The Mummy 2017
Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
June 9, 2017
David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie
Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis
Background: With The Mummy, Universal is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Marvel and DC by creating a shared universe—or in this case, a monster-verse. The idea is to create a world inhabited by classic monsters from the studio’s stable, revamping classic villains from horror’s first Golden Era. If all goes according to plans, The Mummy will be followed by The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and many others. Of course, much depends on how The Mummy, released nationwide today, performs at the Box Office, and there’s stiff competition from Wonder Woman.
Moviegoers inevitably go into a film with a set of hopes and a set of expectations—and they’re not necessarily the same thing. In the case of The Mummy, I can say emphatically that it was everything I expected it to be; unfortunately, I was hoping for more. But my expectations & hopes can be very different from Joe Shmo’s or Sally Smith’s, so what I consider a drawback could be someone else’s benefit. With this in mind, I’ll be structuring this review a bit different than my usual presentation. I’ll be posing a set of “If/Then” expositions, followed by brief summations of the film’s strengths and weakness (as I see them, of course).
Official Synopsis: Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
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IF you enjoy Tom Cruise as a leading man, THEN you will likely enjoy The Mummy. Cruise has proven himself a consistently capable action hero for decades; from Maverick in Top Gun to the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise has a knack for committing to action sequences in a way that always feels genuine—even when a film or character is over-the-top. On the flipside, if you find Cruise annoying, his character in The Mummy is nearly interchangeable with many of the actor’s past performances. And, truthfully, there are still those who shun Cruise movies based solely on his affiliation with Scientology. It doesn’t carry near the same stigma as, say, Victor Salva’s criminal past, but it’s enough to make a significant portion of the movie-going population uneasy.
IF you were hoping for a 21st Century reimagining of The Mummy based on successful modern cinematic trends, THEN you will likely enjoy the movie. Many millennials consider classic horror too slow/abstract/intellectual and much prefer the modern manifestations from fear practitioners looking to push the envelope. Director Alex Kurtzman clearly took a page (or 10) from Michael Bay’s playbook with big, loud, explosive action sequences teeming with CGI eye-candy. On the flipside, if you were hoping for a return to the subtlety and commitment to intelligent storytelling that marked horror cinema of the 1930s-50s, you will likely be disappointed. The Mummy has all the subtlety of a bull in a china chop.
IF you’re fine with a 21st Century Mummy movie that bares zero resemblance to the Boris Karloff propelled film of 1932, you may enjoy The Mummy. If you were counting on at least a slight connection to Universal’s classic monster movies, you may be disappointed. Yes, the film is a treasure trove of Easter Eggs (look for nods to Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein), but what’s brewing is an X-Men style series; Russell Crow’s Dr. Henry Jekyll is The Dark Universe’s Professor X; they’ve even got a School for Exceptional Children-style lair in the heart of London, one protected by an armed paramilitary squad. Who ultimately pulls the strings of this Justice League knock-off was never revealed in The Mummy.
Despite what we were told, The Mummy is absolutely more of an action fantasy than a horror movie. The film is only PG-13, but when it does venture into horror territory, it does so very well. I’d say the Fear Factor hits somewhere in between the scariest aspects of Pirates of the Caribbean and the gross-out splatter of zom-coms like Shaun of the Dead. The Mummy, in fact, works best in Act 3, when it essentially becomes a zombie movie in earnest. The film has a grand scope, shooting for the level of otherworldly opulence seen in the works of Guillermo del Toro. The Mummy knows when to be straight up hilarious, and there’s a character that’s nothing if not a nod to a memorable specter from An American Werewolf in London.
The titular mummy aka Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella) is awesome; while nothing like her mummified processors, she’s a powerful mix of sex and grotesquery. Watching her kick the shit out of Tom Cruise is a moment of pure joy. The problem is, she’s not scary—not one bit. It was a big mistake, in my opinion, showing what she looked like pre-mummification in flashbacks and visions. Once we were instantly enchanted by her beauty, we didn’t cringe at her decrepit corpse; we always knew sexy Ahmanet was under all those bandages, and that we’d eventually see her returned to original form (more or less). Had her beauty been revealed as she transformed from a husk back into a living being, the audience would have been caught off guard. Something about Ahmanet echoes Clive Barker’s Cenobites, but her introduction and emergence were presented ass backwards.
Tom Cruise is set up as a source of continuity for additional Dark Universe films, though he doesn’t correspond with any known monster from Universal’s stable (none immediately obvious, at least). Whether this means Cruise’s Nick will be the star of all future Dark Universe films, or if he’ll be sitting it out for a while, popping up from time to time, remains to be seen. Either way, making this character the anchor of this potential franchise is a risky decision—one that I certainly wouldn’t have made if I’d been in the writers’ room.
While upcoming superhero movies like Spawn and Aquaman are promising to venture into horror territory, Universal seems to be attempting the opposite (consciously or otherwise) with the launch of their Dark Universe. What we’re given is a horror movie framework that seems specifically geared towards fans of the X-Men and Justice League franchises. While this idea is neither good nor bad in a vacuum, if their plan was to endure themselves to horror fans, they missed the mark. And while execs at Universal may see this as a bold innovation, The Mummy plays out almost like a remake of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen—and we all know how history regards that film. Whatever the studio’s intentions were, The Mummy marks one of the most extreme examples of mainstreaming horror I can think of. There may indeed be a market for watered-down horror, but you won’t find many takers in circles like ours.
Bottom Line: The Mummy is pure bubble gum, meaning some will chew it up with glee while others will find the taste saccharine. Fans of superhero franchises will most likely enjoy the mixing of tropes, but The Mummy won’t win over fans of the original Universal classics, nor horror aficionados who like their genre offerings to pack legitimate punches.