For a romping good time in the desert, it’s hard to beat the antics of Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser in the 1999 remake of The Mummy. The running and gunning is non-stop, and the pulpy adventure of the movie (and its sequel, The Mummy Returns) is only matched by the movies in the Indiana Jones series. Treasure away, and the greatest gem in the bundle is Weisz’s character, Evelyn Carnahan.
The trio of Fraser mummy movies is currently streaming on Peacock, but it’s not like we ever need an excuse to revisit them. Evelyn is a big reason why we keep coming back; in many ways, she is the perfect adventure heroine. An unlikely one, but brilliant all the same. We loved her in 1999, and we love her even more now.
Why? We’re glad you asked.
Evie knows who she is and she’s proud of it. She’s clumsy and hapless at the beginning of the movie, but she has confidence nonetheless. She’s far removed from Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), the best companion/heroine of the Indy movies. Evie isn’t going to drink anyone under the table. She isn’t going to put on a suit of armor in the third act, either.
Simply put, she’s a dork. Marion is cool as hell, and Evie is not. Evie doesn’t care. Her first scene in the movie shows her accidentally laying waste to a room crammed with bookcases, and she owns it. When she enjoys some spirits later on in the film, it is clear that she’s a lightweight. Her late-night dalliance in alcohol with Rick (Fraser) allows her to declare once and for all who she is. It’s one of the best scenes in the movie. It’s the entire character of Evie Carnahan summed up.
“Look, 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,” she says. Rick asks her what that is, and she tells him.
“I… am a librarian.”
Weisz doesn’t play the line for comedy, or as an obstacle that this character will have to surmount. She plays it with self-knowledge and the very pride that Evie alludes to. If we didn’t love her before this moment (we did), then we certainly would after it.
She’s being humble in describing herself in this way, because if she’s a librarian, she’s the greatest librarian that the world has ever known. She possesses all of the lore necessary for the mostly made-up myths in the movie, and she’s the only one around who can translate anything. The unnamed Egyptologist (Jonathan Hyde) that leads a competing team is the other character that knows any lore, and he underestimates her purely because she’s a woman. His character dies and doesn’t even get a name, so screw you, Egyptologist.
She isn’t perfect; far from it. She makes many mistakes, possibly as a means to prove herself to the unseen “Bembridge scholars.” Evie reading from the Book of the Dead is what brings the titular Mummy back to life in the first place, so… yeah. This is clumsiness on a much larger scale.
She owns it. She steps up when most of the movie’s adventurers, gunfighters, and treasure-seekers are ready to run for their lives. She wants to face danger head-on — Rick has to lock her in a room to stop her — even then, it doesn’t work. The Americans that Rick puts on guard duty would trade places with her in a second.
Of course, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) kidnaps her once he is reborn, but she never becomes a damsel in distress. she is a damsel, and she is in distress, but the character doesn’t fall into the trope. She chooses to go into distress for one thing, as it’s the only way to save Rick and company from Imhotep and his thralls. Once she ends up on a desert trek with Imhotep and Beni, she’s constantly on the lookout for ways to get the upper hand. She eventually finds one. Naturally, Rick comes blasting in to save the day, but he can’t put Imhotep down alone. He needs someone who can translate ancient Egyptian.
The badass adventurer/gunfighter/treasure-seeker needs… a librarian.
It just so happens that he’s in love with the librarian, and the librarian is in love with him. Many aspects of Evie wouldn’t work without the unstoppable and otherworldly charm of Rachel Weisz in the role. It doesn’t matter who the movie pairs her with, it’s Charm City and Weisz is the mayor. The movie’s love story soars because her chemistry with Fraser is off the charts.
Most of the best scenes contain no action at all. They feature Weisz and Fraser falling for each other, and we fall for them in turn. At the end of the movie, Evie’s brother Jonathan (John Hannah) isn’t happy that they left the City of the Dead without any treasure. Rick’s retort is, “I wouldn’t say that.” He looks at Evie.
This is an insane cliche, but it works. Evelyn Carnahan isn’t treasure, she’s more of a blessing in human form. It’s an unfair standard for anyone ready to start scouting local libraries looking for their own Rachel Weisz, but this is a pulp adventure movie after all.
Evie continues to shine in The Mummy Returns, though she’s much more action-oriented in it. She’s still the ultimate librarian, but she’s started to remember how to fight thanks to some ancestral links that have begun to show. She can also kick bad guys in the balls, but she learned that from Rick.
Evie and Rick are a true pair in The Mummy Returns. They are often referred to as “The O’Connells” because they’re married and they make out every chance they get. They’ve each taken on some of the other’s strengths. Evelyn O’Connell is the logical progression of the character, but that badass turn had to be earned. The butterfly had to be born from the potential that always rested within Evelyn Carnahan.
This evolution is, sadly, stunted when we get to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Evie has moved on to writing romance novels based on her experiences, and Rick is trying to like fly fishing. An adventure with their son has to jar them out of their boredom. The movie sidelines Evelyn, who has also been recast with Maria Bello. Everyone does the best they can, but one does not simply recast Evelyn O’Connell and hope for the best. She and Rick are back on track by the movie’s end, so they do get some kind of happy ending… unless The Mummy 4: Hamunaptra World ever becomes a thing, and they get Weisz (and Fraser) to return.
Evie owns the first two movies with intelligence, fortitude, unshakeable courage, and a little too much curiosity for her own good. Weisz makes her into a heroine for the ages, causing us to look within ourselves and be proud of what we are.
Take that, Bembridge scholars.
The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor are now streaming on Peacock.