worried before I saw the movie on its opening day (May 7, 1999); I had read some
which weren't kind to the movie. And although there are some problems with the movie, I will quickly tell you that this is a must-see movie for
anyone who likes a good mummy movie.
movie begins with a flashback to Ancient Egypt, where Imhotep, a high priest, and
Anck-su-Namun, the Pharaoh's girlfriend, are in love. They kill the Pharaoh, Anck-su-Namun
kills herself (so that she can be "reawakened" by Imhotep), and Imhotep runs off
to avoid death. Imhotep then steals Anck-su-Namun's body and takes it to
the (fictional) City of the Dead where he begins to awaken her from the dead.
He is caught by
the Pharaoh's bodyguards, who mummify him and his priests--alive! This all happens very
quickly; the action is non-stop.
movie comes to the present (well, 1925) with Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell, who is
fighting (pretty unsuccessfully) for the French Foreign Legion. He is one of the few to
survive a massacre which happens to take place at the site of Hamunaptra, the
City of the Dead, where Anck-su-Namun and Imhotep are buried. Fraser realizes something is
afoot (a-finger and a-head?) because of strange movements in the sand (not to mention those
odd noises). Then he's off to Cairo, where he's imprisoned for a crime and is rescued
mid-execution by librarian Evelyn Carnarvon (Rachel Weisz), who wants him to show her the
way to Hamunaptra. All of this gets the plot rolling--and it does take awhile. Everything
that happens after this, though, makes up for the somewhat slow beginning.
group of American adventurers/plunderers is on its way to Hamunaptra--and the Pharaoh's
bodyguards attempt to prevent both groups from finding the City of Dead.
say, the adventurers/plunderers succeed--with one group (Fraser and Weisz) discovering the
mummy of Imhotep and the other (the greedy Americans) finding the Canopic chest
(with a deadly curse inscribed on it) and a book of magical
spells (The Book of the Dead) which will raise the mummy from the dead. But not all
of the lucky discoverers will make it alive to the end of the movie (want to guess which
ones meet a fate worse than death?).
at this point (30-45 minutes into the movie) that the movie introduces the mummy (in the
tombs, in Cairo, back in the tombs) and (a little later) his army of other mummies brought
back to life. Of course, Imhotep and the other mummies get their due--as does Imhotep's
human helper, Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor in a great role). I won't ruin it by giving the
details--you'll have fun watching!
best parts of the movie are set in and around Hamunaptra: the search for
"awakening," the sand storm that swallows an airplane, the fight between Evelyn
Carnarvon and Anck-su-Namun's mummy, and the final battle between Brendan Fraser and a
number of mummified priests. It is beautifully photographed, the sandy scenery is
excellent. The special effects are great--only the mummy of Imhotep is lacking (he's too
much a mixture of Alien, Terminator, Jim Carrey in The Mask, and
plastic goo). Where are the bandages? Did the scarabs eat them all? Maybe the moviemakers
thought that Imhotep wouldn't look scary enough if he was bandaged-- though it worked for
Karloff. They've also added an animal growl and roar to his voice--too many frills.
Fortunately, he regenerates into human form after a relatively short period of time. On
the other hand, the mummy of Anck-su-Namun is wrapped in bandages and effectively scary.
Future mummy-movie-makers please note.
not to like? Nothing, except that a few "facts" are not very
know, I know: it's just a movie but since so many people, including many
children, will see this movie worldwide, they may start to accept certain
quite misleading information about Egyptian mummification). Here's what
to look out for:
Incorrect number of canopic jars. Anck-su-Namun is buried with five
Canopic jars. The Egyptians used no more than four. Was another vital organ
removed (the movie does not make this clear; the novelization of the movie
does, however: the heart was placed in a fifth canopic
container--effectively rewriting the history of ancient Egypt: the heart
almost always was left in the body, even when other organs were removed).
It looks as if the extra Canopic jar was the broken one which
appeared to have the head of a lion.
Confusion about making "live" mummies. On first viewing, I
thought that Imhotep and
his priests were mummified alive (apparently by the Pharaoh's bodyguards--who must
have been moonlighting?). However, on subsequent viewings, I realized that
the priests were most likely dead when they were wrapped ...though this
isn't made clear. What was clear, however, is that Imhotep's internal
organs seem to have been removed--and yet he was supposedly buried alive
(remember the scratched inside lid of his coffin?). How could he be buried
alive if his lungs, intestines, kidneys, and stomach were removed? No
matter how illogical (and
impossible), the movie glosses over this so fast it's hard to notice.
False mummy-making techniques. Rachel Weisz's
character gives Brendan Fraser a lesson in how the Egyptians made mummies. She says: they
removed the heart (they did? The Egyptians believed that the body and the heart were not
supposed to be separated--it was the organ of Intelligence and Wisdom--if it was removed
accidentally, it was replaced in the body). She also says: they took "a sharp red-hot
poker" (does she mean a brain hook?) and used it to remove the brain.
The mummy needed glasses! There's one other logical problem: if Imhotep
takes the eyes of Burns (the visually-impaired guy in the glasses),
wouldn't he have the same visual impairment himself? He does to begin
with...then what? Is he able to regenerate his eyesight? Something to wonder
about. And it could have added a humorous note to see the mummy making a
few mistakes or being fitted for a pair of Ray-Bans.
And on a
personal note, no matter how much fun the movie is, I was left thinking about all of the
destruction to mummies (yes, they were the bad guys) in the movie. If only those American
adventurers/ plunderers hadn't opened the Canopic chest...and if Evelyn Carnarvon hadn't
read the magic spell from The Book of the Dead.... Well, there
wouldn't have been a movie!
Worth noting: The curse inscribed on the Book of the Dead/ Canopic chest is "Death will
come on swift wings to whomsoever opens this chest....There is one of the Undead who if
brought back from the Dead will regenerate and will bring the plague on this
Earth...." The first part of this curse was taken from the supposed curse of King
Tut's tomb. Want to read the real story? Check out the true
story of the curse of King Tut's tomb.