“Question, Why doesn’t it like cats?”
The Eve of the new Millennium:
1999 was an interesting year for film. It was the end of an era in many respects. The new millennium was near and in regards to film, that meant it was time to push the envelope in any/every way possible. That summer season was already hit for a loop when in April a little movie called The Matrix opened in theaters and changed the scope of sci-fi and the visual language of film for years to come. Then came Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, comedies like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and even South Park made its debut on the big screen; it was a fun summer (we will not talk about Wild Wild West). But Universal Studios also launched a Reboot (a rarity in those days) of the long dead franchise “The Mummy“. How could a property that was decades old compete with that lineup? While it wasn’t the juggernaut like the other films mentioned above made in terms of box office, it sits at #8 in the top 10 making over $155 million domestically. It was a true success in every sense of the word and it later spawned a fun, more “adventure” focused sequel and another film that, for the 2nd time in this column, we will not mention.
The Mummy is one of the best, most ReWatchable Horror / Action / Comedy / Adventure movies of all time!
Now that you know where I stand let’s dive in on why you need to revisit this film if you haven’t in the recent past. I’ll start with one of if best parts of the movie, the Musical Score! Jerry Goldsmith was at the end of his career, he would have less than 10 films left in his filmography before passing away only 5 years later. I mention this because he had already done amazing work in films like Chinatown, First Blood, the Star Trek series, and he had won his one and only Oscar in 1977 for The Omen. He could’ve phoned it in on something like this but he didn’t, he continued to write this hauntingly beautiful score that had flavors of Egyptian music. Once the film ends, leave the credits on at the end and you will not be disappointed. It’s a true shame he didn’t get nominated for this film but it wouldn’t be the first or last time the academy let’s one fall through the cracks. Does anyone remember the score to The Cider House Rules?
The effects house “Industrial Light and Magic” had a busy year too (remember Star Wars came out the same year) and The Mummy was one of those benchmark films that pushed the envelope forward in terms of set extensions, crowd simulations, particle simulations, and of course creature development and motion capture. This was still before “Gollum” and the same year as “Jar Jar Binks” so the tech was already moving in that direction.
But it was still very early in what they could do in terms of sets so many of the visual effects were still accomplished with models. Like the epic opening shot when the camera tilts down and reveals the Egyptian city Thebes. While the Pyramids were digital, the city itself were mostly done with models. all they need to add were hundreds of extras (some digital, but many real actors, and one dog).
If you want an easy but complex, funny but serious, and horrific and heartfelt fun film, look no further. The Mummy is all those things and more. The entire cast has so much talent and chemistry with each other that every single scene flies right through. The pacing is pitch perfect and no scene over stays its welcome. The action is solid and iconic, especially the SandFace/Airplane sequence.
The thing that stays with the audience the most I think is the cast in the film. Brenden Fraser mostly plays it straight as the action hero, but his comedic roots do play a part in the film specifically when he works with Kevin J. O’Conner (Beni) and John Hannah (Jonathan). This was also one of Rachel Weisz’s breakout roles in american movies and this role really shows why she’s so great. Despite the fact that she plays the scholar in the film and dishes out the majority of the films exposition, she also showcases some comedic chops and looks great while doing it. The supporting cast which include, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Jonathan Hyde, and Bernard Fox are equally rich and round out the film so that you’re never bored. The Visual Effects are great, even if some may not hold up to today’s standards, they still do the most important job an effect is supposed to do, tell the story.
I cannot recommend this film enough and if you’d want to watch it for Halloween its available on Amazon and iTunes for $2.99 to rent, or you could just be awesome and buy it the next time you roll up to a Best Buy.