The Mummy. One of my favourite films from the 90’s and one which embodies everything that made the 90’s so flamboyant. The Mummy stars the Internet’s adored hero Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.
Director Karl Freund manages to perfectly balance the blend of horror and comedy. The premise itself is quite grotesque; a mummy comes back to life to dominate the world. On its way it has to suck dry those unfortunate enough to find his canopic jars. But, with the quick wit and charisma of the cast, the threat never seems particularly dreadful.
Digging Up the Story
So what is the general premise of the ultra-camp action flick? In the pursuit of finding a mythological ancient city, lost to the world, Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) finds a clue to discover this lost relic and enlists the help of Rick (Brendan Fraser).
In order to do this she has to set him free from a particularly unflattering warden who joins in on the ride to find riches. On their quest, a former comrade of Rick’s is leading a band of gun-toting Americans to search for the city as well. It is during this collaboration that both parties have the unfortunate luck of awakening evil incarnate. The colourful side characters find more than they bargained for and soon find themselves being hunted by the Mummy. Only with the help of one another have they a chance to undo the damage done.
Why Can’t we be Friends?
Fraser is able to pull off his charming delivery of quotable one liners and facial expressions. This has really added to the film’s ability to be memed and has, in part, added to the success of the feature.
One of the beautifully crafted and comic elements of the film is with its side-characters. They take on the role of typically being stereotypes. This is particularly evident with the main cast contrasting, predominantly made up of English accents, with the side cast who are predominantly Americans.
The film itself acknowledges the yee-haw nature of the Americans with having them be shooting obsessed cowboy lookalikes. The English on the other hand use their typical repertoire of catchphrases such as chap and blimey.
The embodiment of Britishness comes in the form of an RAF pilot aptly named Winston, who is disillusioned after surviving World War 1. The whole purpose for Winston’s character is to take the main cast from one place to another and die in glory trying to save the world. Nihilistically laughing and spouting clichéd quips that many Americans associate with Britain.
It is through all these little webs of characters and personalities that the film is able to shine. None of the side characters outshine another, besides the character of Benny who acts as a comedic relief villain.
All the humans share the same goal; survival. The assortment of different cultures comes together without any questions asked. They simply accept what’s happening, which is fantastic. There’s no thoroughly deep dialogue about their differences or pathetic acts of xenophobia. Their differences are parred off in a comedic fashion and usually only over something trivial such as stealing equipment or dig sites form one another.
A Different Time
The CGI hasn’t aged particularly gracefully, it’s still fairly decent but noticeable. While the Mummy itself still looks impressive, it’s with the Scarab bugs where the graceful ageing hasn’t occurred. That being said, the evident CGI actually works in The Mummy’s favour now as it adds another layer of campness to the ever growing field of corny.
The set design, on the other hand, still looks fantastic. The film features an abundance of iconic statues and artwork which you’d expect to see in an untouched ancient Egyptian city. The place feels real, believable and you get a sense that people could have lived there at one point or another.
Does The Mummy Belong in a Museum?
The Mummy isn’t a particularly deep film, but that’s not its purpose. Nor is it particularly scary. What it is, however, is entertaining. Why Universal tried to launch the horror universe without using this as source material is beyond me and reeks of desperation. It’s amusing to note that this choice insulted so many internet goers that it reignited the desire for many to get Fraser’s career back up and running.
All in all, The Mummy is a film which really doesn’t take itself seriously. Tis a silly film. But this is what makes it so great. The film doesn’t try to project a deep message, nor does it try to capitalise on diversity. Instead, it acknowledges what it’s trying to be; a light hearted, soft, horror with heavy comedy elements with the single goal of being entertaining. In this, The Mummy succeeds graciously.