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The Mummy is a 1999 Americanmarker adventure film written and directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser, and Rachel Weisz, with Arnold Vosloo in the title role as the reanimated mummy. The film features substantial dialogue in ancient Egyptian language, spoken with the assistance of a professional Egyptologist. It is a loose remake of the 1932 film of the same name which starred Boris Karloff in the title role. Originally intended to be part of a low-budget horror series, the movie was eventually turned into a blockbuster adventure film.

Filming began in Marrakechmarker, Moroccomarker, on May 4, 1998, and lasted seventeen weeks; the crew had to endure dehydration, sandstorms, and snakes while filming in the Sahara. The visual effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic, who blended film and computer-generated imagery to create the titular Mummy. Jerry Goldsmith provided the orchestral score.

The Mummy opened on May 7, 1999, and grossed $43 million in 3,210 theaters; the movie went on to gross $415 million worldwide. Reception to the film was mixed, with reviewers alternatively praising or complaining about the special effects, the slapstick nature of the story and characters, and the stereotyped villains. The box-office success led to a 2001 sequel, The Mummy Returns, as well as The Mummy: The Animated Series, and the prequel film The Scorpion King. Another sequel, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, opened on August 1, 2008. Universal Studios also opened a roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, in 2004. The movie and its sequel's novelizations were written by Max Allan Collins.

Plot

The movie begins in Egyptmarker, circa 1290 BC. High priest Imhotep engages an affair with Anck-su-Namun, the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I—other men are forbidden to touch her. When the Pharaoh discovers their tryst, Imhotep and Anck-su-Namun murder the monarch. Anck-su-Namun then kills herself, intending for Imhotep to resurrect her. After Anck-su-Namun's burial, Imhotep breaks into her crypt and steals her corpse. He and his priests flee across the desert to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, where they begin the resurrection ceremony. However, they are caught by Seti's guards before the ritual could be completed, and Anck-su-Namun's soul was sent back to the Underworld. For their sacrilege, Imhotep's priests are mummified alive, and Imhotep himself is forced to endure the curse of Hom Dai: his tongue is cut out and he is buried alive with a swarm of flesh-eating scarabs. The ritual grants eternal life, forcing Imhotep to endure the agony of his wounds for all time. He is buried under high security, sealed away in a sarcophagus below a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis, and kept under strict surveillance by the Medjai, descendants of Seti's palace guards. If Imhotep were ever to be released, the powers that made him immortal would allow him to unleash a wave of destruction and death upon the Earth.

In 1926, Cairo librarian and aspiring Egyptologist, Evelyn Carnahan is presented with an intricate box and map by her bumbling brother Jonathan, who says he found it in Thebes. After the pair discover the map leads to Hamunaptra, Jonathan reveals he actually stole it from an American named Rick O'Connell, who is currently in prison. Rick tells them that he knows the location of the city because his unit of the French Foreign Legion reached the fabled city only to be overrun by Arabs. He makes a deal with Evelyn to reveal the location of Hamunaptra, in exchange for Evelyn saving Rick from being hanged. Rick leads an expedition to the city, where the group encounters a band of treasure hunters led by the famed Egyptologist Dr. Allen Chamberlain and guided by Beni Gabor, a cowardly former Legion soldier who served with Rick and also knows the location of the lost city.

Shortly after reaching Hamunaptra, both groups are attacked by the Medjai, led by a warrior named Ardeth Bay. Bay warns them of the evil buried in the city. Rather than heed his warning, the two expeditions continue to excavate in separate portions of the city. Evelyn is looking for the Book of Amun-Ra, a solid gold book supposedly capable of taking life away, but unexpectedly comes across the remains of Imhotep instead. The team of Americans, meanwhile, discover a box containing the black Book of the Dead, accompanied by canopic jars carrying Anck-su-Namun's preserved organs; each of the Americans takes a jar as loot.

At night, Evelyn takes the Book of the Dead from the Americans' tent and reads a page aloud, accidentally awakening Imhotep. Although both groups return to Cairo, the mummy hunts down the Americans who opened the box, slowly regenerating with each person he kills. Beni survives a meeting with Imhotep by pledging allegiance to him and helps him track down the Americans and the canopic jars in Cairo. Evelyn hypothesises that if the Book of the Dead brought Imhotep back to life, the Book of Amun-Ra can kill the high priest once again. Imhotep captures Evelyn, intending to sacrifice her to resurrect Anck-su-Namun, and returns to Hamunaptra, pursued by Rick and Jonathan. Evelyn is rescued after an intense battle with Imhotep's mummies, and she reads from the Book of Amun-Ra. Imhotep becomes mortal, and Rick stabs him. Rapidly decaying, Imhotep leaves the world of the living, vowing revenge. Beni accidentally sets off an ancient booby trap and is trapped by a swarm of flesh-eating scarabs as Hamunaptra begins to collapse into the sand. The heroes escape and ride off into the sunset on a pair of camels laden with treasure.

Cast



  • Brendan Fraser as Richard "Rick" O'Connell: An adventurer who served in the French Foreign Legion. Producer James Jacks offered the role of Rick O'Connell to Tom Cruise, 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 perfectly. The actor understood that his character "doesn't take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can't go on that journey with him".


  • Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan: A clumsy yet intelligent Egyptologist. Evelyn undertakes the expedition to Hamunaptra to discover an ancient book, proving herself to her peers. Rachel Weisz was not a big fan of horror films but did not see this film as such. As she said in an interview, "It's hokum, a comic book world."


  • John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan: Evelyn's bumbling older brother, whose primary goal is to get rich; he signs on for the trip to Hamunaptra after learning from Evelyn that the city is supposed to be where the ancient pharaohs hid "the wealth of Egypt." Jonathan is also a thief; he steals the key needed to open the Book of Amun-Ra from Rick in prison, and manages to pickpocket the same key from Imhotep during the film's climactic battle.


  • Arnold Vosloo as High Priest Imhotep: One of Pharaoh Seti I's most trusted advisers, Imhotep betrays his sovereign out of love for Anck-su-namun. He is cursed and slowly killed for his treachery, but is resurrected 3,000 years later to continue his plans. South African stage actor Vosloo understood the approach that Sommers was going for in his screenplay, but only agreed to take on the role of Imhotep "if I could do it absolutely straight. From Imhotep's point of view, this is a skewed version of 'Romeo and Juliet'."


  • Kevin J. O'Connor as Beni Gabor: A former soldier in the Foreign Legion, like Rick. Beni is obsessed with wealth, but also extremely cowardly; he betrays his employers when faced with Imhotep's wrath, who takes him in as his servant when he prays to God in Hebrew, the language of those who were enslaved in his time.


  • Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay: A member of the Medjai, an ancient order dedicated to protecting the resting place of Imhotep. When the mummy is awakened, he and his warriors pledge to destroy the creature.


  • Jonathan Hyde as Dr. Allen Chamberlain: An Egyptologist who leads a rival expedition to Hamunaptra, led by Beni. While Chamberlain tries to open the Book of the Dead, he knows not to read from it, and turns to the Medjai when Imhotep is brought to life. Since he opened the box that contained the Book of the Dead, he is cursed and eventually killed.


  • Erick Avari as Dr. Terrence Bay: Evelyn's superior who works at a museum in Cairo. Bay deliberately tries to stop Evelyn and her brother from learning the location of Hamunaptra, knowing what evil lurks beneath the desert.


  • Stephen Dunham, Corey Johnson, and Tuc Watkins as Henderson, Daniels, and Burns: Americans who travel to Hamunaptra in a treasure-hunting expedition. Opening a cursed box, they steal priceless canopic jars. They are all eventually killed by Imhotep, who fully regenerates by sucking the life out of each of them.


  • Bernard Fox as Winston Havelock: a retired Royal Air Force pilot from World War I living at the fort Rick and the others hide at. He later helps Rick, Jonathan, and Ardeth get to Hamunaptra, but is killed by the sandstorm Imhotep creates.


  • Patricia Velásquez as Anck-Su-Namun: The mistress of Seti I; no other man is allowed to touch her. When Seti's body guards learn of her affair with Imhotep, Anck-Su-Namun commits suicide and kills herself rather than be caught for Seti's murder.


  • Carl Chase as Seti I, the Pharaoh that was going to marry Anck-Su-Namun. But he was murdered by her and Imhotep so that she could marry Imhotep instead.


Production

Origins

In 1992, producer James Jacks decided to update the original Mummy film for the 1990s. Universal Studios gave him the go-ahead, but only if he kept the budget around $10 million. The producer remembers that the studio "essentially wanted a low-budget horror franchise"; in response, Jacks recruited horror filmmaker/writer Clive Barker on-board to direct. Barker's vision for the film was violent, with the story revolving around the head of a contemporary art museum who turns out to be a cultist trying to reanimate mummies. Jacks recalls that Barker's take was "dark, sexual and filled with mysticism", and that, "it would have been a great low-budget movie". After several meetings, Barker and Universal lost interest and parted company. Filmmaker George A. Romero was brought in with a vision of a zombie-style horror movie similar to Night of the Living Dead, but this was considered too scary by Jacks and the studio, who wanted a more accessible picture.

Joe Dante was the next choice, increasing the budget for his idea of Daniel Day-Lewis as a brooding Mummy. This version (co-written by John Sayles) 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. However, at that point, the studio wanted a film with a budget of $15 million and rejected Dante's version. Soon after, Mick Garris was attached to direct but eventually left the project, and Wes Craven was offered the film but turned it down. Then, Stephen Sommers called Jacks 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. He had wanted to make a Mummy film since 1993, but other writers or directors were always attached. Finally, Sommers received his window of opportunity and pitched his idea to Universal with an 18-page treatment. At the time, Universal's management had changed in response to the box office failure of Babe: Pig in the City, and the loss led the studio to want to revisit its successful franchises from the 1930s. Universal liked this idea so much that they approved the concept and increased the budget from $15 million to $80 million.

Principal photography

Filming began in Marrakech, Moroccomarker on May 4, 1998 and lasted 17 weeks. Photography then moved to the Sahara desert outside the small town of Erfoud, and then to the United Kingdom before completion of shooting on August 29, 1998. The crew could not shoot in Egypt because of the unstable political conditions. 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. Snakes, spiders and scorpions were a major problem, with many crew members having to be airlifted out after being bitten.

Brendan Fraser nearly died during a scene where his character is hanged. Weisz remembered, "He [Fraser] stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated." The production had the official support of the Moroccan army, and the cast members had kidnapping insurance taken out on them, a fact Sommers disclosed to the cast only after shooting had finished.

Production Designer Allan Cameron found a dormant volcano near Erfoud where the entire set for Hamunaptra could be constructed. Sommers liked the location because, "A city hidden in the crater of an extinct volcano made perfect sense. Out in the middle of the desert you would never see it. You would never think of entering the crater unless you knew what was inside that volcano." 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 Studiosmarker, 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. Another large set was constructed in the United Kingdom on the dockyard at Chathammarker which doubled for the Gizamarker Port on the River Nile. This set was 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".

Special effects

The filmmakers reportedly spent $15 million of the $80 million budget on special effects, provided by Industrial Light & Magic; the producers wanted a new look for the Mummy so that they would avoid comparisons to past movies. John Andrew Berton, Jr., Industrial Light & Magic's Visual Effects Supervisor on The Mummy, started developing the look three months before filming started. He said that he wanted the Mummy "to be mean, tough, nasty, something that had never been seen by audiences before". Berton used motion capture in order to achieve "a menacing and very realistic Mummy". Specific photography was conducted on actor Arnold Vosloo so that the special effects crew could see exactly how he moved and replicate it.

To create the Mummy, Berton used a combination of live action and computer graphics. Then, he matched the digital prosthetic make-up pieces on Vosloo's face during filming. Berton said, "When you see his film image, that's him. When he turns his head and half of his face is missing and you can see right through on to his teeth, that's really his face. And that's why it was so hard to do." Vosloo described the filming as a "whole new thing" for him; "They had to put these little red tracking lights all over my face so they could map in the special effects. A lot of the time I was walking around the set looking like a Christmas tree." Make-Up Effects Supervisor Nick Dudman produced the physical creature effects in the film, including three-dimensional make-up and prosthetics. He also designed all of the animatronic effects. 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 real, using live animals.

Soundtrack

The music for The Mummy was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, with additional orchestrations provided by Alexander Courage. The soundtrack was released by Decca Records on May 4, 1999. Like many Goldsmith scores, the main theme uses extensive brass and percussion elements; Goldsmith also used sparing amounts of vocals, highly unusual for most of his work.

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."

Reception

The Mummy opened on May 7, 1999 and grossed USD $43 million in 3,210 theaters. The film went on to gross $415 million worldwide (Domestic: $155 million; Foreign: $260 million).

Although its commercial success and popularity with audiences was positive, critical reception was mixed. The Mummy holds a 54 percent "rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 48 Metascore at Metacritic. Roger Ebert, a film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote, "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." Likewise, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B-" rating and said, "The Mummy would like to make you shudder, but it tries to do so without ever letting go of its jocular inconsequentiality." Bob Graham of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film high marks for the acting as well as the special effects.

Stephen Holden from The New York Times wrote, "This version of The Mummy has no pretenses to be anything other than a gaudy comic video game splashed onto the screen. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark with cartoon characters, no coherent story line and lavish but cheesy special effects. Think Night of the Living Dead stripped of genuine horror and restaged as an Egyptian-theme Halloween pageant. Think Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy grafted onto a Bing Crosby-Bob Hope road picture (The Road to Hamunaptra?) and pumped up into an epic-size genre spoof." Publications like The Austin Chronicle and Dallas Observer came to the conclusion that despite good acting and special effects, the movie lacked cohesion; talking about the special effects, the Observer lamented "If only generating a soul for the film itself were so easy." Other publications such as Jump Cut felt that Industrial Light and Magic's lock on special effects proved detrimental to The Mummy; "The mummy", Ernest Larson wrote for the Jump Cut, "is standard-issue I.L.&M.". Kim Newman of the British Film Institute judged the picture inferior to the original, as all the time was spent on special effects, instead of creating the atmosphere which made the original film such a classic. USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and felt that it was "not free of stereotypes", a sentiment with which the BFI concurred. "If someone complains of a foul odor, you can be sure an Arab stooge is about to enter a scene. Fraser, equally quick with weapon, fist or quip, may save the day, but even he can't save the picture", USA Today wrote.

The Mummy was nominated for Best Sound at the Academy Awards and Best Visual Effects at the BAFTAs, losing both to The Matrix. Jerry Goldsmith won a BMI Film Award for the soundtrack, and the film won Best Make-Up at Saturn Awards, out of nine nominations including Best Fantasy Film. Other nominations included Best Sound Editing at the Motion Picture Sound Editors' Golden Reel Awards, Best Visual Effects at the Golden Satellites and Best Action Sequence on the MTV Movie Awards.

Adaptations

The Mummy s box office performance led to numerous sequels and spinoffs. In 2001, the sequel The Mummy Returns was released; the film features most of the surviving principal characters, as a married Rick and Evelyn confront Imhotep and the Scorpion King. The film also introduced the heroes' son, Alex. The two films inspired both an animated series which lasted two seasons, and a spin-off prequel, The Scorpion King (2002), telling the story of the Akkadian warrior as he was crowned king.

A second sequel, called The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. was released on August 1, 2008. The story takes place in China with the Terracotta Emperor inspiring the villain, while Rachel Weisz was replaced with Maria Bello. A prequel to The Scorpion King, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, was released direct-to-DVD.

Two video game adaptations of The Mummy were published by Konami and Universal Interactive in 2000: a beat 'em up for the PlayStation and PC developed by Rebellion Developments, as well as a Game Boy Color puzzle game developed by Konami Nagoya. The film also inspired a roller coaster, Revenge of the Mummy in two Universal Studios Theme Parks, Hollywood and Orlando.

References



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