Is ‘The Mummy’ (1999) Just Another Reboot?
Hollywood is addicted to sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes. The question that I, as the average audience member has to ask, is this is sequel, prequel, reboot or remake any different than its predecessor? Or is it the same narrative with a different cast and better technology?
In 1999, The Mummy hit theaters. 1999 was not the first year that The Mummy was in theaters. Previous films were released in 1932 and 1959. The 1999 film, which mirrors the narrative of the 1932 film stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz as part of a team that unknowingly wakes up the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian priest who is looking for his reincarnated beloved. Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is the brawn to Weisz’s Evelyn Carnahan’s brains. Ultimately, the fate of the mortal world is in their hands.
Same Damsel in Distress, Different Film
From my perspective, the purpose of a sequel, prequel, reboot or remake is to show respect to its predecessor while adding something new to the narrative and/or character development. While the screenwriters certainly added new elements, they forgot one thing: the damsel in distress/love interest character. This character, as traditionally portrayed, is usually the only female character of note. Or, if she is not only female character of note, she is the heroine while the other female characters are baddies or side characters who at best, are in the background and at worst unnoticed by the audience.
In this film, there are only two female characters of note: Evelyn and Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez), Imhotep’s (Arnold Vosloo) girlfriend whom he wishes to see again in living color. The problem with this 2D character of the damsel in distress/love interest is that it’s been done to death. Granted, I understand that the creative team wanted to show deference to the 1932 film. They may have not consciously planned to box Evelyn into the role of “the girl”, but in a way, she is.
She is the one who Imhotep wants to use as a vehicle to bring Anck Su Namun back to life. Therefore, she must be protected by the men and then rescued by the same men after she is held captive by Imhotep and his followers. She also conveniently develops a relationship with Rick and as the credits roll, they ride away into the sunset, on their way to living happily ever after. I also seem to recall that along the way, she begins to lose clothing.
Anyone who knows me (or has read some of my articles on this site) knows that I am a huge Star Wars fan. One of the reasons that I am a fan is Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). As a writer (at least in the 70’s, but that is another topic for another time), George Lucas understood how to show deference to your source material while putting your own spin on the narrative and characters.
Though Leia is based on the female characters in movies and serials of Lucas’s youth, he knew that Leia had to be more than the standard damsel in distress and love interest. Instead of being just another passive princess waiting to be rescued, Leia is a tough cookie who is smart and, in the end, takes control of her own rescue. Looking back, I wish the screen writers of The Mummy would have allowed Evelyn to move beyond the role of “the girl”. Though I have to give some credit to director Stephen Sommers, who wrote and directed both this film and its sequel. He did give Evelyn more to do in The Mummy Returns, but even in that movie, she was still confined to the role of the damsel in distress, and the love interest.
The Mummy is Funny
I am admittedly not a big horror fan. Blood, guts and gore are usually not the qualities that I look for when choosing which movie to watch. If I recall properly, the last time I saw a horror movie was the original Scream (1996). To say that it’s been a long time since I have watched a horror film is most certainly an understatement. But the thing that I remember about Scream is that there are moments of levity and humor that breakup of the waves of horror, fear and bloodshed. While staying within the bounds of the action/horror genre, there are truly comical moments with The Mummy narrative that allowed the audience to laugh, catch their breaths and relax, if only momentarily before the action starts again.
Arnold Vosloo Was Perfectly Cast
A good villain (especially in a horror film) has a way of scaring the audience and the characters well before we see their face. In The Mummy, the title character played by Vosloo spends the first half of the movie either spoken of and not seen or brought to life via CGI. It is only during the second half of the film that that Vosloo is given the opportunity to shine as the villain.
The thing about a good villain is that they think that they are doing the right thing. They don’t consider that their actions have the potential to create horrible consequences for the heroes of the story. Imhotep did not intend to create the destruction that he did, he simply was looking for his lost love and was using the means he had at his disposal to find her. It just happened that Evelyn was conveniently there and a perfect vessel to resurrect Anck Su Namun.
Is The Mummy Worth Watching, 20 Years Later?
As reboots go, The Mummy is not that bad. It’s not the most cerebral of movies, but as action/adventure/slightly horror-ish films go, it could be worse. The 2017 Tom Cruise reboot certainly was. It has a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is entertaining, funny, fun to watch and certainly keeps the audience glued to their seat. It has a certain Indiana Jones quality and Fraser’s character takes a page from Harrison Ford’s playbook. It’s not bad movie, but looking back, I wish that the creative team would have done a few things differently.
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