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The Masses Win Again. The Mummy
Jun 7, 2002 (Updated Jun 7, 2002)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Though about as interesting, this is shinier than most rocks.
Cons:Just doesn't know what it's doing. Probably why everyone loves it.
The Bottom Line: Someone asked if a movie could be packed with so much action that it actually transcended into boredom. We have our answer.
Some people have trouble with religions. That is, understanding other people's beliefs in particular religions. Religion in general, however, is another story. Whatever one's ideas about the hereafter or higher powers might be (such as that there are no such things), it is nevertheless perfectly simple to understand religious beliefs. There are just too many things about life that make no sense otherwise (or at least are very difficult to make sense of otherwise).
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How, for example, can it be explained that on the very day I finished reading 'Moving Pictures' by Terry Pratchett, I also finally broke down and watched 'The Mummy'?
It can't be explained, and it is pretty clear and convincing evidence that something somewhere is winking at me. Okay, it's not exactly a likeness of Bishop Brennan in the baseboards (drawn on in watercolor or otherwise), but it's damned odd.
In case you don't know the book, the whole situation is odd because Terry Pratchett's book pokes fun at the world of the early days of movies, particularly the adventure films. These are the days when a studio turned out about three movies a day, and if they really made an epic, they might 'waste' three days making one movie. A plot was a piece of land the studio was considering acquiring, and acting meant nothing more than that a camera was rolling and whatever I am now doing is, ipso facto, acting.
You couldn't keep people away.
You couldn't keep people away, because it was all new and exciting, and it didn't really matter what was on the screen. It was a stage of experimentation, and very few people had any idea how to use the medium, and most didn't care. Adventure movies were 'thrilling' because no one had seen anything like an adventure movie before, and there was nothing to compare it to.
In short, these movies were horrible.
Nevertheless, these movies represent 'an era' in the history of movies, and however bad we all know they are, many of us look back on them with a sort of respect. Because of this, we are semi-frequently presented with a movie that pays homage to these movies, and to this time.
These movies are, naturally, too numerous to mention, but the interesting ones for the moment are the Indiana Jones movies, the Allan Quatermain movies, and our movie here, 'The Mummy'.
The Indiana Jones movies succeed because they poke fun at themselves, but they know when to be serious, and they make a transition toward modern cinema. They don't simply recreate that which they are paying homage to, they 'update' it. They aim at the same goal as the earlier movie genre they doff their hat to, but they realize that it is a goal which cannot be attained as easily... as simplistically. The goal is to deliver a sense of adventure and entertainment. But, the Indiana Jones movies (to varying degrees) realize that onscreen swordplay is no longer adventure nor entertainment in an ipso facto sort of way, and acting is no longer acting in the aforementioned, ipso facto sort of way.
Contrast the Allan Quatermain movies which starred Richard Chamberlain. Though these two movies received very little critical acclaim (and in their way deservedly so), these movies also succeed. They succeed because they are stupid, they know they're stupid, and they make no bones about being stupid. They are a more direct translation of the original movie genre, and really part of the point is that the movies are stupid. These are the movie equivalent of remembering the time you and your drunk friends came up with your plan to 'make it', and realizing that the real point of that segment of your life was that you get to laugh about it later.
Further contrast 'The Mummy'. This movie fails miserably, and the short version of the explanation as to why it fails is that it is an Allan Quatermain movie that thinks it's an Indiana Jones movie.
'The Mummy' fails on every conceivable level that might have any connection to intelligence. The plot, dialogue, acting, and characters are all so bad as to cause those original adventure flicks to screen their faces with their hands and nonchalantly 'wander' towards the door. Anything that doesn't really involve the brain is done rather well. There are some great special effects, and as a mindless piece of 'movie magic' this is probably what you would call a winner. If you are willing to check your brain at the door, this will probably entertain you. Then again, if you are willing to do that, shiny rocks will keep you going for a while.
This particular foray into the world of the crossover-to-true-death challenged, shows us the creation of said mummy. 3,000 years ago, one Imhotep was the high muckety-muck of royal priests in Egypt. He and the Pharaoh's choicest piece of meat are having an affair. The Pharaoh catches them, and they kill him. A little black screen comes up with a flowery white border and tell us, 'Later. In the depths of a very spooky pyramid!!!' Cut to Imhotep being put in a sarcophagus while still alive. Strange, immortal, flesh-eating scarab beetles are poured in with him, and he is sealed up.
We soon discover what a truly bizarre ritual this is. When someone is really bad in ancient Egypt, they have at you with this buried alive with beetles thing. The catch is that this creates the possibility that you can be brought back later with all manner of godlike powers. Interesting punishment. At any rate, today's really stupid explanation of the mummy's existence is no worse than yesterday's.
Enter our hero. Rick O'Connell is played by Brendan Fraser who is about as good an actor as any other random good-looking guy. He hit his peak in Encino Man, and to reinforce the point with us he keeps turning up in such things as 'George of the Jungle', 'Dudley Do-Right', and 'Monkeybone'. Nothing has really changed here. He honorably lives up to the standards set by those adventure movies of the past, wherein one knew an actor playing a hero was really good if you could hear the 'Ting!' of the sparkle when he flashed his smile.
Our man Rick stumbles onto the lost city containing the mummy and, more importantly, just oodles of gold. Before long, the adventure begins, as we trek back to this lost city and begin exploring.
Stepping out of movie past is Evie Carnahan played by Rachel Weisz ('About a Boy', 'Stealing Beauty', 'The Shape of Things'). Portraying the typical, useless heroine who inexplicably is also a walking encyclopedia when necessary, Evie is klutzy, goofy, and beautiful. Her character actually leaves the taste of cardboard in your mouth, and can only be trumped in uselessness by the girl who trips in any given horror movie.
Evie is delivered a 'key' by her stereotypically, goofball playboy brother (sadly - played by John Hannah 'Four Weddings and a Funeral', 'Sliding Doors', 'I'm With Lucy'). One of the most interesting things to 'do' while watching this movie (watching the movie being one of the least interesting options) is to try and glimpse just how wasted a decent actor like John Hannah is in this.
Evie learns the key came from Rick, who is in prison, and she goes to 'rescue' him. The two team up, and make their way back to the lost city. We soon discover that another team is on their way to the lost city, being led by Beni (Kevin J. O'Connor of lesser role fame in such things as 'Canadian Bacon' and 'Lord of Illusions'). We remember Beni from the beginning of the movie when he abandoned Rick during some unexplained battle at said lost city.
Beni is the worst character the movies have seen for decades. There is a reason that we haven't seen many slimy, weasel characters lately, and it's a good one. Beni reminds us (in case the movie as a whole fails to) that movies and moviemakers were once really, really stupid.
Evie soon accidently wakens the mummy, and hilarity ensues. The next hour or so of the movie defies plot summary. The mummy gets stronger, everyone else gets dumber. Lots of things crash around and/or explode, and loads of people die.
As Terry Pratchett so eloquently reminds us, the hero can't win unless it is 'in the nick of time'.
The rest of the movie is filled with similar standards of the genre in question.
The 'bad guy' will have certain weaknesses, which, apart from providing overly simplistic 'outs' for situations that have gone out of control (see the 'shoving the cat in the mummy's face' scene), cannot be exploited to actually defeat him (see the scene which doesn't exist in the movie where the last guy the mummy needs to kill is sitting in a room with a thousand cats).
Any situation, no matter how scary, causes those involved in said scary situation to spew some manner of witty dialogue, thus allowing obligatory flashing of pearly whites.
Innocuous, yet 'on the wrong side', slimy, evil henchman character will not only get his comeuppance, but will get it again and again and again.
Nothing is as entertaining as taking a spineless, borderline retarded character who falls in with the 'evil' in order to save himself, and giving him a really good punch in the snoot.
And so on.
What this movie does have going for it is a really big budget, and a lot of promotion. It looks good, has a lot of special effects of the 'Oooh... Aaah' variety, and basically it's a big conglomeration of dance and splash. In fact, it looks so good that I'm willing to give it two stars based mainly on the fact that you can turn the sound off and just watch it as you would any other video of some fireworks going off. If you turn the sound off, by the way, it is exactly the same movie.
Though 'Summer Blockbusters' are notoriously action-packed, 'mind-resting' movies, it has been a long time since I have seen anything that was so packed to the gills with nothing.
If there is anyone who has managed to avoid this thus far, my recommendation is to make every effort to continue to do so.
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