The ’90s were a special time, man. Downright game-changing and future-altering movies like Goodfellas and Heat were released right alongside David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, a movie that will enter your list of “weirdest movies ever made” after a quick Google search.
Right in the sweet spot of this barometer lays 1999’s The Mummy—the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz sweaty, sexy, and spooky adventure flick about, well, a mummy. I recently rewatched this for a podcast where I made a guest appearance and realized it’s kind of a masterpiece, and we need to all rewatch it as a collective film society.
Revisiting The Mummy
Let me clue you in on a few things regarding The Mummy real quick, things you probably (read definitely) didn’t know. This corny and delightful film was nominated for an Oscar! It was nominated for Best Sound at the 2000 Academy Awards, and while it lost against the iconic The Matrix, the fact that it got nominated is rad as hell.
Next up…Brendan Fraser nearly died during filming. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll remember a scene quite early on in which Brendan’s character Rick O’Connell is hanging from a noose. In real life, he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated.
I was nothing more than a young buck in the late ’90s, and while my parents had strict oversight of what movies I watched, I was somehow able to sneak The Mummy past them. When I tell you that young Ethan had a sexual awakening courtesy of this film, I do not say it lightly.
There are entire scenes that I remember some 20 years later because they were just, quite honestly, really hot and horny. Again, a product of the ’90s that we don’t see in modern-day cinema in quite the same way, but it was something special. The movie uses that aspect to its strength, incorporating it into the just-coherent-enough plot line of going to Egypt, searching for the tomb of a Mummy, and ultimately reading the Book of the Dead—unleashing a horrific curse.
Bad (yet entertaining) CGI mixed with massive movie sets and props perfectly pinpoints everything that works and doesn’t work for this movie. Even the things that don’t really work—the grasp at a deep mythology or the fact that we know little to nothing about every character—kind of work in their own right if you just enjoy the movie for what it is.
Of course, the legacy of The Mummy isn’t as spotless as we’d hope. It spawned two direct sequels: The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It also led to an animated series and a spin-off prequel titled The Scorpion King, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In 2017, Tom Cruise tried to kick off the Universal Monster-verse with a reboot of The Mummy that was so bad it essentially killed all future plans for the Monster-verse upon its box office arrival. Wild stuff. I’m sure you’ve seen the horrifying CGI that is The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. The idea of Hollywood doing the most and making it the worst has been happening since the very early 2000s, so don’t think this is something new. All of that aside, The Mummy is able to reclaim itself as something unique and top-shelf aside from its mired history of a franchise.
The Mummy proves something doesn’t have to be perfect to be considered a success
At the end of the day, The Mummy tells us a few things: more movies need to utilize physical effects and props, be set in Egypt, and star two astoundingly attractive people going on an adventure. Seems simple. You don’t need $50 million worth of VFX—this movie was made for a total of $80 million and raked in $416.4 million at the box office—or big character backstories.
Now that Brendan Fraser is an Academy Award winner, the chances of him reprising his role of Rick O’Connell may be slim, but never say never when it comes to the nicest guy on the planet. The Mummy remains one of the great products of the ’90s and holds up to the test of time, even if all the VFX doesn’t.
Stay tuned to the Agents of Fandom for more Monday Movie Club!