Darke Reviews | The Mummy (2017)

All please forgive me if you don’t get a full review tonight I am not in the right frame of mind. I am dealing with the loss of a fur-baby; so TL;DR only today.

Longer review pending – probably with spoilers – as I want to rip this movie apart. So people who enjoy me verbally (textually?) eviscerating movies you have something to look forward to.

The movie is bad. They made Tom Cruise not charming. The effects are “ok”. They have no idea on tone. Its edited badly.

It rips off of LifeForce AND American Werewolf in London simultaneously and not in good ways.

Do not see this.

See Wonder Woman again and again – or see the Brendan Frazier one.

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Darke Reviews | The Mummy (1999)

When doing reviews of certain movies that are remakes, I like to do Old vs. New. A true compare and contrast with points for each as to why one is better than the other. I blame Nostalgia Critic for setting me on that kind of track and he should relish the blame. This time, however, I felt that I should do each review separately so I could give proper credit and praise to the founding material which is over 80 years old and be able to highlight all the nods, homages, and little tells I noticed in the remake that show a certain respect or love for the original. In this case The Mummy, that was released in 1999, really feels like a spiritual successor to the original with quite a few callbacks to the source. I praised the original yesterday and in it’s own context and against films of its time it is a fantastic film. The media and medium has evolved over the years that we feel that we need more to our films, better and worse, and that brings us to this remake of The Mummy.

Director Stephen Sommers has an interesting track record when it comes to his films. If I tell you he did the live action Jungle Book with Jason Scott Lee, you might barely remember that. If I tell you he directed and wrote Catch Me If You Can, you will probably think of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie – and sadly be wrong. If I mention Deep Rising (a review coming later this month) you start to get an idea. If I say Van Helsing, your eyes might start rolling. If I say GI Joe: Rise of Cobra – you will start screaming something about the physics of ice in water. The man has a very specific tongue in cheek style when it comes to his films. He doesn’t seem to take anything too seriously, which can be to his detriment, but also seems to have a very specific love for the films he makes even if it appears careless. He is driven by the imagination of a fourteen year old boy and has budgets in the tens of millions of dollars to play with it. Where Zack Snyder has similar issues in addition to a healthy dose of misogyny, Sommers steers clear of it and just keeps the movies fun and the women in them strong and true to their nature. I can tell that Sommers not just liked, but loved the Universal Monsters as a kid. I really imagine him as the leader of the Monster Squad in his neighborhood.

This love probably explains his writing credit as both Screen Story & Screenplay. The other two writing credits, not including the original 1932 credits that are referenced, go to Lloyd Fonvielle ( Cherry 2000) and Kevin Jarre (Tombstone, Glory, Rambo: First Blood Part II). When you look at the film it’s hard to tell where the person who gave us Tombstone (the Kurt Russell version) had a hand in it much less Fonvielle with his limited work. Their powers combined, however, not only captured the essence of the original; but added a world level threat to the epic feel of the movie. Also where the 1932 film focused on the Imhotep/Anck Su Namun (different spelling this time) love story, this one also brings back the sense of adventure that captured the world in the modern age of exploration.  ADVENTURE really should be capitalized as that is the spirit of the film as much as anything else. Your child brain imagines going on these expeditions, discovering lost tombs, buried treasures, and uncovering mysteries of the past in a true swashbuckling manner.

The movie significantly expands the cast of characters as its net of horror and story grew wider as well. We have Brendan Fraser as our Adventurer and treasure seeker Rick O’Connell. Rachel Weisz is our heroine but far from a damsel in distress, as Evie Carnahan. John Hannah (Spartacus) is our Shaggy and Scooby Doo in this mystery as Evie’s brother Jonathan. I’d be willing to bet their last name is a play on Lord Carnarvon, the man who backed Howard Carters expedition in 1922. This time the creature, still named Imhotep, is played by Arnold Vosloo – with only a bit more historical accuracy as to whom Imhotep was. Rather than cast Anck Su Namun as the same actress for both the past life and current, the role went to the Venezuelan beauty Patricia Velasquez. A new character is introduced to the story and an old name changed dramatically in Oded Fehrs Ardeth Bay, who played a guardian of the tomb.  The villains lackey, Beni, was played by frequent Summers character actor Kevin J. O’Connor.

From a technical standpoint the movie is very much a product of its times. The CG isn’t all that hot, but they do some creative things we had not seen before with it. Sadly we’ve seen it too much since then. The film also wisely used a lot of practical effects to help the story along. When it went practical the notes were hit near perfectly for whatever tone they wanted and the effects looked good. The CG for quite a few effects mostly came off comical, and while I hope that was the intent if it wasn’t there’s a huge disconnect. Sadly this level of computer work seems to not evolve through any of Summers later works; which becomes especially problematic when you look at GI Joe ten years after this one.

TL;DR

This movie is not scary. It is fun. It is just plain, ol fashioned, adventuring fun. It has problems true, but also has a lot of heart and humor to it along with some honest tension and a reasonably well crafted story. Brendan Fraser’s natural charisma is probably the biggest key to this, but everyone does their part.

I really do recommend this one if you need a beer and pretzels night with a bunch of friends.

If you really want to treat yourself though? Watch the original and then this one and look for how many lines of dialogue, set pieces, character names, and story elements are kept from one to another. It’s more than you’d guess.

 

Darke Reviews | The Mummy (1932)

I promised I would spend time this year talking about the Universal Monsters. These are the originals. These are what all else since has been based on, inspired by, or outright copied from. Sure there were a handful of adaptations of some of these works before hand, but these were the ones that caught the public eye and the imagination of an generations. There have been a few false starts and failed reboots in the past twenty years or so of some of these original creature features and rumor has it that Universal is going to try again with these films. The recent remakes have had mixed success with fans, critics, and the box office. So for todays film, lets discuss archaeology a bit, shall we?

Some spoilers below.

Egypt had been awash in mystery and mysticism to the western world for decades when this film came out.  The celebrity status of the ancient culture had gone, well quite frankly, viral ten years prior when Howard Carter had discovered the intact Tomb of Tutankhamun (King Tut). This launched (or relaunched I suppose) the modern era of Egyptology. It really comes as no surprise that after the success of Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931 that Universal would be seeking out another monster to fill their slate. They had to look no further than sensationalist newspapers tales of the Curse of the Pharaohs. I suppose the media blowing things out of proportion isn’t as new as we thought neh? With the ideas of curses on mummies and their tombs and an audience hungry for something to scare them magic was bound to happen.

The story was originally written, though uncredited, by Richard Schayer and Nina Wilcox Putnam. It was adapted to the screenplay by John Balderston, who also wrote the screenplay for Dracula and Frankenstein. Balderston, fascinatingly, was a foreign correspondent who covered Carters opening of the Tomb in 1922.  He also prior to this had written stageplays for both Dracula and Frankenstein. He also adapted the first version of the film Last of the Mohicans. If we thought Hollywood was a factory now, churning out writers and spitting them out, it looks to have been worse in the early days with people going uncredited, underpaid, and in some cases having no rights to their work and being forced to sue.

The film focuses on the recent discovery of an intact mummy, by the name of Imhotep,  found in unusual circumstances. The movie wastes no time before the title character resurrects himself through the greed of a young explorer. Imhotep plans his not so nefarious plot to resurrect his equally dead and mummified love Ankh-es-en-amon. Yes, that is right – this is a love story with the focus on a monster. He isn’t the rotting corpse image we often imagine, but rather a dry and only slightly emaciated individual who actually spends time amongst people and takes on the name Ardeth Bay, in his search for the reincarnation of his lost love. He finds her in a young british socialite named Helen Grosvenor and begins to use his powers to remove those who would stand in the way of his love; while our “heroes” try to save the young woman’s life. It’s fascinating to me how much I find myself siding with the so called monster as I watch this and want him to succeed. What is equally fascinating is that, for its time, it is no act of our protagonists but rather the female center of the film that wins the day.

I think part of the success of the film resides in the reserved yet deeply emotional performance of Boris Karloff. Karloff, a man so awesome all they used was his last name on the poster, was already forty-five when he took this role and had a huge career behind him. He had recently been thrust into the limelight as Frankenstein. The films made the man seem a towering giant against his cast mates, yet he was only 5’11. He had decades of acting experience before him in both stage and silent pictures before. It’s worth mentioning amidst this praise that the rest of the cast does well. The style of film at the time had movies shot as if they were stage plays rather than motion pictures. Blocking, dialogue, even a bit of hollow over acting come from that particular style. Along with Karloff, Edward Van Sloan was a regular in these original films, always playing the same character by type if not by name. In the Mummy he is the wizened Doctor Muller, who understands the powers of The Mummy, his goals, and the fact that “the old gods of egypt still have power here…”

Another special mention goes to director and cinematographer Karl Freund. Sadly uncredited in Dracula for his work, he was given the appropriate credit in the Mummy. His knowledge of the camera was probably some of the best in the world at the time having worked in film since 1914. He was also the cinematographer on the German classic Metropolis. His eye for the technology, light, and even color (its important in black and white…) gave the Mummy its much needed atmosphere.

TL;DR

The Mummy is a classic and if you truly appreciate old Hollywood needs to be part of your collection or at least watched. It will not satisfy modern movie goers a single iota, but if you want to see where we came from. If you want to see what inspired so much in the years to come. Take 73 minutes of your life and give it a watch.

The next review will cover it’s most modern remake and I will touch on all the things they took from this film.

 

If you do want a copy of this I would have to recommend getting it and all of its ilk here Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection [Blu-ray]