The Mummy (1999)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 6, 2009  | 
DVD
Columbia Tristar (Australia). Region 2 & 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, Italian DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English, Portuguese, Frenc,h Arabic Subtitles. 119 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor
Screenplay: Stephen Sommers
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB IMDB YouTube
When it was announced that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was being made, there was a gigantic hullaballo about whether or not it should be made, and had it been too long between drinks for another adventure of the aging archeologist, but I was of the opinion that Indiana Jones 4 had more or less already been made in 1999, as the remake of The Mummy, although Harrison's Ford's unique character had to be dumbed down and turned into four characters, whom appear to be more like the main four characters from Star Wars (with Brendan Fraser as Han Solo, Rachael Weisz as Leia, John Hannah as the clueless Luke and Oded Fehr as Chewbacca).

Now for this particular review I have no intention of getting into any sort of remake debate. Why? This remake was one of those cases where the source material was used as a basis for a whole new experience, with just a few nods to the original, and not as a blatant scene for scene 'cover version' like Gus Van Sant's ridiculous shitfest Psycho (what a waste of William H. Macy).

On to the film…

In ancient Egypt, total slutbag queen Anck Su Namun (the incredibly sexy Patricia Velasquez, seen here wearing only jewelry, a loincloth and body paint) has been having it off with the High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), and gets into much trouble when her husband Pharaoh Seti I (Aharon Ipale) finds out about it. The queen and her lover kill the Pharaoh in a fit of passion, and for that are  punished with a death that even the priests themselves fear, which involves things like being buried alive with flesh eating scarabs in the temple of Hamunaptra. Not the nicest way to die, but that's how the Ancient Egyptians rolled.

Flash forward thousands of years to 1923, where a group of foreign legionnaires are fighting… well, someone… at the ruins of the temple of Hamunaptra. Two of the legionnaires, Rick O'Connell (Brendon Fraser) and his unreliable sidekick Beni (Kevin J. O'Conner) feel there is something more at the temple, something they feel is wholly evil. All the soldiers try to abandon the site as queer things start to happen…

Now we are introduced to Evelyn Carnahan (Rachael Weisz), and her loser brother Jonathon (John Hannah), who has won an ancient piece in a card game from now doomed to execution prisoner Rick O'Connell, whose life has turned to the worse since he returned from Hamunaptra (we never really find out why he has been imprisoned, except for the fact that he has a 'very good time'). He tells them where he picked up the piece, and very soon a party is gathered together to go to Hamunaptra, where legend tells of treasures inconceivable.

Along the way, Rick meets up with old compadre Beni, who has assembled a team of his own, and together, the two larger groups go to Hamunaptra to pillage its treasure. What they find there though is a curse, that, when a passage from a book is read, releases Imhotep from his tomb, and as he feasts upon the flesh of the living, he gains power, soon to be unstoppable, and with his power he shall re-animate his lost Anck Su Namun, and together they will rule the world - unless our gang of misfits, along with Ardeth Bey (Oded Fehr) of the Magi, a group sworn to keep the secrets of Hamunaptra, can find a way to stop him.

Steven Sommers has basically made a career of these films, being involved in all the Mummy films (including the Scorpion King films, which don't really relate to this one as much as to the sequel)  in some way, and also delivering us others diet-horror films like Van Helsing and Deep Rising. His love of the classic horror of Universal is apparent, and by this film, so is his love of the pulp films of the 40s and 50s, and even, at times, I get a Fred Dekker-y Monster Squad vibe off it. That may not be deliberate, but these two films would make a great double feature.

At times there is a passing resemblance to the original, and this has been deliberate by Sommers to show respect to the original, but as stated earlier, this ain't the same Mummy film. While the original was a study in deliberate fear, this is a rollicking adventure that sits nicely alongside swashbuckling adventures like Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger, but with some average looking CGI replacing the magic of Ray Harryhausan's stop motion magic. Sommer's love of Harryhausan is apparent as well in a particular scene which nicely reproduces (with some artistic license) Jason's fight against the skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. While the CGI isn't the greatest in this film, I did feel the same degree of suspension of disbelief was required to watch the film as one would experience while watching something with Harryhausan's stop-mo in it: you know it isn't real, so you tend to be a little forgiving!

The dialogue in this film is pretty silly at most times, occasionally even cartoonish, but it suits the tone of the film, and when it comes down to it, even though the end of the world is at hand, you feel it is not taken too seriously. The film races along at a pace so that the average, lowest common denominator won't get bored between action sequences and the characters are all fairly likable, except those who are obviously set up to be Mummy fodder.

This is certainly a big budget picture for low IQ film goers, as every aspect of the simple story is walked through with you and every event is clearly described by the characters for your benefit. This is cotton candy, bubble gum and popcorn all mixed together in a gigantic lime spider. It's delicious, but too much will make you sick.
Video
This film is present in 16x 9 widescreen and is a crisp image throughout, as you would expect from a Universal release of this caliber. The only artifacts are the ones found in Hamunaptra.
Audio
A beautifully bombastic Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack presentation that kicks ass!!
Extra Features
Building a Better Mummy is a quite decent documentary about the film. In it the cast and crew discuss all aspects of the film, including why they remade a classic. All the makers clearly either had a love of or respect for the original, and this doco proves that. The evolution of the CGI effects and the pre-production drawing are a bonus as well. Incredibly thorough without becoming long –winded or too boring.

Director's commentary with Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay is a decent commentary from two guys who have, at this point, worked together for about 12 years. They obviously know each other quite well, and this relaxed commentary is a tribute to that. They discuss many aspects of filmmaking in this nicely detailed commentary.

Visual and special effects formation is narrated by John Berton and is a great SPFX piece. Five effects sequences have been selected, and then broken down into all the plates, from original film, right up to completed CGI.

Egyptology 101 is a text section about the history of Egypt and of the ancient Egyptian's methods. Kids in high school could use this if they are doing ancient Egypt as a subject. Interesting, but superfluous: I would have much preferred an actual documentary of Egyptian history. If I want to read, I shall go get a book… OK, a comic, but you know what I mean!!

Deleted Scenes has several scenes taken from the film. None are greatly missed, but the initial return by Rick O'Connell is quite creepy.

Theatrical Trailer, is just that.

Production notes is more or less a 'making of' but in text form. If you have watched the Building a Better Mummy feature, this is not even going to get looked at.

DVD Rom material: I am no fan of DVD Rom stuff as I don't like poking this sort of crap onto my computer, so immediately I think it is a waste of disc space, though at least it isn't a 'production gallery'. This being an older disc, though, I was unable to load it to my PC, and therefore cannot review it. The DVD rom features include an Interactive Mummy Game, 2 Screensavers and Electronic Postcards.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Not a horror film by any means, The Mummy still entertains. It is just scary enough so that the young ones may get a fright, and just amusing enough, without quite being too annoying, that adults may get a charge out of it as well. If anything, this is an entry level, get your 8 year old ready for some real horror movies type of flick, or one you can watch with friends that have yet to find out you love Cannibal Holocaust. The best way to describe this film is 'charming'.

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