Female characters are now taking centre stage in action movies, although The Mummy franchise confronted this issue 20 years ago. Marvel is only now promoting its female heroines, such as Black Widow, who has been postponed for a long time. Meanwhile, Emily Blunt plays as a WWI-era action hero who can punch as hard as the Rock in Jungle Cruise, but The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns, blazed the road for female-driven storylines before anybody else.
In Stephen Sommers’ first Mummy adventure, Evelyn Carnahan played by Rachel Weisz is introduced as a clumsy but lovable librarian. She’s also a budding archaeologist, and it’s through her own willpower and superior intelligence that she first awakens the cursed Imhotep played by Arnold Voslooand subsequently plays a key role in his assassination. Meanwhile, Anck-Su-Namun played by Patricia Velásquezis elevated from Imhotep’s semi-tragic love interest to a manipulative monster in her own right in the sequel.
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Women lead the heroes and antagonists in The Mummy Returns, while also having their own storyline based on their prior identities. Their ancient battle is about demonstrating their own self-worth, not about the men in their lives. Throughout the film, Evie gains confidence, but Anck-Su-Namun, a former Pharaoh’s unsatisfied mistress, now desires world dominance.
Making the female lead too perfect to be relatable is a big flaw in recent blockbusters. Lily Houghtonfrom Jungle Cruise is rarely vulnerable, and her main shortcoming is her inability to swim, which she swiftly overcomes. The Mummy franchise, on the other hand, allows Evie to make mistakes and accept help without jeopardising her abilities.
The Mummy films are shamelessly romantic, but this enhances rather than deprives the female characters of autonomy. The franchise didn’t have to advertise its progressive stance; Rick and Imhotep’s love for self-sufficient women was enough to establish it.