If you want a fun little action movie to kill an afternoon, I typically recommend two film series: Indiana Jones (movie 1 or 3), and The Mummy (movie 1 or 2). Both are basic and barely thought-provoking, but they have likable characters and enough sets, movie lore, and fight scenes to keep you invested.
Today I’ll talk about the latter series’ first film, The Mummy, which came out around the turn of the century.
The plot is, as mentioned above, basic and easy to follow. An Egyptian priest committed a big no-no and got mummified, and the other Egyptians saw fit to give him the worst, and simultaneously most unholy empowering curse in their arsenal. Years later, a bold treasure seeker teams up with a librarian/scholar and her greedy, cowardly, but charming brother to unearth riches in the spot where Mr. Mummy was buried, and they end up waking him in the process. They then race to stop him before he regains his full power and continues what he started, before presumably moving on to conquer the world.
Adventures saving the world and kicking butt while doing it. Nothing extraordinary, but with enough of its own spices to be interesting.
What really stands out about this picture by more modern standards are the two lead actors. Brendan Fraser was a bigger deal in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but then there is Rachel Weisz from The Bourne Legacy and Oz the Great and Powerful. She plays the cute, bookish, but determined protagonist opposite Fraser, the adventurous and charismatic leading man, and, spoilers (sort of), the two fall in love over the course of the movie. Their relationship is believable, if a bit sappy sometimes (and with both of them playing stereotypical British and American people), and they work off each other pretty well.
John Hannah, who plays Weisz’s brother in the film, I only remember seeing in Four Weddings and A Funeral outside of this series. He was good there, but more somber and downplayed. Quite the contrast to the goofy comic relief and lovable con man he plays in this film and its sequels, but good in showing that his acting can vary a bit.
Arnold Vosloo, our resident Mummy, has been in a few movies since, but nothing that really stands out to a general audience. He has appeared in 24, Psych, Chuck, and Bones, though. He’s pretty funny and sometimes creepy in his role, though his acting is also amplified by special effects.
The rest of the cast is more obscure, but they play their parts well. The other Americans, besides Fraser’s character, don’t stand on ceremony; firing their guns and digging for treasure past blatant warnings. Beni (red hat on left), a fellow former soldier like Fraser’s character and a “friend” of his, ties the cast together by moving between groups, and being a worse version of Hannah’s character; greedy, cowardly enough to abandon anyone and sell his soul, and helpful only when it will benefit himself.
We also get a local badass in the form of Ardeth Bay, a Medjai who guards the mummy’s resting place, but ultimately fails and teams up with the main heroes. Occasionally, he also plays the “foreigner/old world person who is confused/amazed by modern things” card.
The mummy’s love interest is almost literally a prop, but it’s okay. She comes back with some development in the next movie.
The effects, which I remember being more impressive as a kid, are pretty laughable by today’s standards. If you can squint and ignore the fakeness of some scenes, it shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the movie much. The story is more fun than scary anyway.
I only have one gripe about the plot I’ve been unable to turn off in my brain. When Imhotep (the mummy) rises from the dead, “he will bring with him the Ten Plagues of Egypt.”
How the holy halibut does that work?
The Ten Plagues, biblically, were the god of Abraham’s way of both hardening Pharaoh’s heart and eventually getting him to let the Israelites go with Moses. This movie seems to imply not only that the gods of Egypt are real in this version of our world, but that they were capable of doing that as well. And the characters know what the plagues are, so the Moses story either exists in that world as well, or the gods of Egypt must have tried it at some point and-
…Maybe I should stop there. I’m feeling a bit unwell.
If you hit anything hard enough, it’s going to break. Some things just break more easily, I guess…
But yes, if you ignore some of the cheesier effects and wonky implications, it’s a fun movie. I recommend it over its sequels (movie 3, The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, is not worth anybody’s time), because those, predictably, feel like they’re leaching off of the first movie rather than being their own unique, complete stories. You could watch any movie and feel perfectly satisfied, not desperate to know what happens after each story. At best, without the time jumps, the main three movies could probably make a decent miniseries.
There was a brief animated tv series and a spin-off of the second film, The Scorpion King, also. I only saw the former, and it was okay for Saturday morning fare. Nothing spectacular, but hey; it’s the same with the movies.
It’s definitely not a movie (or movies) you have to see before you die. But if you happen to scroll over it in Netflix or something like that, looking for something light but not too cheap or stupid, it’d be a solid choice. Some silly CG and gross out, if you or your family are into that; romance, action, violence, and every character getting most of what they deserve.
*All pictures, video clips, and other media belong to their respective owners. None of the images or sounds belong to me.