Sorry, Tom Cruise: 1999's 'The Mummy' Is the Best Action Film of All Time

Tom Cruise has remade 'The Mummy,' but even the Greatest Living Action Hero won't be able to top the 1999 classic.

The Mummy 1999
Universal Pictures

Image via Universal Pictures

The Mummy 1999

A beautiful scholar, a wisecracking sidekick and an action hero—in an instantly iconic performance—must fend off total domination from the undead when they unwittingly release a centuries old evil from the bowels of ancient Egypt. I’m not describing The Mummy, the 2017 blockbuster due out this Friday. I’m talking about THE MUMMY, the 1999 classic whose legacy deserves more than to be shoved aside in favor of a new franchise before it even turns 20 years-old proper.

Death is only the beginning. The Mummy franchise as spearheaded by Brendan Fraser tapered off in 2008 with an undignified demise when Rachel Weisz and Stephen Sommers couldn’t even be bothered to return and the story clumsily tried to switch things up from Egyptian mummy themes to a story in ancient China with...Jet LI. A mere nine years later here we are, with Universal Studios gearing up to get in the Cinematic Universe ring by resurrecting their old slate of classic monsters as contenders.

No disrespect to Tom Cruise, Jake Johnson, and Sofia Boutella. One can see why they would appear to be upgrades on paper. Tom is our greatest living action hero, Jake is the funniest comic actor working, Sofia...I don’t know much about her to be honest but she seems cool and she just got cast in the Fahrenheit 451 adaptation so she’s probably good at acting. But in this age of wanton reboots, I’ve never needed a film less. Nothing is sacred, anymore, but a Mummy for the modern ages already exists and it is, objectively, unequivocally perfect.

If we want to remove objectivity for a second though, this movie holds an insanely precious proximity to my heart. I was 8 years-old in May of ‘99; this movie is my Raiders. I’m almost sure I demanded to see it in theaters at least two times more after. I rewatched it at 1 in the morning days ago, the euphoria levels have not wavered. I legit experience a release of serotonin from every viewing of this film from the auteur Stephen Sommers and starring the thespian Brendan Fraser.

The movie’s just so damn charming. What makes it stand out almost two decades later, to a point where people don’t treat me nearly as clinically insane when I admit it’s a top 10 favorite film of mine, is an overall affable demeanor coursing through every aspect of every second. It’s action primarily, there’s horror inherently, but The Mummy’s truly unique X-factor is in the way it prioritizes adventure, a genre that gets more underserved with each passing year. The problem with this new film, based off the trailers at least, is that it looks like Mission: Impossible 17 with a horrorgoth makeover. Every set piece in the ‘99 movie feels like a rollercoaster, the characters never stop bantering even in the face of danger. It’s a shameless Indiana Jones rip-off, but it emulates everything that made Raiders become the go-to point of inspiration for a generation of filmmakers. Brendan Fraser, in his rumpled Club Monaco shirt and Dirty Harry holsters aesthetic, achieves a level of Harrison Ford roguish magnetism that peers who went on to leapfrog him career-wise have nonetheless only play-acted at. The decision to set the story in the ‘20s feels like a welcome love-letter to the source material and one that also saves the movie from feeling dated upon revisiting; Fraser and Rachel Weisz serve up glorious Rock Hudson and Doris Day chemistry.

The point is, THE MUMMY is composed of rare elements. There was nothing much like it when I was in 4th grade, there’s even less like it now. And the most depressing thing about this reboot, despite casting my faves Tom and Jake, is how ~same~ it feels compared to every other franchise blockbuster right now. What was the last great, or even mid, film that could genuinely be categorized as adventure? The first Pirates of the Caribbean? How great would another swing at swashbuckling Harrison Ford ass vibes have been with Tom at the center? Or switching it up even further on some weirdo Johnny Depp shit? What if Jake Johnson was the hero and Tom was just the muscle?

I’m going to see this film out of morbid curiosity, and I wish the gang luck with this Dark Universe, which is already off to a rough start with that title. But, objectively, it’s a very safe bet that it won’t do anything to edge or even match the legacy set by the 1999 gem and even its highly enjoyable sequel featuring President Dwayne Johnson’s first foray into thespianism. An entire, more successful slate of Mummy films could be on the horizon, Fraser, Weisz and Vosloo’s take is already immortal. Death, is only the beginning.

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