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Retro Review: The Mummy (1999)

Stephen Sommers’ loose remake of The Mummy is an anonymous piece of studio factory filmmaking – more extravagant than the writer-director’s previous effort, Deep Rising, but also more overdone and less funny. The basic formula remains the same: place a bunch of generic characters in a situation overrun with CGI monsters, and have them crack wise in between firing bullets and running away. Neither film was very suspenseful, but at least Deep Rising was fun in a tongue-in-cheek manner which was suitable to a convoluted high-seas action flick combining mercenaries and monsters. The Mummy, on the other hand, wants to be an epic romantic adventure, and in the period setting, the one-liners tend to fall flat. The actors try hard, but Fraser is miscast as a tough-guy hero, and Weisz is neither exotic nor voluptuous enough to replace Zita Johann or the many Hammer damsels menaced by mummies.

It’s too bad, really, because Sommers’ early low-budget work showed potential and a little bit of personality. That’s been pretty much lost in his transition to big-budget studio filmmaking. The result is not bad exactly, just anonymous.

Also, the film gives Sony Pictures’ 1998 Godzilla a run for its money as the “remake that ignores the original concept in favor of a pastiche of a contemporary blockbuster.” In this case, The Mummy has less to do with Imhotep than Indianna Jones: the Raiders-type action sequences are all adequately entertaining (if not outstanding), but they distract from the horror element, and the film winds up abandoning most of the moody poetry that was inherent in the material.

This is rather unfortunate, since Universal Pictures spent several years developing a reboot of the 1932 classic with various horror icons such as George R. Romero and Clive Barker trying to reinvent the character for a modern audience. It’s sad to think of what might have been – in fact, should have been.

The Mummy (Universal Pictures, 1999)

Rating Scale

1 – Avoid
2 – Not All Bad
3 – Recommended
4 – Highly Recommended
5 – Must See

Action-packed and anonymous, The Mummy is okay for people seeking a Raiders of the Los Ark knockoff. Horror fans will be disappointed.

The Mummy is currently in nationwide re-release, including numerous engagements in the Los Angeles area.

Credits: Written & Directed by Stephen Somers, based on a script by John L Balderston. Universal Pictures. Original U.S. Release Date: May 1999. 25th anniversary Re-release: April 26, 2024. 106 mins. Rated PG-13.

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, John Hannah.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.