The Egyptian mummy has been haunting cinema since the 1930s. Numerous movies about the undead springing back to life have been made over the decades, and the unexpected success of The Mummy in 1999 proves that ancient Egyptian methods of preserving dead bodies continue to have the potential to spook modern-day audiences.
The Mummy kicked off a series of films centred on the adventures of explorer Rick O’ Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Rachel Weisz). Two more films followed as well as the spin-off The Scorpion King (2002). The franchise is now being rebooted with global star Tom Cruise, and will be released on June 9.
Cruise plays Nick Morton, who survives a plane crash because he is “cursed by the ultimate evil”. Morton and his colleagues find themselves entangled with the Prodigium, a monster hunting organisation led by Russell Crowe’s Henryk Jekyll. Unlike previous editions, the reboot features a female mummy. Sofia Boutella is an ancient Egyptian princess “whose destiny was unjustly taken from her” and has since returned to terrorise humankind. Boutella had previously appeared in Kingsman: The Secret Service as Gazelle, who has blades for legs.
“If you look at her eyes, and this is what I got from watching Kingsman, there’s a whole performance going on here,” explained director Alex Kurtzman, known for his writing on Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Now You See Me and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. “And in not saying anything but conveying that much to me, I thought oh my god, no matter how much prosthetics we put on her, no matter how much CG we put on her face, if I see this, she’s going to convey something very emotional to me.”
The 2017 version is the first entry in the Dark Universe franchise, which will resurrect classic monster movies. The Bride of Frankenstein (starring Javier Bardem) is slated for a 2019 release. New versions of Van Helsing, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Wolf Man are in the early stages of development.
Filming of The Mummy took place in Oxford, Surrey and Namibia. As can be expected from a Tom Cruise movie, The Mummy will showcase several daring stunts. A plane crash sequence was staged in a zero gravity chamber instead of a sound stage. It took place over four high-altitude flights. “It took us two days and the crew was flying around and vomiting in between takes. You couldn’t train for this,” Cruise revealed.
There won’t be any similarities between The Mummy and the films starring Fraser, which were set in the late 1920s. The new movie plays out in present-day America, and will have a greater infusion of horror than the previous films. According to some reports, the action will be on the scale of Mission: Impossible, the locations include the Middle East and London, and there is the possibility that Cruise himself has been raised from the dead.
The casting of Cruise over Fraser caused howls of protest among fans. “Brendan Fraser is The Mummy and The Mummy is Brendan Fraser,” huffed one writer, while the hashtag #NotMyMummy briefly enlivened Twitter. Fraser said that he could understand the logic behind the reboot and didn’t see the need to be in the new movie “unless they call me for some in-joke, nudge-nudge, wink-wink reason to walk an actor through a cameo in the background a la Hitchcock or something”.
The 1999 movie borrowed many ideas from the 1932 silent film of the same name, directed by Karl Freund and starring the great Boris Karloff. He plays Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo in the 1999 production), the Egyptian mummy who is accidentally revived by archaeologists and causes havoc as he hunts for his lost love.