By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Before Stephen Sommers version of The Mummy gets fully buried in the wake of the upcoming 2017 film next month, I have to fondly recall the elements that I enjoyed from this past iteration. The 1999 film was heavily inspired by the pulps. Although its star, Rick O’Connell (played by Brendan Fraser) would gladly let his son Alex keep the world at peace, I do not think a consortium existed to help develop the continuity needed for the spin-off material.
If that was the case, I imagine the character of Anubis would play an important role throughout the entire saga instead of being a background character for the first two movies. He is the god of death, and before Osiris landed in the Underworld and succeeded to the role, was in control of many a person’s fate should anyone die within his domain, the land of Egypt.
Now, this canine-headed deity guards the dead and escorts the spirit part of the person to the Great Hall where they are judged by Osiris. I like how this mythical figure is respectfully portrayed. He served as protector to but yet also be the one to take Imhotep away in the first film (ending him as a threat), and the Scorpion King offered his soul to him in exchange for power in the second. If Anubis’ soldiers were to follow their god’s will, I’m sure they would have nothing to do with the mortal realm but they were under Scorpion’s control. It makes me wish the third film stayed on Egyptian soil and see the O’Connell family enter the afterlife to converse with this god to insure both Imhotep and Scorpion stay where they are. In the real world, their cults conspire to bring them back and to get the two working together!
Although Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) went in a different direction, the idea of having the O’Connell family deal with mummies from other cultures simply fell flat. I adored the idea to explore Ancient China and see Terracotta statues come to life. However, the fun factor was lost and I missed Rachel Weisz. When she did not want to return to this series because she did not like the script, the producers should have put all notion of a continuation to rest.
I can accept characters changing their hair colour for whatever reason when a series gets animated, like in The Mummy: Animated Series (2001-2003), but sometimes my unfaltering loyalty gets challenged given what I recall from this television series. Although the story is good since it looked at Alex becoming a fully realized Medjai, the production quality was sub-par. Amusingly, this boy gets into trouble again because he finds himself wearing another stuck manacle. In terms of continuity, Imhotep has been “buried” once and for all so the third movie can take place.
In comparison, The Mummy Chronicles does a better job at continuing Alex’s adventure by offering Egyptiology 101 lessons to readers at the end of each book. Revenge of the Scorpion King (April 2001) is a worthy continuation. The title says it all, and the remaining books —Heart of the Pharaoh (June 2001), The Curse of the Nile (August 2001) and Flight of the Phoenix (October 2001) — are better ideas because it keeps the saga in Egypt than to expand it out to include other cultures.
In addition to the video game tie-ins and roller coaster attraction (Revenge of the Mummy, 2004) which I went to Universal Studios to ride at the height of this trilogy’s popularity, there were two comic book series.
Chaos Comics (now defunct) published issue one of a three-part series of The Mummy: Valley of the Gods. Copies can be found online at collector’s pricing or in a comic book store’s value bin for those willing to dig for it. Although never completed, this iteration stayed in Egypt whereas IDW’s The Mummy: the Rise and Fall of Xango’s Ax (2008) is a loose tie-in with the third movie.
No examination can be complete without mention of The Scorpion King. The first film is enjoyable, and it should have been left as just a solo endeavour than expanded into direct-to-video releases. Dwayne Johnson made the film fun. Although I understood why a younger actor (Michael Copon) was cast to play a boy who would be king, I had an unwilling suspension of disbelief to see him become Victor Webster for the third and fourth film. To see multiple actors who would eventually bulking out to become Johnson had my head spinning. Those tales were less about him wheeling and dealing in a proto-Egyptian world. Nods were made in the third film, but it felt more like a fantasy realm than a serious attempt to connect this character to becoming a villain!
I should add that two video games were made. The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akekadian was developed for the Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2; it was meant to be a prequel to the first film. The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris (a side-scroller) for the Game Boy Advance had everything I craved to sate the Ancient Egyptian enthusiast in me. I may have to buy myself the game and hand-held again, just to bring back some nostalgia. I do not want to get started on the attempts for the main series!