy thing about this remake is its genre shift; the filmmakers decided to abandon the horror tone in favor of an action-packed adventure. Like I said in my review for The Mummy's Hand, there's a generally scary story in that approach that I'd like to see play out to its full potential. Even so, there's no denying that I had an absolute ball with this; the mixture of humor and action is pure fun. Not only did Stephen Sommers' version give us plenty of both gun play and some swashbuckling, but there was plenty of banter between those scenes, especially between Rick and Johnathan. On a more meta level, I also appreciate that they added some choice bits from the Kharis plot as well as the original.

Naturally, the enjoyment in the aforementioned banter wouldn't have worked without the actors having a believable chemistry between them. At the forefront is Brendan Fraser. With a goofy charisma that belied his ability to handle himself in a firefight, his performance served as a microcosm for the movie as a whole. He set the tone for the entire movie perfectly. With Evie, Rachel Weisz brought the character beyond the obligatory love-interest. Sure, she wasn't quite able to give her as much depth as you'd like but she did bring a tenacity to what is typically a helpless archetype. John Hannah played her conniving brother, who was also O'Connell's verbal sparring partner throughout the movie. He served his purpose decently well as a comedic relief. On the other hand, there was nothing funny about Arnold Vosloo's performance. He played the evil Imhotep straight and while he wasn't the most menacing I've ever seen, there's no question that the juxtaposition was a good choice. Then of course, we have to mention Kevin J. O'Connor. His character, Benny, is a slimy coward that's entirely untrustworthy and Hyde plays the sniveling wimp beautifully.

This being released in 1999, I do have to admit that the CGI is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the self-contained effects looked pretty good. Perhaps the film's most iconic scene is one where Imhotep magically transfers his face onto a massive sandstorm. It's an impressive sight to be sure and the scene's reputation is well-deserved. The decomposing priests that Imhotep resurrects as his minions were also more than passable. You can tell they were the work of computers but it was well ahead of some of the other gems from around that time. Like i said though, the compliments are only for the self-contained scenes. When they tried to integrate the effects with the live-action stars, it looked nothing short of horrible. Primarily, I'm talking about the patches of decomposition on the otherwise fully-restored priest's face. The graphics were obviously just pasted on top of the shot and it was extremely noticeable that when Imhotep's face was moving, they weren't quite good enough to actually keep the patches in the same spots. There's just no substitution for some good ol' fashioned prosthetics.

Like I said in my review for the original film, this is the film people picture when they think of "The Mummy" and by and large there's a good reason for that. 8/10.
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