I have a confession. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be Evie from the 1999 action-adventure film, The Mummy.
As a child, Egyptian history fascinated me because it was so exotic in comparison to my own experiences and the finds were big, bold and shiny. I have also always been a huge fantasy fan so, for me, the 1999 The Mummy was perfect. It featured history and myth and had a blend of slapstick action and skin-crawling horror.
It never pretended to strive for historical accuracy – the historical Imhotep was chancellor to the pharaoh, High Priest of Ra and architect of the step pyramid at Giza. He never, to my knowledge, found himself cursed for his love of the pharaoh’s queen or came back to devour human flesh.
The film itself, of course, follows a group of archaeologists and treasure-seekers who inadvertently awaken the cursed Imhotep on a dig in the fictional necropolis of Hamunaptra. The Mummy then begins killing them one by one in an effort to feed on their life-force and, because why not, he wields the ten plagues of Egypt and is bent on bringing his lost love back to life in a host body. The unlikely heroes work to stop this from coming to pass.
I am not saying the film was a feat of cinematic genius. It was cheesy and it was fun. It felt like the team that made it had a good time and it came across as an affectionate send up of that sort of over-the-top horror and the slightly questionable nature of race and gender in movies from preceding decades.
It was the characters that made it.
Eveyln is introduced as a little hopeless – working in a library where she accidentally causes the bookcases to fall in a ridiculous domino effect around the room. Standard klutzy heroine stuff. Yet her optimistic personality is compelling and her knowledge and scholarly skill becomes indispensable later. She is more than the bookish girl side-kick.
The lines that sum her up for me are below:
Evelyn: Look, I… I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I… am a librarian.
She is a character who could have been done very badly yet she comes across as warm, relatable and smart. They do wide-eyed naivety without it straying into offensive territory and she gains confidence and skills during her journey. She reminded me to embrace what made me unique – even if it was not particularly cool.
The rest of the characters also fill standard niches – Brendan Fraser’s bad-boy adventurer and Jonathan, Evie’s useless, swindling brother, exceed their stereotypes enough to make the movie feel grounded.
I’m eulogising about this because Hollywood have just decided to remake the remake. The Mummy (2017) is coming out and I am fearing a lot more explosion and less librarian jokes.
I know the Mummy was a remake of the Universal original and I am not fundamentally against utilising new technologies to tell a story for a new generation.
Universal’s 1932 The Mummy is a classic and the emotion of it holds up to this day. The story of Imhotep’s eternal love for his lost Princess is equally timeless. This 2017 version, gender-swaps the Mummy and I am intrigued to see where that takes the story. It also professes to be part of a promised Universal Monsters Universe which in itself appeals to me.
Yet I will miss the slapstick innocence of the 1999 Mummy and I doubt very much the new movie will give me a role model like I had in Evie.