Scorpion King

THE MUMMY. 1999
THE MUMMY RETURNS. 2001

Director: Stephen Sommer

THE SCORPION KING. 2002

Director: Chuck Russell

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The MummyWhen Mummy arrived in Seattle in 1999, local critics praised pretty-boy Brendan Fraser's Dimestore Indiana Jones imitation, partly because he's a local boy, but I thought he sucked. After a while I got used to his bad performance & began to relate to the humor of it, but the first fifteen minutes were unbearable.

I've seen way too much of Brendon's work, & he's never been as good a comic actor as he was in George of the Jungle though the film still stank (I liked his dog Shep best). His lightweight serious stuff was always just so infused with mediocrity, with the one exception of Gods & Monsters which made me think maybe he'd just been unlucky with directors or something & the guy really had something, as Gods approached greatness. But then its back to mediocrity with film after film, so I guess he just that once got lucky with one director & one script that made him look unexpectedly talented.

The very first scenes of The Mummy set in the ancient world I liked (before Brendan appears & drags it all down). The battle scene was dull except the moment the cultic guardians fled from the statue. Then the library scenes (bad) then the prisoner scene (bad) then the hanging scene (medium-bad) then the getting on the boat scene (bad) then the fire on the boat scenes (bad) then the buying a camel scene (bad) then they arrive at the city & it starts to be a muddle of okay stuff mixed with failed comedy.

An ancient sect of Egyptian tomb-guardians, living as warrior Bedouines, have for millenia guarded the secret of a lost desert city of tombs, wherein an evil mummy resides, but you can't keep jolly graverobbers from the west from poking into places where curses await.

The film suffers from being all special effects & too little story, & from too many bad jokes where awe & horror would've done us better. Eventually were so many mummies hopping around the effect just got boring, kind of like if Frankenstein had been populated by a thousand Frankenstein monsters getting wacked down in quick succession.

The scene where Imhotep (or whatever the hell his name was) brings two of the tomb relief paintings to life could've been cool, but they came to life as mummies instead of as living tomb paintings, so were just more of same. It was obvious that they were just recycling the same toaster effect over & over, kind of like having Scooby Doo & his crew running from right to left then having them run left to right but it's the same animation.

When the woman mummy is brought to life I thought she should've somehow stood out more -- she was just another leaping mummy. By the time she started getting nasty there'd already been so many mummies that she was just an anticlimactical rerun.

We are supposed to believe the chief mummy is so magical & powerful he can bring lesser mummies, statures, & even paintings to life, but it is so obviously nothning but a barrage of redundant FX & much more like a video game than a story. The humor mainly fell flat but I did laugh while one of the mummies stood juggling its head which Brendon chopped off.

Having an all-comedy act then writing in a comic relief character besides was sort of overkill. The evil comic relief guy was an even lousier actor than Brendon. Having the Egyptian partner die by running into a wall was just one of many stupid, stupid sequences that were such a waste of screen time.

The internal logic of the piece is utterly lacking. As a single example of a thousand: the fiendish reconstituted mummy is shown to be scared shitless of cats, so if our retarded hero had kept one with him none of the carnage that followed would've happened. Plus I would've liked to have had a reason for the mummy to fear cats. There was no reason shown, no cat actually did anything. Around the same time I caught a goofy film titled Go (1999) & it has a scene where someone overdosing on Ecstacy thinks a cat is reading his mind, & the cat tells him, "You're going to die." That was funnier & weirder than anything in The Mummy.

There were more than a few well-staged fights with Brendan chopping up mummies as he hopped around with the sword, & reminded me of the skeletons battle in Harryhausen's Jason & the Argonauts, which is by far the better film. Even more praiseworthy is the chap who played the Chief Mummy in Charge (Arnold Vosloo); he was so damned cool, the childishness of the film was occasionally defeated by his screen presence. The director should've relied on Vosloo's acting ability & not animated his mouth so much, as it diminished rather than heightened the figure's believability.

The Mummy ReturnsI was glad they didn't kill the handsome bedouin guy. True, just as Brendon was a dimestore Indiana Jones, the bedouine was a dimestore Omar Sharif, but still a strong character as this film goes.

I saw some stills for the film of scenes that weren't in the movie, including a street scene with the masked mummy (that mask was cool & I did think they got rid of that image too quickly). I expected this meant there'd be a collector DVD edition with missing bits put back in, but I couldn't imagine ever wasting my time on it a second time. Dropping the book of life in the puddle where Imhotep sank into the land of the dead seemed to o obvioius a set-up for an unnecessary sequel. When The Mummy Returns arrived in 2001, it was merely more of the same, adding little beyond a stronger female character, & one great moment with that cameo performance by wrestler-beauty Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, whose performance presaged the prequel set in Ancient Egypt, The Scorpion King, in which The Rock first proved he has awesome star presence.

Of the three films The Scorpion King was by far the best, in part because Brendon Frasier wasn't in it to turn it into a series of misfiring jokes, & mainly because The Rock & Michael Clarke Duncan so successfully nailed the mighty barbarian swordsmen routine. The action was never hoky, the hunky heros never merely burlesque, & the world wherein they committed heroic acts was totally believable. Scorpion King may well be the first totally convincing sword & sorcery film since Fritz Lang's silent epic Die Nibelungen (1924).

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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