Critical reception for The Mummy and its sequel may not have been universally positive, but I consider both films quintessential actioners, with dashing characters and awesome set pieces recalling the excitement of Indiana Jones. I’m not much for horror comedies, mainly because the horror often manifests as gore, but the genre can be quite entertaining when the focus is on the comedy (Ghostbusters) or on the action, as in The Mummy.
My VC and I have always loved Brendan Fraser; he has the perfect adventure hero charisma for these movies, including that making-things-up-as-he-goes element that made Harrison Ford so likable. Pair him with Rachel Weisz as Evelyn, looking as beautiful as any actress ever has, and a modern classic romance is born. John Hannah is excellent comic relief as Evie’s con man brother Jonathan, and even if he’s CGI much of the time, Arnold Vosloo is effectively frightening as the reanimated mummy Imhotep. Ardeth Bay (which was the name taken by Imhotep in the original 1932 The Mummy) is played by Oded Fehr, whom my VC has always found dark, handsome, and hunky, even with the face tattoos.
As for the second film, despite changing directors, all the same actors returned, supplemented by Freddie Boath as Alex, who is not the most annoying of child actors and serves as a plucky addition to the O’Connell family. Oh, yeah, the Rock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) had his big film debut as the Scorpion King, but considering he never speaks anything in English and is basically just a CGI tough guy most of the time, there’s not much I can say for his “performance.” Also, (Lost alert) Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who played Mr. Eko on my favorite show, plays a much less sympathetic killer as the villain Lock-Nah.
I was not impressed by Boris Karloff’s original The Mummy, hailed as a classic horror film yet exceptionally boring, at least to me. Retooling the basic plot points into a shoot-‘em-up pulp adventure was an inspired idea, complete with booby traps, ancient curses, killer beetles, and some then-advanced CGI. The first film is more foreboding in its build-up to the mummy’s resurrection, while the second veers into occasionally cartoonish territory, like racing sunrises and Alex’s childish high jinks. Even so, I think I like the second a little better, thanks to some outstanding action scenes, especially an awesome chase scene with a double-decker bus and the pyramid finale. I also liked how, aside from a few gruesome scenes, objectionable content was kept to a minimum, making both films the kind of Saturday night fare a family can enjoy, provided the kids’ eyes are covered every now and then. There’s some talk of reincarnation, and I don’t know how or why a mummy can recreate the plagues of Egypt, which came from God, but none of the spiritual mumbo jumbo is to be taken seriously anyway.
Neither film is Oscar material, but both are so spectacularly entertaining that Imhotep’s stereotypical romance and some unrealistic moments are easily forgiven. Such is not always the case: The third film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, thanks mainly to the loss of chemistry from the recasting of Rachel Weisz, just didn’t have the same magic, nor did director Stephen Sommers’ other monster movie rehash Van Helsing. With these films, it’s the full package that makes them something special: the thrilling score by Jerry Goldsmith (The Mummy) and Alan Silvestri (The Mummy Returns), funny and dynamic performances from most of the cast, and the perfect blend of humor, horror, and action.Best line from The Mummy: (Evelyn) “You were actually at Hamunaptra?” (Rick) “Yeah, I was there.” (Evelyn) “You swear?” (Rick) “Every damn day.” Best line from The Mummy Returns: (Ardeth Bay, concerning Alex’s putting on the Bracelet of Anubis) “By putting this on, you have started a chain reaction that could bring about the next apocalypse.” [Alex gasps] (Rick, to Ardeth) “You, lighten up.” (to Alex) “You, big trouble.” (to Jonathan) “You, get in the car.” Rank: 58 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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