There are films that ask us difficult questions. Films that present us with alternate, thought-provoking perspectives and force us to reflect on them for days. The Mummy is resoundingly not one of these films. And that is resoundingly not a bad thing.
I watched this film quite a lot as a child, and it was always great fun to watch. It’s not a film that engrossed me. While watching it, it was always painfully obvious that I was watching a film. But that’s a huge part of the appeal for me. The Mummy doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest. It embraces its ridiculousness.
Winston: What’s the challenge, then?
Rick: Rescue the damsel in distress, kill the bad guy, save the world.
– The Mummy
When Evelyn accidentally awakens Imhotep, the mummy, there is little sense of threat. While we are told facts like he will ‘arise a walking disease, a plague upon mankind…an unholy flesh eater…’, it’s difficult to see this as the epic event that it is. The world-threatening situation is simply overshadowed by the lack of sombre reaction from the cast of characters.
These characters include Rick (our gun-toting action hero), Evelyn (our intelligent and daring librarian/love interest), Jonathan (her brother, the treasure-obsessed buffoon), and Ardeth Bay (a guardian of the crypt, one of the leaders of the Mejai). Rick and Jonathan are regularly making light of the dangerous difficulties that they are presented with. Evelyn rarely seems phased, even when faced with death, she insists that Rick will come along to kick their arse. Ardeth Bay is the only character who seems disturbed by what is happening, and the extreme degree of this disturbance is comical in itself; if something isn’t threatening the world, then Ardeth Bay is not interested in it.
But what The Mummy lacks in character depth, it makes up for in firefights featuring unlimited ammunition, weird CGI mummy magic, scarab beetles grossly and greedily burrowing under human skin, and much, much more. Fun action scenes punctuated by ridiculous and hilariously clichéd one-liners are amply spread across the film, providing great amounts of laughter and entertainment.
A bit of this is inevitably nostalgia – The Mummy summons fond childhood memories of curling up in the dark and watching what sounded like a scary film but invariably wasn’t in the slightest. All the same, I love this film, and I think if I watched it for the first time tomorrow, I would still love this film.
There’s something to be said for stories that we can enjoy with little analysis or thought. I hesitate to say ‘pretentious’, but watching films purely to better ourselves and enrich our knowledge of wider, well-known cinematic cultural treasures means we might miss out on a huge range of films that are simply incredibly entertaining. And stories entertain us. Often they do a lot more, but even if they don’t, that doesn’t make the story a bad one.