By Nikki Jamieson
If Brendan Fraser was pouting before, he certainly is laughing now.
With movie season full upon us, I can’t help but feel the need to write about the very highs and lows of it. Guess which category this film falls into?
Universal released The Mummy at the beginning of June, with the hope that they can use it to relaunch their arsenal of classic monster movies under the Dark Universe banner. Considering the success of the money franchise — this would make it it’s fourth reboot since the original came out in 1932 — their logic sounds fair. Most people are at least familiar with characters such as Dracula and Frankenstein, but with the success of the 1999 The Mummy reboot — with two sequels and a spin-off series — going for a tried and true monster would be a good way to go.
Yes, there is some questions as to why go for the Mummy, especially when it hasn’t even been ten years since the last film came out. But hey, got to keep those character rights, why else would Fox keep making Fantastic Four films otherwise?
But back to the Mummy. With the exception of that first trailer — which was a major error on their part (seriously though; you spend $125 million to make a film, and you can’t pay someone to check to see if the trailer has the right sound track?), hype set in. I mean on the surface, the film had it all; good special effects, classic characters, well-liked actor in the starring role (Tom Cruise) and a decent budget.
The premise went like this. In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh had a daughter who was going to succeed him. But, once she was grown, he remarried and had a son, effectively kicking her off the throne.
She makes a pact with the Egyptian god of death, Set, to kill her family in exchange for giving him a corporal form, i.e. stab someone with a special dagger so he can take over their body. She kills her family, but when she tries to fulfill her side of the bargain, she is stopped by priests who mummify her alive and take her someplace very far away from Egypt.
At some point during the crusades, English knights find the dagger, proabbly figure out what it was supposed to do, spilt the stone from the handle and hide the pieces.
Fast forward to today, where Cruise and his buddy are treasure-hunting thieves using their status as scouts for the U.S. military to cover up their antique robbing. He and his buddy accidentally uncover a tomb after an airstrike when they went into insurgent territory in search of treasure located on a map Cruise stole from an archaeologist he had a one night stand with. Said archaeologist arrives on sites, deduces it’s a tomb, and Cruise frees the mummy’s sarcophagus from it’s mercury prison. They put the sarcophagus on a plane to take it back to England, but Cruise’s buddy kills the army colonel and tries to attack everyone else before Cruise kills him. After which, a lot of crows crash into the plane, sending it towards the ground, killing everyone but the archaeologist, because Cruise gave the only parachute to her. He then wakes up, alive and unharmed, in a morgue, to be told by the spirit of his (now dead) buddy that the mummy has placed one heck of a curse on him.
Cue mummy antics and people screaming.
The first 15 minutes of the film were good. The Mummy’s back story was good. But it quickly went down hill from there.
While the 1999 film went for a humour/horror/action vibe, the 2017 remake tried to be a full-on horror film. It failed, due to an abundance of over the top cliches. It also lacked a lot of the suspense that good horror films have, namely you knew what was going to happen next in a predictable, and not in a Hitchcock, sort of way, so the jumps just really weren’t there.
And the character development. Buddy only went from ‘Why are we doing this?’ to ‘Just give up man so I can get out of here’. The archaeologist, while initially promising, calling Cruise out and shaming him over trying to steal her life’s work, quickly failed the sexy lamp test — or when a female character can be replace by a sexy lamp and the plot still progresses — and did nothing but fawn over Cruise like he was the love of her life right after the plane crashed. Yes, I understand he saved your life, but he still is the jerk that tried to steal what would have been the biggest find of your career.
The Mummy was bent on gaining power and fulfilling her pact with Set — which I can say is reasonable, I mean, do you want to make a god of death angry because you broke your promise? But she seems more interesting in sleeping with Cruise/Set then she does taking over the world.
And Cruise, what happened to you? You’ve played rogue army guys, you’ve played the hero, you’ve played the scoundrel before? This should have been in your reelhouse, so why did you act like it was your first elementary school play?
And to top it off (spoilers), they bring in Dr. Jekyll, who has a total Mr. Hyde moment in the film. Now supposedly, Jekyll/Hyde is going to be the character that ties the Dark Universe films together, as he heads an organization dedicated to containing evil. But the Hyde act doesn’t work here, because not only did it completely interrupt the Mummy sequence, but it was so out of left field it just had you going ‘Huh?’. If they were going to bring in Hyde, maybe they should have done it in a later film, and kind of built up to it. They already had Jekyll injecting himself with the non-monster serum while he gave a monologue about monsters, all they did was rush through what could have been a good story arch.
Yes, the CGI was on point. But when the script is stilted and your characters lack any real depth, no amount of special effects can save you.
Some people may argue that one positive thing about this movie is it passes the bechdel test, as the Mummy and the archaeologist have a conversation about what lies beyond death. I call them out on this. The bechdel test is literally whether the film has at least two (preferably named) female characters who can have a conversation that doesn’t involve men. Stars Wars: A New Hope doesn’t pass the bechdel test, despite it passing both the sexy lamp test and the Mako Mori test (where a female character has her own character arch that’s not about supporting a male character), along with the 1999 version of The Mummy (although technically, you could count the scene where Evie and the mummified Anck-su-Namun scream at each other if you squint). Passing it doesn’t necessarily make it a good film, it just gives you points for it not being all about insert-male-character-here.
But what has got to be the biggest let down of the film is the final fight scene. Cruise is wounded, the Mummy is on the verge of victory, time for the last ditch effort to beat the baddie… and it lasts all of 15 seconds.
Fifteen seconds of anti-climactic nothing. For all of the Mummy tossing people around and unleashing her power to destroy everything in the first hour and a half of the film, there was nothing. No effort. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Ultimately, this version of the Mummy doesn’t give the franchise the thrills that its predecessor’s delivered. Back to the tomb it should go.