Furious Action-Adventures: THE MUMMY (1999)

And now the final entry of our Mummy review trilogy at Furious Cinema. We’ve seen the Drama/Romantic Mummy and the old-school Horror Mummy….today’s review is, well, something a little bit different. It’s not really a horror film, but more like a combination of Indiana Jones and Army of Darkness.

The Mummy (1999) had a huge marketing campaign when it came out. It was one of those movies that you couldn’t escape from. You saw the ads on TV, theaters had Mummy popcorn buckets and everybody talked about it. It was like when Armageddon hit the theaters…nobody could stop it. Several months after that, someone in my family (probably my dad) rented either the VHS or VCD (Don’t laugh. It was a poor man’s DVD at the time) of this film. The only the thing I remember from that screening is the scene in which the sandstorm is chasing our heroes’ airplane in the desert. At the time, I thought it was a fun movie. To tell you the truth, I didn’t watch it again until today. During that period of time, I encountered lots of people who said that this 1999 global smash hit was an entertaining film. So I expected to enjoy it even more now since its a film I had liked. It now has a higher score than the 1959 Mummy on IMDb! At the time I wrote this review the 1999 version has a 7.0 score, while the 1959 one has 6.8.

Although it has more of an Action/Adventure angle, some of the plot elements from the 1932 version are still there since the director Stephen Sommers is a big fan of that movie. He later revealed that it was the only film that genuinely scared him. So he decided to expand the story and use some innovative CGI at the time, which is different from the Universal classic version that relied more on the minimalistic approach. Is this one as good as what I remembered? Let’s find out!

After the stunning opening shot of ancient Egypt (which took TWO years in the making. I’m not kidding), the story begins…and it sounds like other two movies I talked about. The high priest named Imhotep secretly has a love affair with the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I. One day, the Pharaoh catches them kissing each other so they stab the Pharaoh. After that, Imhotep flees from the palace while his lover kills herself. This saddens him and later on he decides to resurrect her with the book of death at Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. As you may guess, he is caught during the ritual and is mummified alive.

Fast forward to 1926, a group of treasure hunters including…

– Rick (Brendan Fraser): A badass hero who knows the location of Hamunaptra without using maps.

– Evie (Rachel Weisz): The clumsy librarian that has ability to read ancient languages.

– Jonathan (John Hannah): Evie’s brother and comic relief in this film.

– Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor): Another comic relief

– A group of American treasure hunters

They decide to go to Hamunaptra, no matter how many people warn them about its curse. After they retrieve some ancient treasures, Evie accidentally reads the book of the dead aloud, which wakes up not only the Imhotep mummy itself, but also the evil force that could destroy the whole world. Along the way, they have no choice but to fight mysterious creatures and even befriend with a guy they hated: Ardeth Bay, the city’s protector. Near the end, Evie is captured by Imhotep for the ceremony to revive his lover. Rick and his gang have to rescue her before everything is over.

As I said, this one combines an awesome hero and the style of Indiana Jones with the villains that reminded me of Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. It has lots of action sequences and explosions every 5-10 minutes to keep everyone entertained with a storyline that keeps you on the edge of your seat. But since it reminded me of Indiana Jones, this leads us to something I hate about The Mummy…

I know I’m going to get a lot of negative comments below but I hated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It’s the only film of that franchise that I’ll never rewatch again because I can’t stand the annoying characters. This is the same problem I have here. Some characters are plain annoying and unlikable. The only character I like here is Rick because he has lots of one liners, he’s never afraid of anyone and he has useful skills to fight the evil forces. Other than that, the characters drive me crazy and are just the basis of every slapstick joke in this film. I know I shouldn’t take them seriously, but I can’t take them lightly either because they are not funny or memorable.

Besides this problem, there’s a lot of ambition here. The CGI plays a dominant role in this movie and it started the whole new era of using expensive CGI techniques to impress moviegoers. Although it looks dated now, it cost about $125,000 a shot! While the script itself is not only fun and feels like a tribute to Indiana Jones as well as other old serials (like the scene when Beni runs away from Rick when they are about to shoot the enemy at the very first scene), it also subtly references the 1932 Mummy. Besides the origin of Imhotep, there are characters’ name like Ardeth Bay or even the Imhotep itself that are inherited from the classic movie. It’s a very nice detail that might attract old-school horror fans.

To sum up, this is a popcorn movie that you can watch to have fun with your friends. It doesn’t follow the scary direction like the previous ones, but is totally worth watching, although I think it has a low re-watchability value since I don’t want to see the annoying characters again.

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Nuttawut Permphithak

Nuttawut is a Thai student who’s spending his final year in university studying marketing. In his free time he watches exploitation films… or any films from the past, writing articles, taking photos, and reviewing films for the GCDB. These activities sometimes make him “mad as hell”, but he really likes that feeling!

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