The Mummy review
It's 1290bc, and in ancient Egyptian Thebes, high priest Imhotep is having an affair with the mistress of King Seti, Anck-su-namun. When the king discovers them, the two kill him, and Anck-su-namun then proceeds to kill herself, counting on Imhotep to revive her.
Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velásquez)
To this end, Imhotep steals her body from its tomb, and take it to Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead to perform the ritual. Unfortunately, they are interrupted before the ritual can be completed. Anck-su-namun's soul returns to the underworld, the priests are mummified alive (although not for very long, since mummification involves the removal of the vital organs), and Imhotep himself was fated to suffer the Hom-dai, a punishment reserved for the very worst of the worst, a punishment that had never been performed before since the results were so terrible.
Rather than his organs being removed like his priests, and all other mummies, Imhotep simply had his tongue removed, and was wrapped in bandages, and placed, alive, into a sarcophagus along with a swarm of flesh eating scarab beetles. According to the beliefs of Egypt, this ensured immortality, like normal mummification, but not vulnerability. Imhotep would be forced to live forever with the pain of his wounds. In order to prevent the sarcophagus being opened – since doing so would revive Imhotep, who would bring with him the ten plagues of Egypt – it is hidden, deep with Hamunaptra.
Over three thousand years later, in 1923, Rick O'Connell, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion, is almost abandoned in the ruins of Hamunaptra as his regiment (including Beni Gabor, an illustrious coward who shows up again later) flees from the statue of Anubis.
In 1926, bumbling Egyptologist and Cairo librarian, Evelyn Carnahan is approached by her brother, Jonathan, who has found an odd sort of treasure – a key, and a map, which shows the location of Hamunaptra, the presumed-to-be legendary city. When they find out that O'Connell knows where the city is, they rescue him from hanging, and the three set off in what becomes a race against another group, one of Americans led by Beni, to Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead.
The two groups eventually make it, and as they explore, accidentally set of a series of events that awakens Imhotep. He's slightly cranky at being woken up, and decides to take it out on anyone and everyone within reach, particularly anyone who stops him using Evie's organs to revive Anck-su-namun.
Jonathan (John Hannah), Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and Rick (Brendan Fraser)
In some ways, the Mummy seems almost a parody of itself and the action genre. That isn't to say that it's not believable, or that it doesn't take itself seriously. Just that the heroes are fallable, often humorously, and action genre clichés don't work as well as they usually do. For instance, one scene involves Rick O'Connell charging towards a group of mummies before his battle cry suddenly fades away, and he executes a hurried about-turn in search of a better idea.
Although the film does sometimes seem to be poking fun at itself and it's characters, what makes it special is that fact that it – or rather, the director and the actors, I suppose – seem to really like the film, and they looked like they had fun filming it. The film isn't gory, although some bits – seeing a rotting mummy kiss someone, for example – are horrible. But, again, in a really good way.
Characters and Acting
Another example of this type of humour involves my favourite character, Beni Gabor, played by Kevin J. O'Connor. Beni is a tremendous coward, who will weasel out of anything that's even slightly dangerous – think Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, or Rincewind, from the Discworld series. Or, even closer, Iago from Disney's Aladdin. Missing the latter's reluctant-hero traits, Beni manages to cause trouble for anyone who relies on him – the only skin he is interested in saving is his own. This leads him to a bad end, of course, which is a pity. I found him curiously lovable, despite his complete lack of positive traits.
Beni is completely disloyal to anyone who is not of immediate use to him, and this is most obvious in the scene I began writing about a while ago. When faced with a newly risen mummy, Beni reaches into his robes for a crucifix and begins praying. When that doesn't work, he reaches for another religious symbol, and then another, abandoning gods as each one fails him. Until, that is, he reaches the Star of David, and begins speaking Hebrew, which the mummy recognizes as the 'language of the slaves'.
Speaking of the mummy, he's played by Arnold Vosloo. He has very few speaking lines, but his Egyptian sounds very authentic – it's said that an Egyptologist was used to make sure the language and the hieroglyphics were fairly accurate. Certain liberties were taken, such as the Book of the Dead, which was originally a papyrus scroll included in the tomb of every mummy, rather than the specialized ritual book it's shown as, but, in a film this good, artistic license is a good thing. Vosloo also manages to look very threatening, and the special effects used for his various evil powers are spectacular.
Evelyn is played by Rachel Weisz, who is adorably British, in a slightly dishabille librarian sort of way. A lot of the friction between her and O'Connell, Brendan Fraser's character, comes from her British manners contrasting with his American soldier personality. Brendan Fraser plays O'Connell as a traditional action hero with a twist, making the character endearing and realistic, while still very cool. Think Ashley Riot from Vagrant Story crossed with Aladdin, crossed with Indiana Jones; an edgy, humorous risk-taker, with a cool edge.
Apart from Beni, much of the comic relief of the movie comes from Jonathan, Evie's lay about brother, who reminds me of no one so much as an incredibly lazy Oscar Wilde character - most particularly Algernon from The Importance of Being Earnest. Like Evie, yet another English stereotype played off against the Americans. But in a good way.
The visual effects are amazing; mostly, they focus around the mummy's strange powers, and his body regenerating, and these are gross, but very, very cool. Many of the actors put a lot of effort into this film, and it was totally worth it. There's a story about one of the early scenes, where Brendan Fraser's character is choking to death. On the long shots, it's a stunt double, but on the close-ups, it's really him. Towards the end of the scene, his eyes roll back into his head – the actor really was asphyxiating, and collapsed after filming finished. Totally worth it. There's a similar story surrounding Cary Elwes, who was literally knocked unconscious during the filming of the Princess Bride, another instance where the physical pain was nothing compared to the effect of the completed film.
Of course, I wasn't the one who got KOed.
In summary, the Mummy is a great cross between an action film and a romance, and a comedy (not a romantic comedy – completely different genre). It's fun and involving, exciting and dramatic, and worth watching over and over again until your ears implode.
See this film or the scarab beetles will hunt you down in your sleep.
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