Fans of Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy movies disappointed by the Tom Cruise reboot may be in luck – an Easter egg suggests Rick O’Connell, Imhotep, and co. are still canon.
Although the Dark Universe is ostensibly based on Universal’s 1930s classic monster films, the instigating creature – the resurrected Mummy – is better remembered for a previous remake. Back in 1999, Stephen Sommers delivered one of the best summer blockbusters of a disappointing decade by taking a character best known for being an easy last-minute Halloween costume and putting it in an Indiana Jones-hued action-adventure.
Fun, creepy and full of great characters, The Mummy was a massive success, leading to two direct sequels and spin-off series The Scorpion King that, despite not being great, still ran for four movies between 2002 and 2015. There were once talks of a fourth film in the main series, but they died with the emergence of the Dark Universe (and its scathing reviews). Or did they?
The Mummy 1999 Easter Egg
The Mummy 2017 is mostly very removed from what’s come before. It’s set in the modern day (the previous remake took place in the 1920s), moves the action from Egypt to England (with the instigating tomb in Iraq), and while its villain is, again, primarily motivated by using one of our heroes to resurrect an ancient force, the story goes off in a completely different direction.
But Alex Kurtzman isn’t totally ignoring the O’Connells. In the film’s second act, Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton finds himself the headquarters of Prodigum, a secret organization that collects and catalogs rare antiquities related to a variety of strange creatures. When he discovers their motives aren’t totally pure he gets in a tussle with Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll (or rather his dark side) while Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny Halsey tries to find a way to break them up. When scrabbling for a weapon, she uses one of the Prodigum’s acquisitions – a golden book with a strange lock.
This is the Book of Amun-Ra, a mythological item first introduced in The Mummy ’99. It was one of two essential MacGuffins in the film along with the obsidian Book of Death; the latter was able to resurrect ancient forces, while the former sent them back to the afterlife. The golden version was seemingly lost forever in sequel The Mummy Returns when it’s dropped it into pit of scarabs in Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead.
Of course, even though the Dark Universe appearance looks to be the same prop, or at the very least a near perfect recreation, it’s more intended as a neat easter egg for long-time Mummy fans. But could it be something more? Is Kurtzman actually saying the original films happened in continuity?
Why Brendan Fraser’s Films Are In Canon
The big difference between Fraser and Cruise’s Mummy is that while the former was just a rollicking one-off summer movie (initially), the latter is the springboard to one of Universal’s biggest gambles, a shared universe that – if box office and critical failure doesn’t crush it first – will unite Morton (now a Mummy) and Jekyll with Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and maybe even the Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame. As such the film is full of setup for the future, with easter eggs and world building galore. Is the Book of Amun-Ra part of it?
Here’s where those aforementioned differences between remake series come into play – there’s very little if anything to contradict the two Mummy films being in the same timeline, with different cursed Egyptians, tomb locations and, indeed, magic explanation, all separated by the better part of a century. To say that Fraser’s films work in Dark Universe going forward is very simple; the writers just need to make sure they don’t contradict a few simple things. To be sure, it’s not even hard to explain the Easter egg; the Book was lost, not destroyed, and as a pivotal artifact is unlikely just get left to the sands of time. If Prodigium really is as maliciously far-reaching as presented, they’re sure to have hunted it down at some point – the Imhotep incident may even be what instigated the organization.
In fact, this would be a rather nice move for other remakes to follow through on – because these are contemporary, action-based versions, it’s not too damaging to pay homage to the 1930s classics and other efforts by making them officially in-continuity. Imagine Frankenstein saying he’s following work of an ancestor or the Invisible Man being a hereditary affliction. Heck, while the film itself is despised, people would surely be pretty excited to have Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing pop up (if The Mummy hasn’t already introduced another version of the character). Ironically, the only film that couldn’t work in this vein due to the character’s immortality is Dracula Untold, once intended to be Dark Universe’s progenitor.
Alex Kurtzman has actually discussed the Easter egg with Digital Spy and while admitting it is primarily just a wink, the director said its ambiguity leading to a discussion such as this is intentional:
“You have to pay homage and tribute to everything that came before. I have nothing but respect for all the films that have been made, and the filmmakers who’ve made them. To deny their existence in any way, I think would have been incredibly rude. So, all of those films are part of the history of the Universal monsters, and as such I thought, rather than say it’s not part of the canon, let’s say, ‘No, it is part of the canon; we’re just taking it somewhere new’.”
When pressed, Kurtzman even jokingly said “Sure! Why not? You’re free to quote that.” Of course, this is all a bit cheap – it’s tying in beloved movies with no purpose beyond appeasing fans – but then who actually expected O’Connell to turn up?
Even if it is just a bit of fun, there’s no avoiding what it means: yes, the Brendan Fraser movies are canon. Now if only we could replace the Tom Cruise version with them…