The summer of 1999 holds a special place in my heart, I had started working at a cinema, everybody was highly anticipating the release of The Matrix, Notting Hill had been a huge success, Cruel Intentions reworked a classic for the modern world and George Lucas opted to destroy his legacy with the first of three Star Wars prequels.
Toy Story 2 and sleeper hit The Sixth Sense, Austin Powers 2, American Beauty, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich and Boys Don’t Cry, 1999 was a great year for the movies.
From out of nowhere Universal Pictures revival of The Mummy was a box office smash, overall grossing $416 million worldwide, which was just under $50m behind The Matrix.
Director Stephen Sommers previous efforts included The Adventures of Huck Finn and a live action version of the Jungle Book. Creature feature Deep Rising (1998) was straight out of the Roger Corman book of trashy adventure by numbers, but it was a solid B-Movie that knew what it was and had fun with it. Sommers would apply this method to greater success for his next movie.
Nobody thought that a B-Movie update of The Mummy would be a blockbuster, at best a modest bit of hokum that might be entertaining. Granted that’s all we ended up with, but it’s all done with some much old-fashioned spirit and gusto it’s difficult not to enjoy.
The Mummy was unleashed to mostly bad reviews, but audiences (including myself) lapped up the cheesy action and square jaw heroics of Rick O’Connell, English rose Rachael Weisz was enchanting as Evelyn, and Brendan Fraser makes for a charming leading man even if some of the humour falls flat.
There hadn’t been an adventure film like it on the big screen for some time, studios had backed away from Indiana Jones type movies and this was just the ticket to kick-start the summer of 99. Whilst it’s not a patch on the exploits of Dr Jones, it filled a gap.
This still stands as Sommers best work, the Mummy sequel was rotten and the special effects intern who worked all but two minutes on the Scorpion King for the finale should be ashamed of themselves, even the slapstick nature of these movies can’t make allowances for that.
Then there’s the fact that the years don’t add up, when we first meet Rick it clearly states the year is 1923. Cut to Three Years Later (1926) Evelyn and Jonathan meet Rick and negotiate his freedom. Mummy Returns is set in 1933, and somehow the O’Connolls have an eight year old son.
I am sorry for the rant but it’s mistakes like this that really rewind my tape the wrong way. Every time I re-watch the movie it prevents me from enjoying it, all Sommers had to do was watch the first movie again, surely he owned a copy?
Awful sequels and terrible spin-offs aside, The Mummy is a great adventure film that is a nod to the old serial matinee of yester year and isn’t afraid to be a bit corny or predictable.
This makes for perfect Sunday Afternoon viewing, an undemanding rip-roaring action yarn that might be a bit ropey it certainly entertains. Just don’t be tempted by the two sequels or The Scorpion King trilogy, although the recent “Battle for Redemption” is outstanding, if viewed as a parody.