“You never believed in Hamunaptra, O’Connell. Why are you going back?” asks Beni. Rick O’Connell points to Evelyn and responds, “You see that girl? She saved my neck.” Beni tells him, “You always did have more balls than brains.”
I remember when I first saw the trailer for Stephen Sommers’ big-budget remake of 1932’s The Mummy. It was in January 1999 during the Super Bowl (back in an era when full-length movie trailers actually played during the Super Bowl commercials). My immediate reaction (which I’m pretty sure was shared by many others) was that it looked awesome and I couldn’t wait until May to see it on the big screen. I had heard of the 1932 version and was aware that it featured Boris Karloff (who had also appeared as the title character in one of Universal’s most famous horror productions, Frankenstein), but I never got a chance to see it. I did get to see Stephen Sommers’ version when it finally came out, and, not surprisingly, I enjoyed it very much (still hard to believe it’s been 15 years since it came out).
1999’s The Mummy follows an American adventurer named Rick O’Connell who guides a young Cairo librarian named Evelyn and her brother Jonathan in a search for treasure to the lost city of Hamunaptra in Egypt, where they accidentally awaken the mummy Imhotep who must absorb the lives of those who opened its sarcophagus in order to fully regain its form and strength. After seeing Evelyn, Imhotep tries to kidnap her so that he can sacrifice her and resurrect his lost love. Sommers gathered together an effective cast: Brendan Fraser (as Rick O’Connell), Rachel Weisz (as Evelyn), Arnold Vosloo (as Imhotep), John Hannah (as Jonathan), Kevin J. O’Connor (as Beni), and Oded Fehr (as Ardeth Bay). Fraser’s O’Connell is impressive as the swashbuckling type who doesn’t take himself too seriously but is more than up to the challenge when danger lurks nearby. Weisz is more than a damsel-in-distress; her Evelyn is mostly responsible for endangering millions of lives when she inadvertently unleashes Imhotep and her knowledge of Ancient Egypt is helpful to O’Connell along the way, including the final battle.
The screenplay by Sommers is a bit more inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark than the original 1932 version of The Mummy, but several of the horror elements remain as well as the love story involving Imhotep’s attempts to resurrect his lost love using her present-day reincarnation. Allan Cameron’s production design is large scale and visually impressive. The cinematography by Adrian Biddle is top-notch (I especially loved the lighting of the camel race across the desert). John Bloomfield’s costume designs are first-rate (the costumes of the ancient Egyptians are a highlight as well as the 1920s period costumes), as is the makeup design by Nick Dudman and Aileen Seaton. Bob Ducsay’s editing keeps the film moving at brisk pace, but remembers to slow down every now and then when needed.
The special effects by Industrial Light and Magic are superb, with a lot of work going into bringing the mummy effects to life (the scarab beetles are a highlight, and the sand monster sequence is still one of my favorites). The Oscar-nominated sound mixing was well-done, and the sound design by Leslie Shatz was terrific. And then there’s Jerry Goldsmith’s excellent score, which utilizes mostly brass and percussion with a sparingly-used choir. Goldsmith delivers the goods when it comes to the action music (of which there is plenty), and the love motif (which also happens to be the centerpiece of the score) he provides is one of his best (its performance during the end credits is just a delight). Sommers delivers an action-packed, romantic thrill ride with heart. It doesn’t aspire to be thought-provoking, which is fine since it brings a whole lot of fun for everyone to enjoy while delivering star-making turns and a good story to follow along with.