is one of the best Mummy movies ever made. The casting is superb. The only slight snag is the CGI on the mummy,
that could have been better - but even so is acceptable. Arnold Vosloo is brilliant when we see him as Imhotep.
The Mummy is a 1999 American action-adventure film written and directed by Stephen Sommers. It is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name, starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Kevin J. O'Connor, and Arnold Vosloo in the title role as the reanimated mummy. The film follows adventurer Rick O'Connell as he travels to Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, with a librarian and her older brother, where they accidentally awaken Imhotep, a cursed high priest with supernatural powers.
Development of the film took years, with multiple screenplays and directors attached. In 1997, Stephen Sommers successfully pitched his version of a more adventurous and romantic take on the source material. Principal photography took place in Morocco and the United Kingdom; the crew endured dehydration, sandstorms, and snakes shooting on location in the Sahara desert. Industrial Light & Magic provided many of the visual effects, blending live-action footage and computer-generated imagery to create the titular monster. Jerry Goldsmith provided the orchestral score.
The Mummy was theatrically released on May 7, 1999. Despite mixed reviews from critics, it was a commercial success and grossed over $416.4 million worldwide against a production budget of $80 million. The film's success spawned two direct sequels, The Mummy Returns (2001) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). It also led to spinoffs such an animated series and the prequel The Scorpion King (2002), which generated its own sequels. Attempts to reboot the property and kickstart a new media franchise led to
the fated 2017 film.
In Thebes, Egypt, 1290 BC, high priest Imhotep has an affair with Anck-su-namun, the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I. Imhotep and Anck-su-namun kill the Pharaoh after he discovers their relationship. Imhotep flees, while Anck-su-namun kills herself, believing that Imhotep can resurrect her. Imhotep and his priests steal her corpse and travel to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. The resurrection ritual is stopped by Pharaoh's bodyguards, the Medjai. Imhotep is buried alive with flesh-eating scarab beetles and locked in a sarcophagus at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis. The Medjai are sworn to prevent Imhotep's return.
In 1926, Jonathan Carnahan presents his sister Evelyn - a librarian and aspiring
Egyptologist - with an intricate box and map that lead to Hamunaptra. Jonathan reveals he stole the box from an American adventurer, Rick O'Connell, who discovered the city while in the French Foreign Legion. Evelyn and Jonathan find Rick and make a deal with him to lead them to the city.
Rick guides Evelyn and her party to the city, encountering a band of American treasure hunters led by Rick's cowardly acquaintance Beni Gabor. Despite being warned to leave by Ardeth Bay, leader of the Medjai, the two expeditions continue their excavations. Evelyn searches for the Book of
Amun-Ra, made of pure gold. Instead of finding the book, she stumbles upon Imhotep's remains. The team of Americans, meanwhile, discover the black Book of the Dead, accompanied by canopic jars carrying Anck-su-namun's preserved organs.
At night, Evelyn reads from the Book of the Dead aloud, accidentally awakening Imhotep. The expeditions return to Cairo, and Imhotep follows them with the help of Beni, who has agreed to serve him. Imhotep regenerates his full strength by killing the members of the American expedition and brings the ten plagues back to Egypt.
Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan meet Ardeth at a museum. Ardeth hypothesizes that Imhotep wants to resurrect Anck-su-namun by sacrificing Evelyn. Evelyn believes that if the Book of the Dead brought Imhotep back to life, the Book of Amun-Ra can kill him again and deduces the book's whereabouts in Hamunaptra. Imhotep corners the group with an army of slaves. Evelyn agrees to accompany Imhotep if he spares the rest of the group. Although Imhotep does not honor his word, Rick and the others fight their way to safety.
Imhotep, Evelyn, and Beni return to Hamunaptra, pursued by Rick, Jonathan, and Ardeth, who are able to locate the Book of Amun-Ra. Imhotep prepares to sacrifice Evelyn, but she is rescued after a battle with Imhotep's mummified priests. Evelyn reads from the Book of Amun-Ra, making Imhotep mortal, and he is fatally wounded by Rick.
Beni accidentally sets off a booby trap while looting the city of its riches, and is killed by a swarm of flesh-eating scarabs as Hamunaptra collapses into the sand. Ardeth bids Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan goodbye, and the trio rides away on a pair of camels laden with Beni's treasure.
- Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell
- Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan
- John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan
- Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep
- Kevin J. O'Connor as Beni Gabor
- Jonathan Hyde as Dr. Allen Chamberlain
- Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay
- Erick Avari as Dr. Terence Bey
- Stephen Dunham as Isaac Henderson
- Corey Johnson as David Daniels
- Tuc Watkins as Bernard Burns
- Omid Djalili as Warden Gad Hassan
- Aharon Ipalé as Pharaoh Seti I
- Bernard Fox as Captain Winston Havelock
- Patricia Velásquez as Anck-su-namun
In the late 1980s, producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel decided to update the original 1932 Mummy film for the modern era. Universal gave them the go-ahead, but only if they kept the budget around $10 million. Jacks remembers that the studio "essentially wanted a low-budget horror franchise". In 1987, George A. Romero wrote a film treatment, and was attached to direct. Screenwriter Abbie Bernstein recalled that Universal Studios wanted an unstoppable Mummy akin to the Terminator. Bernstein's story took place in the present; scientists inadvertently bring a mummy to life, who wants to use an ancient device to destroy all life on earth. "[The Mummy] had no more social interaction than the T-Rex did in Jurassic Park," Bernstein recalled. Romero drifted away from the project and the script was abandoned.
Next, Jacks and Daniel recruited horror filmmaker/writer Clive Barker to direct. Barker's 1990 treatment and a successive 1991 screenplay by Mick Garris were dark and violent, with the story revolving around an art museum that rebuilds an entire Egyptian tomb in Beverly Hills. Jacks recalls that Barker's take was "dark, sexual and filled with mysticism", and that, "it would have been a great low-budget movie". Barker recalled the concept was too weird for the studio, and that his vision treated the Mummy as a jumping-off point for the film instead of the central character.
Alan Ormsby, unaware of the previous efforts to launch the film, was brought on next. Ormsby pitched a more straightforward update to the 1932 film, again focusing on the Mummy as a relentless Terminator-like character. Joe Dante was attached as director, increasing the budget for his idea of Daniel Day-Lewis as a brooding Mummy. This version's draft was later re-written by John Sayles. It was set in contemporary times and focused on reincarnation with elements of a love story. It came close to being made—with some elements like the flesh-eating scarabs making it to the final product — but Universal balked at the higher price tag.
George A. Romero returned to the project in 1994 with a vision of a zombie-style horror film similar to Night of the Living Dead, but which also relied heavily upon elements of tragic romance and ambivalence of identity. Romero completed a draft in October 1994, co-written with Ormsby and Sayles, that revolved around female archaeologist Helen Grover and her discovery of the tomb of Imhotep, an Egyptian general who lived in the time of Ramesses II. Unfolding in a nameless American city in modern times, events are set into motion when Imhotep inadvertently awakens as a result of his body having been exposed to rays from an MRI scan in a high-tech forensic archaeology lab.
Helen finds herself drawn into a tentative relationship with Imhotep while also experiencing clairvoyant flashbacks to a previous life in the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt as a priestess of Isis. Summoning mystical powers through incantation, Imhotep later resurrects the mummy of Karis, a loyal slave. Karis embarks on a vengeful rampage against the grave robbers of his tomb. Romero's script was considered too dark and violent by Jacks and the studio, who wanted a more accessible picture. Romero was unable to extricate himself from another contract he had in negotiation with MGM, and so his involvement with the film was severed and the development of an entirely new script was commissioned.
Mick Garris returned in 1995, developing a script that combined elements of the 1932 film and 1942's The Mummy's Tomb. This draft was a period piece awash in Egyptian art-inspired Art Deco, but the vision once again proved too expensive for the studio and was discarded for a modern setting. While the project came close to entering production, Universal was sold to Seagram. Sheinberg chose to produce The Mummy through his independent company and write a new script. Unable to find a suitable high-profile writer and director (Wes Craven was offered the film but turned it down) the project unraveled again, and Garris left the project for the second time.
Still determined to create a new Mummy film, in 1996 Universal hired Kevin Jarre to write a new screenplay. According to Jacks, the executives were now convinced the film should be a larger-budget period piece. Stephen Sommers called Jacks and Daniel in 1997 with his vision of The Mummy "as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time". Sommers had seen the original film when he was eight, and wanted to recreate the things he liked about it on a bigger scale. Discussing other classic horror characters, Sommers recalled that "Frankenstein made me sad - I always felt sorry for him. Dracula was kind of cool and sexy. But The Mummy just plain scared me." He had wanted to make a Mummy film, but other writers or directors were always attached.
After the box office disappointment of Babe: Pig in the City and other films, Universal needed a hit film. At the time, Universal's management had changed in response to the box office failures, and the losses led the studio to revisit its successful franchises from the 1930s. New chair Stacey Snider distributed packets detailing the studio's holdings—including nearly 5,000 old scripts and films. Sommers received his window of opportunity and pitched his Mummy to Universal with an 18-page treatment.
Sommers did not want to remake the original film; instead of making another straight horror movie, he wanted to turn it into a romantic adventure with horror elements. Conscious of how the shambling, bandaged Mummy of the old films had become something of a punchline, he wanted a faster, meaner, and scarier monster. Sommers incorporated his own research and the services of a UCLA archaeology professor to make the ancient Egyptian language accurate. Snider recalled that Sommer's treatment was unique in that it took place in the 1920s, rather than a contemporary setting. Universal liked the treatment so much that they approved the concept and increased the budget, and Sommers spent a year working on the screenplay.
Producer James Jacks offered the role of Rick O'Connell to Tom Cruise (who was later cast in the
film in 2017), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but the actors were not interested or could not fit the role into their respective schedules. Jacks and director Stephen Sommers were impressed with the money that George of the Jungle was making at the box office and cast Brendan Fraser as a result; Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned for Rick perfectly. Fraser's turn in George bolstered his perceived star power, yet he remained far cheaper than the biggest actors working. The actor understood that his character "doesn't take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can't go on that journey with him."
Evelyn Carnahan was named in tribute to Lady Evelyn Carnarvon, the daughter of amateur Egyptologist Lord Carnarvon, both present at the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The studio originally considered American actresses, and Rachel Weisz auditioned multiple times before getting the part. Rachel Weisz was not a big fan of horror films, but saw the movie as more of a "hokum" comic book. John Hannah was picked for the role of Jonathan Carnahan, despite the fact that Hannah felt he was not a comedic actor. Said Sommers, "He had no idea why we cast him."
Jacks had previously produced Hard Target with Arnold Vosloo. The South African actor liked the Mummy script, but told Sommers he wanted to play the role "absolutely straight. From Imhotep's point of view, this is a skewed version of Romeo and Juliet." He was offered the role after a single audition. Carrying some extra weight and conscious of it because of Imhotep's skimpy costume, Vosloo lost 10 to 15 pounds for the role by eschewing alcohol and sugar. And it was worth it. Well done to Arnold. He is Imhotep.
Filming began on May 4, 1998, and lasted 17 weeks. The crew could not shoot in Egypt because of unstable political conditions, so principal photography began in Marrakech, Morocco. Marrakech had the extra advantage of being a much less modern city than Cairo, making it easier to dress like the 1920s. The production set up two weeks before filming, taking down telephone wires and cables and shipping in period cars and camels. Locals served as extras for crowd scenes. After shooting in Marrakech, filming moved to the Sahara desert outside the small town of Erfoud. Production designer Allan Cameron found a dormant volcano, Gara Medouar, where the exteriors for Hamunaptra could be constructed.
A concrete ramp was built to allow access into the horseshoe-shaped formation, where the city was built from prefabricated parts shipped from England. A survey of the volcano was conducted so that an accurate model and scale models of the columns and statues could be replicated back at Shepperton Studios, where all of the scenes involving the underground passageways of the City of the Dead were shot. These sets took 16 weeks to build, and included fiberglass columns rigged with special effects for the movie's final scenes.
To avoid dehydration in the scorching heat of the Sahara, the production's medical team created a drink that the cast and crew had to consume every two hours. Sandstorms were daily inconveniences, and wildlife were a major problem, with many crew members having to be airlifted to medical care after being bitten or stung. Brendan Fraser nearly died during a scene where his character is hanged. The production had the official support of the Royal Moroccan Army, and the cast members had kidnapping insurance taken out on them.
After shooting in North Africa, production moved back to the United Kingdom before completion of shooting on August 29, 1998. Here, the dockyards at Chatham doubled for the
Giza Port on the
River. This set was 600 feet (183 m) in length and featured "a steam train, an Ajax traction engine, three cranes, an open two-horse carriage, four horse-drawn carts, five dressing horses and grooms, nine pack donkeys and mules, as well as market stalls, Arab-clad vendors and room for 300 costumed extras".
The filmmakers reportedly spent $15 million of the budget on the special effects alone. The Mummy features hundreds of shots that required optical or digital special effects in post-production. Effects house Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) contributed more than 140 shots to the film, with additional work done by Cinesite (60 shots) and Pacific Title/Mirage (45 shots, and the film's title sequences.)
Sommers engaged ILM while still developing the script, having previously worked with ILM effects supervisor John Andrew Berton, Jr. on Deep Rising. ILM was eager for the challenge the film provided, and produced a proof of concept for The Mummy's effects in late 1997 to demonstrate the feasibility of Sommers' vision to executives.
The filmmakers sought to make something faster and scarier for the title creature, using cutting-edge techniques to create something never before seen. ILM started developing the look of the Mummy three months before filming started. "We wanted to create a photorealistic corpse that was obviously not a man in a suit, obviously not an animatronic, and obviously alive," he recalled.
Over a months-long period, the designers worked on developing four distinct stages for the Mummy. Stage one was the mummy at its most decayed, with tattered bits of clothing, skin, and sinew hanging over a skeleton. Stage two added areas of regenerated skin, with stages three and four having the Mummy almost fully regenerated with only small areas of its innards showing through. The artists developed black-and-white sketches, then moved on to color treatments before building the creature in the computer; models were also made to use as reference for the digital artists.
The initial states of the Mummy were created entirely by computer, while later stages combined live-action performance. To supplement prosthetics and makeups applied on set, LED lights and pieces of tape served as tracking points so that digital "cutouts" could be applied to Vosloo's face and body in postproduction; Vosloo remarked that walking around the set he felt like a Christmas tree.
The final creature was created with a combination of live-action acting with prosthetics and digital imagery. A digital representation of the Mummy was created in Alias, featuring simulated muscles for much of the body attached to a skeleton. The animators controlled parts of the Mummy via procedural animation; animating the underlying bones in turn controlled the stretch and movement of the overlaid muscles. Finally, layered on top of the procedural animation and motion capture was additional animation to tweak the performance; given the limitations of the technology, subtle movements like facial or hand animations had to be done by hand. Shots that featured Vosloo with overlaid computer-generated prosthetics were the most difficult for the effects team, requiring careful match-moving.
Rather than using a stunt performer, Vosloo performed the motion capture for the character himself. Scenes were blocked out and performed on set during principal photography (first with Vosloo in the scene, then without.) The shots were then replicated in the motion capture studio, with Vosloo's performance recorded by eight cameras from different angles.
In addition to the Mummy, the script called for numerous effects shots to magnify the sweeping adventure of the film. Vistas like a flashback shot of the ancient city of Thebes combined location footage shot in the desert with composited actors shot on green screen, model miniatures, matte paintings, and computer-generated effects. The plagues Imhotep unleashes were accomplished using particle-based computer graphics, with ILM designers swapping out models of different qualities depending on how far from the camera the swarming "insects" were. While the film made extensive use of computer-generated imagery, many scenes, including ones where Rachel Weisz's character is covered with rats and locusts, were shot using live animals.
Another close-up shot used footage of anesthetized locusts attached to a stunt performer combined with extra computer-generated pests. Sandstorms used procedural graphics based on programs used to create tornados in Twister, while the masses of flesh-eating scarabs used techniques developed for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. A shot of a firestorm engulfing Cairo combined real palm trees, physical models, and matte paintings with computer-generated hail, fire, and rubble. Pacific Title/Mirage also enhanced shots with digital camera shake.
The finale involves an army of mummies coming to Imhotep's defense. Many of these mummies were created by Make-Up Effects Supervisor Nick Dudman, who produced makeup, prosthetics, and animatronic effects in the film. Each suit came with variations for stunt moves or pyrotechnics. After principal photography, the suits were sent to ILM to scan and be modeled in the computer. Using parts of the Imhotep mummy to save time, ILM recreated the underlings digitally to add into the scenes, and used motion capture to animate them. The animators credited Fraser's ability to consistently re-enact his movements in multiple takes as saving time when it came to match the motion-captured digital mummies to the live-action fight scenes.
WHAT ABOUT THE SCORE
The score for The Mummy was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, with orchestrations provided by Alexander Courage. Goldsmith had previously scored Deep Rising for Sommers. As he reached the final few years of his career, Goldsmith was coming off a number of action and adventure films in the 1990s, from multiple Star Trek films to Air Force One. Goldsmith provided The Mummy with suitably bombastic music, with the traditional European orchestra supplemented with regional instruments such as the bouzouki.
The opening of the film contains nearly all of Goldsmith's major themes for the score, with what music critic Jeff Bond calls an "Egyptian theme" reused in different configurations throughout to establish the epic settings and sense of place for Hamunaptra; a theme for Imhotep/the Mummy that is performed in an understated manner early in the film, before repeating in more forceful, brassy renditions after the Mummy has regenerated; a love theme used for both Imhotep/Anck-su-namun and Rick/Evelyn; and a heroic theme for Rick. In addition to the extensive brass and percussion elements, the score uses sparing amounts of vocals, unusual for much of Goldsmith's work.
The soundtrack was released by Decca Records on May 4, 1999. Overall, Goldsmith's score was well received. AllMusic described it as a "grand, melodramatic score" which delivered the expected highlights. Other reviews positively noted the dark, percussive sound meshed well with the plot, as well as the raw power of the music. The limited but masterful use of the chorus was also lauded, and most critics found the final track on the CD to be the best overall. On the other hand, some critics found the score lacked cohesion, and that the constant heavy action lent itself to annoying repetition. Roderick Scott off CineMusic.net summed up the score as "representative of both Goldsmith's absolute best and his most mediocre. Thankfully […] his favourable work on this release wins out." We think it did the job nicely.
The producers were concerned that the imminent release of The Phantom Menace would sink the film's box office fortunes, resulting in them moving the release date from May 21 to 7. The Mummy was the number one film in the United States and Canada on its opening weekend, grossing $43 million in 3,210 theaters. Its weekend take was the highest non-holiday May opening, and ninth-biggest opening of all time. The film later fell to second place behind The Phantom Menace. The Mummy grossed over $155.4 million in the United States and Canada and $261 million internationally, grossing over $416.4 million worldwide - against a budget of $80 million.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a positive review, writing, "There is hardly a thing I can say in its favor, except that I was cheered by nearly every minute of it. I cannot argue for the script, the direction, the acting or even the mummy, but I can say that I was not bored and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased." Critics such as Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman and The New York Times' Stephen Holden concurred with the assessment of the film as a breezy crowd-pleaser.
Less positively, Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club wrote that the film's attempt to create a big, Indiana Jones-inspired action film felt "forced" and the result was unsatisfying. Other reviews complained of an overstuffed plot or recycled elements from better movies. Reviewers comparing the film to the 1932 original sometimes favored the original's focus on atmosphere and dread, though others welcomed the change to a more energetic Indiana Jones-type film.
The effects were generally praised, especially the title creature. Ernest Larson's review for Jump Cut felt that the effects were too similar to ILM's other work, and that the effects alone could not support the weight of the rest of the movie. Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle and Hal Hinson from the Dallas Observer agreed that the effects never overshadowed the human aspects of the film. Gleiberman noted that the horrors of the effects were undercut by the lightheartedness of the film, while the BBC's Almar Haflidason felt that the effects were occasionally unconvincing, and the heavy reliance on cutting-edge computer-generated imagery would likely date the film heavily as time passed.
Critics generally praised the acting, with Haflidason writing that the efforts of the cast sold material that would otherwise have been cheesy. David Hunter of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that all the actors managed to hold their own amid the special effects, although he felt Vosloo was largely wasted after Imhotep regenerates and the screenplay gives him little to do. Reviews from USA Today, the British Film Institute, and The A.V. Club noted the film featured questionable casting of ethnic roles and occasionally traded in stereotypes of Arabs.
Writing to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the film's release, writer Maria Lewis noted that on paper, The Mummy should not have been a success, as yet another period adventure film coming after a decade of failed period adventure films. Its connection with audiences, if not critics, was down to its successful blend of "heart, humour, [heroics], and horror." She declared it the "pivotal blockbuster of the nineties." Emma Stefansky, writing for Thrillist, noted it was "the beginning of the end" for action-adventure films, as superhero films would soon supplant it in the coming years. Rotten Tomatoes called the film
"Indiana Jones for a new generation." Reviewers noted Fraser's portrayal of Rick set a new mold for action heroes that more films would follow in the years after, while also considering Evelyn a character allowed to break free from a traditional damsel in distress role.
- The Mummy' could be the prequel or sequel to 'Kulo-Luna.'
the first of the John Storm
franchise to be developed into a draft script - available on
request. The John Storm
franchise is a series of
ocean awareness adventures, featuring the incredible solar
powered trimaran: Elizabeth