Movie News

Moriarty examines THE MUMMY

Published at: May 13, 2008, 12:31 a.m. CST

Well, I've just acquired my tickets to see this movie next Tuesday, so I'll be giving you a look at it from my eyes then, but for now.... It's Moriarty's eyes you'll have to gaze with... Don't worry if everything seems a bit atmospheric, if the world seems a bit darker... It's just the vision of an evil genius... go with it.... flow with it... Succumb to the Professor's will....

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

Summer is finally here again, and I don't just mean for the first time since last year.

When I was young, summer movies were something special. Or at least they seemed it. I was spoiled, though. I was seven when the first STAR WARS was released. I had SUPERMAN after that, then EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, TIME BANDITS, SUPERMAN II, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, EXCALIBUR -- all of these priming me for what I consider the last great summer movie summer, 1982.

America was in love with E.T. that summer, but I preferred POLTERGEIST. More importantly, the two films I loved most that summer bombed. THE THING and BLADE RUNNER were critical disasters and financial failures, and I was dumbfounded. America didn't get Steve Martin's brilliant DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, but they sure did like FIREFOX with Clint Eastwood. I felt lost. It was the first time the movies I loved hadn't ruled the box office. My tastes took a radical step away from the mainstream. At the same time, Hollywood lost me on the "obvious" hits. There have been plenty of great summer movies since -- don't get me wrong. ALIENS, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, JURASSIC PARK, THE FLY, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, BATMAN RETURNS, THE ABYSS, T2, and plenty of others. There just hasn't been a summer that seemed to come together for everyone, where everytime you went to the movies, it seemed to work.

Well, for the first time since '82, I'm getting the feeling that summer is really here. I mean, MATRIX is by any rational definition a "summer movie," even if it was a March release. I've seen and thoroughly enjoyed AUSTIN POWERS 2, BIG DADDY, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, IRON GIANT, and AMERICAN PIE among others, and I've still got EYES WIDE SHUT, THE HAUNTING, RUN LOLA RUN (which I will be reviewing very soon), LIMBO, SUMMER OF SAM, PRINCESS MONONOKE, MYSTERY MEN, and THE FIGHT CLUB to look forward to. Based on what I've seen so far, we are finishing up the decade on a high note in every way. Even the weaker pictures like TARZAN are better than average. With a strong lineup like this in the wings, summer has to get off to a strong start. Yes, THE PHANTOM MENACE is just around the corner, but I ain't waiting. I want my summer NOW!

Thank God for THE MUMMY.

I have recently begun a mass brainwashing campaign. I sent harmless looking flyers out to producers all over town, each of them actually an elaborate hypothermal hypnosis card that bends the mind of the recipient to my will. Thanks to this approach, my phone rang last week, and I heard the voice of Sean Daniel, producer of THE MUMMY. Mumbling, "Im-ho-tep... Im-ho-tep..." between words, he managed to say something about a screening of his film... first showing of the locked print... Wednesday night... and then a theater name. Not wanting to push him too hard on his first call in, I used the sleep word on Daniel. My line went dead, and I started making arrangements.

One week later, my henchmen and I slipped into the theater with no problems, settling in for what I hoped was going to be an entertaining Saturday afternoon matinee type film, the kind I loved so much at the age of 12. From the moment the Universal logo gave way to the blinding sun, pulling back to reveal an Egypt as elaborate as anything PRINCE OF EGYPT showed us, as perfect as any shots of Naboo I've seen so far, I was hooked. I not only got exactly what I wanted, I was genuinely surprised by my reaction.

As the movie's rousing psuedo-LAWRENCE OF ARABIA setup plays out, I felt the years melt away, and I was 12 again, looking up at the big screen, not thinking about all the rumors about the film or the script drafts I read or the FX tests I saw or the stories Harry told me about the set or all the recent shuffle at Universal or any of the rest of the crap, the baggage that any of us who deal in this stuff every day carry into a screening. It was summer. The movie in front of me was a real, old-fashioned summer movie, making no apologies for entertaining me. Writer/director Stephen Sommers aims for the back wall of the stadium with this one, and I'd say he finally puts it all together in a way that guarantees him a step up to the A-list.

This film has such an infectious, willing sense of fun that only the most hardened, jaded gorehound, grousing about the PG-13 is going to leave unsatisfied on some level.

Brendan Fraser is having a very good run of films right now. This is his first major picture since GODS & MONSTERS (I wouldn't count BLAST FROM THE PAST as major), and he plays the dashing adventurer with an easy, lived-in charm. He doesn't oversell it at any point, and the movie is so much better for it. Some actors would have hammed this up and tried to play it as a comedy. Fraser stays perfectly grounded from moment to moment, and he sets a tone that the rest of the cast match note for note. Rachel Weisz is the kind of actress who I've seen and known of for a while, but who's never really made an impression on me... well... certain scenes in STEALING BEAUTY notwithstanding. Here, she's a worthy successor to the mold that Karen Allen set in RAIDERS, which no one else was able to play again. She's adorable, but she can handle herself and is no screamer. Weisz never once plays this in helpless mode, and it makes her immensely likable. It also helps that Sommers doesn't make her the bumbling bookworm her first scene implies. Her brother, played by FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL's John Hannah, is the film's most consistently rewarding comic presence. He's the slightly drunken, slightly shady brother who sets the whole thing in motion, but Hannah's no klutz, either. When it's time for THE MUMMY to be serious, it's serious. When it's time for the characters to try and be smart, they do. You actually want these characters to live not because they are the "good guys," but because you like them. They win your rooting interest over the course of the film.

Conversely, the film's villains are played ably by Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O'Connor, and a shitload of groovy ILM special effects. Nick Dudman did a fair amount of live-action mummy work that really sells the illusion of the title creatures, but make no mistake -- ILM's work here is as subtly groundbreaking as the big guns they're rolling out later this month. CGI makeup may not be perfect yet, but it's pretty damn cool, and there are some really inventive moments involving it in the film (watch for Vosloo's scarab snack -- tasty) that add a visual snap to the picture that pushes it into geek heaven. Yes, you've seen some great stuff in the trailers. There's plenty more of it in the film. Vosloo provides an interesting human center to the fireworks, with his almost-chubby frame and his Billy Zane eyes. I liked his presence in the picture, and the fact that he doesn't speak English (subtitles, folks) is very, very cool. Thank you for not having a 4,000 year old creature of evil take an afternoon to watch TV or listen to a radio and somehow "absorb" our language. Thank you for just having the common sense to treat your own concept with enough respect to ground it in reality whenever possible. I liked the moment where the sniveling Benny (imagine if Sapito from RAIDERS had survived for the whole movie, always trying to screw Indy in any way possible) accidentally stumbles across a way of talking to the resurrected Imhotep. O'Connor is turning into Sommers' mascot after doing this and DEEP RISING back to back, and I liked him here more than I have before in anything. He's like a live action Ren, complete with the fez.

The story is simple, well-told, and never works too hard to overwhelm. The scares are serious, but not too severe for younger genre fans, who are going to go absolutely nuts for this movie. I would imagine that any of us who love the old Harryhausen films are going to be enjoying this film long after this summer. There's a great last sequence involving some reanimated Egyptian soldiers that is just stunning. Fraser's interaction with them is seamless, and the actual creature animation is handled with real wit and style. It's nice that ILM didn't just farm this film out to trainees while the "real" guys worked on STAR WARS. Adrian Biddle's photography is as lush as his work for Ridley Scott, and Jerry Goldsmith's score is appropriately exciting, even if I can't hum a note of it right now due to the fact that "Duel of the Fates" is stuck in my head. DAMN YOU, JOHN WILLIAMS, FOR BEING SO TALENTED!

What can I say to sum up? Guys, sit back and enjoy it all. There's so much money to go around this summer, and the studios are working hard. Yes... there's going to be a few WILD WILD WESTs and DEEP BLUE SEAs we don't want to step in, but for the most part it looks like one of those magical harmonious times when all is right, and we benefit. To my mind, that's a good thing. Maybe that's what we need right now. Stephen Sommers tapped into that pure joy that came from seeing a movie when you were young, when it was all so big, so easy, so much fun. Tap into a bit of it yourself next weekend. Hell, if you want to splurge, try ELECTION as a perfect counterpoint, a small film that's nothing but character, executed as perfectly in its own way as THE MUMMY is.

Right now, I have to go figure out how I'm going to get into a press screening of STAR WARS. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback

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  • April 29, 1999, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Yeah! I'm ALWAYS right!

    by Damien667

    I've been telling people to go see this ever since I read about the first test screening some months back on this sight. But the only negative word I have ever heard has been the fact that this is a "typical summer crap fest" (and that comment came from the more intelligent and eloquently spoken crowd). Now I can equate it to the Indiana Jones franchise in a sense that people can understand and appreciate. I'm happy that my former employer has finally written and released something that they carefully tested and re-did until perfection (unlike, say, "Kull: The Conqueror"). Go see this film. Go see "Idle Hands". Have a fun summer and don't wait ever moment standing in line for Episode 1, because you know that someone had already bought your seat out and is willing to scalp it to you for $100 anyway. One last thing: I live here in L.A. and feel WAY out of the loop on advance screenings. If Moriarty, LaneMeyers or any of you other people trapped in entertainment hell will me could just send me a little info. on press screenings and the what-not, I'd appreciate it. (Try "mulder@mediaone.net-- usually works better.)

  • April 29, 1999, 12:12 p.m. CST

    Badass

    by -Z-

    If this movie is as good as he toots it up, this will probably be the best year for movies in a LONG time. Aside from a new Star Wars, Kubrick's swan song this year is shaping up well. Kudos to M. for his detailed and interesting review.

  • April 29, 1999, 12:17 p.m. CST

    bladerunner?

    by bombay

    Moriarty if you don't know why BLADERUNNER was a critical flop,i'll tell you,it's BORING!.It's so slow,weird and there's too much irrelevant talking.If there had been 2 flying car chases,one in the middle and one at the end,then it would have been a worldwide hit.The MUMMY is better than the 2 INDY sequels,cos they're both crap!.And since when is JURASSIC PARK good,it's one of the most dissappointing movies i've seen.Mind you,it's better than a 4 hour SCORSESE MOVIE,Full of nonstop voiceovers.BRING ON DEAD is gonna be crap.DINO is gonna be 6hours of voiceovers,the same applies to GANGS OF NEW YORK,talk about repeating yourself.SCORSESE must be forced to RETIRE!!!!!!.

  • April 29, 1999, 12:23 p.m. CST

    Great non-spoiler review!

    by The Tree

    Thanks, M, for not giving away the film with your review. It's seems that of late, the vast majority of "reviews" that I've seen are actually "book reports." "Here's my review: This happens in the film, then that happens in the film, and, surprise, at the end everybody dies!" That's not a fuckin' review. That's a "Cliff's Notes" cheat sheet. So thanks to Moriarty for painting an abstract representation of the film, conveying the tone, mood, and over-all quality of the movie, without painting a detailed portrait, enumerating characters, plot twists, and dialogue. Keep 'em coming, M!

  • April 29, 1999, 12:37 p.m. CST

    1982

    by The Spleen

    The evil genius is soooo right about 1982, and especially about Blade Runner, The Thing and Poltergeist. I had so much fun that summer I'm still dizzy.

  • April 29, 1999, 12:41 p.m. CST

    Thank you...

    by Rocqueja

    ...to M. for a great review and bombay for a 16 year olds perspective on movies!

  • April 29, 1999, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, when will you test screen END OF DAYS?

    by ABking

    Moriarty, do you know when you are going to test screen END OF DAYS? And please, try not to rip that film apart until you've seen it. EOD could surprise you, just like THE MUMMY. Also, do you know if Universal will play the END OF DAYS teaser trailer over THE MUMMY next week Friday?

  • April 29, 1999, 12:58 p.m. CST

    WHO WOULD WIN IN A FIGHT BETWEEN ROCKY AND THE MUMMY? MY GUESS..

    by JaneDoe33

    Oh-la-la!!! I saw the trailer for this big fat movie. When that Mummy is coming right at Brendan Frasier and he's shooting at it, and yet the Mummy doesn't stop walking....oh man, did that scare the kaka outta me! Look out Brendan! Look out for that damn Mummy! One thing that might detract from the film's integrity: throughout the second half of the movie the Mummy is wearing a "I Love Doritos" T-shirt. Come on! That's just blatant product placement! Doritos didn't even exist when the film takes place! Come on!

  • April 29, 1999, 1:31 p.m. CST

    Smokin too much crack

    by stryker

    PLEASE tell me that you did not compare any of the Indiana Jones movies with The Mummy. That statement alone should get you fired. A bunch of cheesy digital effects does not make a movie. You have the fucking balls to mention Brendan Frasier in the same sentence with Harrison Ford? After tellling people to see IDLE HANDS and now talking out of your ass about a movie with an actor that resembles a cardboard cutout, I'm starting to think you guys are losing your touch. Please stop smoking crack or whatever has altered your train of thought.

  • April 29, 1999, 2:22 p.m. CST

    JaneDoe33

    by big deal

    JaneDoe33 cracks me up EVERY TIME! Hey, are you my friend Ryan, JaneDoe? Ryan is REALLY FUNNY too. Go Mummy!

  • April 29, 1999, 2:38 p.m. CST

    IT'S MUMMY-RIFFIC!!! HI, MY NAME IS...WHAT? MY NAME IS..HUH? MY

    by JaneDoe33

    This is in response to the post above. No, I am not Ryan. I'm much sexier than Ryan is. Plus, I love pro wrestling. My favorite character was The Iron Shiek but he has long since retired.

  • April 29, 1999, 3:17 p.m. CST

    DAMN IT!

    by paragonian

    The Thing is the greatest horror film ever made. It's the only movie that I have ever seen that has scared me and it still continues to scare me, and I've seen em all. The only ones that come close are The Shining, The Exorcist and Hellraiser 2. I was only two years old when it came out so how could the moronic public and critics not support it.DAMN YOU ALL! I was anticipating The Mummy until I heard that Stephen ( Deep Rising )Somers is writing and directing, he strikes me as an audience pandering hack, at least Spielberg and Lucas are good at it. The only films which interest me this summer are Eyes Wide Shut,The Haunting (maybe), and The Fight Club. Oh ya, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was pretty damn scary too, especially that part where that geeky guys looking around and without any warning that meat locker door slides open and What's its name smacks him on the head with a hammer and slams the door closed again. What ever happened to surprises at the movies, besides the "I'm surprised people are stupid enough to make this and think it's actually worth making" surprise.

  • April 29, 1999, 3:24 p.m. CST

    i need to praise moriarty like i should

    by tommy five-tone

    when i see that the evil genius is reviewing something, well, i revert to a ten year old high on red food additives and pixie stix. the man KNOWS that some movies are made for serious exploration and that some are made to just be slurped down like a margarita. as a devotee of the summer of 1982 (a lasting happy memory is seeing a double bill of 'the thing' and 'prophecy' with a gang of like-minded thrillseekers), i say moriarty for president!

  • April 29, 1999, 3:54 p.m. CST

    IT'S MUMMY-TASTIC!!!

    by JaneDoe33

    OK,OK...let's all calm down. We all have our differences, whether it be film, pro wrestling, Tom Cruise, etc. I think we can ease the discourse with a good healthy dose of baby talk: GA-GA-GOOO! I GA-GA for THE MUMMY! GOO-GOO! GA-GA!

  • April 29, 1999, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Moriarty will always be my whore, cause he

    by Tall_Boy

  • April 29, 1999, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Moriarty will always be my whore, cause he's the one that I ador

    by Tall_Boy

    Just wanted to work in a song lyric here. can't wait to see the flick! Moriarty's reviews always rock, I trust his judgement, so good job, you evil bastard, you. PS- Does anybody know how to play the guitar solo from the above-mentioned song? PPS- GODDAMN SLIP OF THE FINGER MUTHA FUCKIN' DOUBLE POST!!!! Ahh, I feel better. Time to listen to "Duel of the Fates" for the first time...

  • April 29, 1999, 9:57 p.m. CST

    Heh

    by Matt

    um...mummy, and uh, yeah. Actually, I've always thought Brendan Fraiser was a pretty good actor. However, I've had too much to drink. Does anybody else get pissed when the talk back compresses your paragraphs? Slap me silly and pass me another "Rusty Nail"! Sincerely, The Brimley

  • April 29, 1999, 10:17 p.m. CST

    Wrath of 82

    by BRAK

    How could you leave out ST:The Wrath of Khan? I dragged my younger brother to see Poltergiest and ST:TWoK back to back. He still dosn't know what hit him. I'm hoping I can pull this stunt again this summer.

  • April 30, 1999, 12:20 a.m. CST

    by Integra

  • April 30, 1999, 12:32 a.m. CST

    Lucas

    by Integra

    Interesting to see how ppl either want phantom to be great or horrible. He (Lucas) seems to embody the pop icon like few others. I personally dont care much for the Star wars series, always thought sci-fi was Asimov, Ellison, and Bradbury. Star wars is great pop eye candy and a good romp at the theatre. Would be cool to actually see real sci-fi made into film, or even fantasy. What could possibly be a cooler usage for cg then one of Moorcocks characters (Elric ) running about with a fleet of dragons. Need more Thing's (favorite horror movie), Dragonslayers, Excaliburs. Not another cheesy effects laden remake of Kurosawa, Lensman, and explicit outtakes of roman history. Make Foundation and Earth. or if you want buddy flicks, Caves of Steel. Dunwich Horror could be done well.

  • April 30, 1999, 2:52 a.m. CST

    Star Trek? unemotional?

    by Palmer Eldritch

    How could anyone think STAR TREK: Wrath Of Kahn (*THE* best s.f. adventure movie of the 80s BAR NONE) was unemotional? I'll take a rousing action packed story dealing with Humankind's ability to take technology intended for creation and twist it into a means of destruction, spiced up with a bit of Herman Melville Epic meets Alexandre Dumas Revenge Drama over a bunch of mystical mumbo jumbo and obsucated hippy nonsense about "trusting you feelings", any day of the week. ************** **************** "From Hell's Dark heart I stab at thee!"

  • May 2, 1999, 6:39 p.m. CST

    Credit due

    by Rogue_2

    Blade Runner rocks! Thats all I have to say, you're right about it not being given enough credit.

  • Sept. 1, 1999, 10:20 p.m. CST

    Arnold Vosloo

    by erica

    Summer may be over in the US but The Mummy is still giving surprises in the rest of the world. Despite misgivings about spending 2 hours watching a bandaged drunk staggering about town with Brendan Fraser, I left The Mummy with a few pleasant surprises. One, Fraser's not as idiotic as I thought he'd look (only seen pics of him, not even one movie!); second, no bandages, no drunk. A diehard Indy Jones fan, I found the movie vastly entertaining and every good thing that's already been said in this sites' reviews. BUT - the main surprise? Arnold Vosloo...where has this man been all my life??? So impressed I've been with Vosloo, I actually endured a van damme movie, Hard Target, and confirmed forever, my obsession with Vosloo. When I die, I want to be mummified with my DVD of The Mummy, my pics of Vosloo and my favourite wavs. files from Hard Target. Think I'm crazy? So're the hordes of Vosloo fans who hog the AV forums with postings in the thousands after seeing him The Mummy. Vosloo, though, is more elusive than a mummy. No one knows what he's up to since he was resurrected and there's a rumour going round that he's being considered to play the mature Anakin Skywalker in Episode 3. After what he can do to a 3,000 year old corpse, some people think he'll prevent Episode 3 from becoming another menace. Me, being a fan of the first trilogy and sorely disappointed with Ep.1, Vosloo would be the only reason I'd risk watching another Episode.

  • July 22, 2006, 10:45 p.m. CST

    Note to self: Watch Lawrence of Arabia again.

    by Wolfpack

    Saw it when I was a kid. I remember being entertained, but I was probably too young to fully appreciate it.