Action. High-adventure. Thrills, the occasional chills, and loads of special effects to make the imagination swim. Sounds like a good film, right? Well, "The Mummy" has all this and more. What it doesn't have is an ethical advertising campaign, which is a shame, because it inflicts the worst emotion an intelligent movie-goer that can feel: betrayal.
Years ago, when I saw the movie "House", after watching the trailers and looking at the posters in the movie theatre gallery, I was prepared for a pulse-pounding horror movie that would make me choke on my popcorn. What I got, however, was a tepid B-level horror-comedy that barely had enough oomph to get it past the surface of the screen it was projected on. I left feeling disillusioned and betrayed, and felt I had been taken advantage of by the movie promoters. The same feeling is true, to a lesser extent, with "The Mummy."
From the trailers, this movie looked like something to make me chew my fingernails off up to my 2nd knuckles before, during and after the movie's climax. What I got instead was a lightly-comedic, action adventure film, with dazzling special effects, exactly two "jump in your seat" startling events, and no horror whatsoever. And, with the film being rated PG-13, what "gore" there was had been toned down to a "Made for TV" level. Stephen King's "The Stand" had more gore and shock-effect make-up, and it WAS made for TV.
Don't get me wrong.. had I gone in there expecting an action-adventure film to rival the old 1920's movie serials (like "The Rocket Man" and others of its ilk), I'd have come out as happy as a clam. This IS a superb action adventure film, with a little suspense, a little comedy, a likeable hero, a gorgeous heroine, a decent cast of supporting actors, and a villain that had both character and ability. However, going in as I did, expecting a horror film, I was a bit... let-down. Not disappointed, really, just disillusioned with the Hollywood PR machine that had led me to believe something other than the truth.
The film opens with a 5-minute scene which takes place back in 1800 BC (approximately), when the locales that house the rest of the film were in full bloom. The costumes, sets, make-up, and special effects in this section are about the best in the film. Imhotep, High priest of Osiris (Arnold Vosloo) is condemned to the worst curse in the culture for a crime against the Pharoah. This scene sets the stage for the rest of the film, which takes place 3000 years later in 1920's Cairo. Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) is an ex-foreign legionnaire who fought the desert hoards in a city that wasn't supposed to exist, and winds up in jail after wandering the desert back to civilization. There, he is met (and summarily rescued) by Evelyn Carnarvon (Rachel Weisz), a librarian with a true passion for things egyptian, and her inept and incompetent brother Jonathan (John Hannah). They team up to find the lost city of Hamunaptra, where the "Book of the Dead" is supposed to be hidden away. Unfortunately for them, another team is headed that way as well.
Fraser is wonderfully likeable, without being too hokey. His famous smile isn't seen much, which lends his character the rough-n-ready look needed for this part. He's come a long way from Encino Man. Rachel Weisz has the classic good looks of a 30's black and white maven, and has a wonderful career ahead of her. Her appearance is that of Heady Lamar, and her voice is that of Audrey Hepburn, which to me seems a wonderful combination. Vosloo is a dead ringer for Billy Zane (which is who I thought it could have been until the credits rolled and I found out I was wrong), and he's got that sinisterly handsome demeanor that makes him a perfect movie villain.
The supporting cast is ok... but nothing to write home about. The squirrelly little henchman-type is played by the most annoying person I've ever seen. He looks annoying, then he opens his mouth... he's like Steve Buscemi without the ability to look pychotic. The true brilliance of this film is the special effects, both the CGI and the "mundane". The effects were seamless, and no where could I see the normal, tell-tale traces of where CGI and reality are blended, something that I've not seen done this well before.
Overall, I think this film is well made, and, if it had been billed properly, I'd be much more enthused about it in this review, but coming out of something other than what I was led to believe by the advertising campaign left me feeling a bit underwhelmed, and damaged my opinion of what would otherwise be an exceptional film.
I give this film a C-. If you go to see this film, go in with your eyes open, and forget anything you've seen in any trailers or posters so you won't be as disappointed as I was..