When thinking of the greatest love stories ever to make it on to celluloid, the 1999 fantasy-horror The Mummy is probably not the first film that comes to mind.
The truth be told, it probably isn’t the second film that comes to mind either. Or the fifth or the hundredth, for that matter.
So what makes the characters Rick O’Connell and Evelyn Carnahan, played by Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, such a perfect romantic pairing?
First of all what makes the romance work is not just the chemistry between the two as individuals, is but what the two characters do *together* which makes us root for them.
We do see the spark of attraction at pretty much from the first meeting when Rick is about to be hung for various unspecified misdeeds.
Evelyn: By the way, why did you kiss me?
Rick: I don’t know. I was about to be hanged. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
[gets up and walks away in a huff]
Rick: [Calling after her] What? What’d I say?
But after that, Rick and Evelyn’s romance is an voyage of discovery of one another, as well as of ancient Egyptian tombs.
Beni: You never believed in Hamunaptra, O’Connell. Why are you going back?
Rick: You see that girl?
[points to Evelyn]
Rick: She saved my neck.
Beni: You always did have more balls than brains.
Early mutual annoyance do manifest themselves but they are not born of antipathy but rather of the truth that intimate, long lasting relationships will highlight character flaws – Evelyn is stubborn and single minded, Rick’s devil-may-care attitude verges on the ridiculously careless – but together their flaws are cut and polished to become strengths upon they will need to depend for their very lives.
Evelyn: Look, I… I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I… am a librarian.
As we expect with these films, the guy gets the girl, the guy and the girl get the Mummy and they all live happily ever after, except for the mummy, who is dead. Again.
So much of romantic fiction follows the same trope.
These days the depiction of romance in modern novels goes far beyond the closed bedroom door. We are privy to the most intimate expression of love and connection between a man and a woman, yet so often authors stop at the closed door of their couple’s relationship – as if that the initial declaration of love is the end in itself and not the beginning of a grand lifelong adventure.
The Mummy Returns breaks that longstanding stereotype.
Released only two years after the original but set 15 years later, our hero and heroine are an old married couple with a rather precocious child.
Alex: My dad is going to kick your ass.
Imhotep: I do not think so.
And yet, The Mummy Returns is perhaps even more romantic than the original because it shows a maturing of the relationship between Rick and Evelyn without the dimming of their passion.
Rick: Thought I almost lost you.
Evelyn: For a moment there you did.
Evelyn: Do you want to know what heaven looks like?
Alex: Oh please!
When each member of the O’Connell family, including Evelyn’s brother Jonathan, in turn are imperilled during the course of the film, you really do feel the love and concern, thus elevating the film above the typical popcorn fare.
Evelyn: That’s my husband and my son down there. Make me proud.
Jonathan: Today’s that day, Evy.
To me there is something elemental and transcendent in the relationship between a man and a woman together.
To reduce this most fundamental of human relationship to differences in physiology is to ignore the innate differences that hum through the fibre of every cell of every man and every woman.
Those inescapable differences when joined in common purpose, whether it is to raise a family or save the world from the reincarnated malice of an undead Egyptian mummy, lead to the true happily ever after.
Next week we’ll celebrate the 80th anniversary of one of the best husband and wife films ever made – The Thin Man series.