5 Reasons Why I Love 'The Mummy' (1999), And Why You Should Too
'The Mummy' (1999) - (Image via Universal Pictures)
If I were to have one of those ‘starter pack’ memes, mine would simply be the VHS cover of Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999). The Mummy (1999) is my favorite movie of all time. I watch it every major holiday (including my birthday), and it’s always the first movie I watch when I move into a new space. This movie is what I turn to when I need escape or when I need comfort. I even have a Mummy tattoo (no, it is not Brendan Fraser’s face, even though I secretly wish it was). It is the perfect movie.
Personally, I think that adventure films get a bad rap. Films like National Treasure, The Librarian, or The Mummy are cast aside as “family films.” First of all, family film my butt! Like, five people die onscreen in National Treasure and someone gets fully eaten alive in The Mummy. Secondly, brushing off the ingenuity and heart of adventure films is a disservice to all that watch movies.
Of course, not all adventure films are lucky enough to have the same reputation as the almighty Indiana Jones films. We at the Museum of Pop Culture are even lucky enough to house the jacket of Dr. Jones himself in our Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fameexhibition in honor of director Steven Spielberg's inclusion. Indy embodies the swashbuckling hero that every adventure movie needs. He’s dashing, smart and wears a lot of khaki. Topped off with exotic landscapes, the search for treasure, and a soundtrack by John Williams (also honored in SFFHOF) it’s a formula not many can compete with. And while it didn’t have the name recognition that the Indy saga had, The Mummy (1999) is something special all on its own. If you still don’t believe me, here are five reasons why I love The Mummy (1999), and why you should too.
1. When was the last time you watched a true adventure film?
These days adventure films are few and far between. And while many films can technically fall into the adventure film category (likethe600superherofilmstobereleasedinthenextyear—yes, each word in that last sentence are all individual hyperlinks!), not many can fully encompass the spirit of a true adventure film. You know what they say, for every Anaconda there will always be a Congo… they can’t all be winners. True adventure films have a little something for everyone; comedy, romance, action, booby traps, you name it. They follow a hero on a grand adventure that sweeps the audience to distant lands and on journeys they’ve always dreamed about. There are few movie genres that pique our excitement or bring our childhood fantasies to life quite like adventure films. So, we should watch more of them. Yes, I’m looking at you!!
2. There is not a single dull second in all 125 minutes of the film
Following the footsteps of its 1932 predecessor, The Mummy (1999) actually does a darn good job at blending horror and adventure. This is also the total opposite of the 2017 trash-fire re-remake (seriously, watch at your own risk), which is 111 minutes of only dull moments. The story building in The Mummy (1999), lets us indulge in the superstitions, myths and legends that deviate from what we’re culturally familiar with in our western bubble. It’s an eccentric reminder that adventure narratives need to be fueled by our curiosities and imagination. Too many of today’s big budget films (this may or may not be a DC call out) lack personality and heart, while The Mummy has a pure sensational openness to mysticism and silliness that has you coming back for the second (or 287th) rewatch.
Brendan Fraser plays the dashing, mysterious and sometimes idiotic Rick O’Connell. His portrayal of our lovable protagonist defies the traditional hero archetype in some really incredible ways. Rather than a vengeful martial arts expert, we get a guy who deals with mummies by screaming in their face. There is no suave womanizer with a signature cocktail, but there is a nervous wreck that can’t talk to a pretty lady. When others are ridged and cold, O’Connell is warm and vulnerable. He is happy to expose his buffoonery and allow us to fall in love with him. He is the action star we want to root for and wholeheartedly believe in. I’m all in for team Himbo on this one, and how could one possibly resist that 90’s middle part?
4. Evelyn Carnahan was my first crush
Evie is the coolest mother effer in all the land, and whoever tells you she isn’t the true hero of the movie is lying. Rachel Weisz (and her eyebrows) portray our favorite Egyptologist, Evelyn Carnahan. She is a perfect foil to O’Connell’s rootin’ tootin’ all-American brawn. As exemplified in this clip, she doesn’t let the men that doubt her get in the way of being the smartest person on screen. Her description in the original script reads “This is Evelyn Carnahan; we are going to fall in love with her,” and boy howdy was that right! The easiest thing to do while watching this film is fall in love with Evie’s wit and passion. She may not be one to brandish a gun or throw a punch (as we’ve seen), but she’s got moxie and flair and she doesn’t give a crap what you think! I am obsessed with her.
5. It never takes itself too seriously
My absolute favorite thing about this film is that it never takes itself too seriously. It doesn’t shy away from poking fun at itself. I mean, in the first 30 seconds of this clip, O’Connell mentions every adventure movie trope in the book. It knows it’s leaning into cliches; it knows it’s being ridiculous, and it just works. It frees itself from the serious action movie box and embraces the cheesy dialogue and plot holes, allowing us to sit back and immerse ourselves in Ardeth Bay’s beauty*. I firmly believe that this is the special sauce (or should I say cursed sarcophagus juice?) to this film. By not worrying about being ‘arthouse,’ it allows room for play and lets the audience focus on the adventure at hand.
The Mummy (1999) is silly. It has wacky one-liners, incredibly dated CGI, corny romance, and beetles that can eat you alive. And these are all reasons why I love it so dearly. It simply makes me smile. I’ll end with a quote from Roger Ebert, who I can’t say liked the movie as much as I did, but I think this proves that there is something purely special about The Mummy (1999).
Ebert says, “...I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even The Mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it."
*This little factoid didn’t fit very nicely up there, but it is one of the single most important facts about this movie: Originally, Ardeth Bay was meant to be tattooed head-to-toe. But director Stephen Sommers opted to only give him a few tattoos, feeling actor Oded Fehr was too handsome to cover in ink. He was also meant to die in the final battle, but Sommers fell in love with the character and decided to let him live. Imagine being that hot.