What’s this all about?
So recently this movie came out. Now a lot of people in America seem to have something against this movie, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I do feel, much like some of my friends I’ve spoken to, that there seems to be a biased against it merely because it doesn’t call back to the action fun of Bendan Fraser’s Mummy movies, nor to the dark, stoic excellence that was the Mummy as played by Boris Karloff. This isn’t fair. And while I’m not saying everyone has to like this movie, I still think it deserves to get more of a chance than it has been given. So. Here is my review of 2017’s The Mummy.
A Quick Summary
The Mummy follows a military man named Nick who also happens to be a grave robber who likes to steal treasure from ancient burial sites and sell them on the black market. In this movie, he stumbles upon the burial site of Princess Amunet, an Egyptian princess who was damned when she sold her soul to the God of Death, Set, in exchange for eternal power on Earth. When Princess Amunet is transported to England, she crashes the plane in order to regain Set’s dagger and unleash him onto the world through the body of her “Chosen One,” Nick. Dr. Jekyll brings Nick into Perdigim after capturing Princess Amunet, who has mostly regenerated her body through stealing life from other bodies (her minions start to look and walk like zombies, which is odd, a fresh take on mummy regeneration, and somewhat campy). The rest of the movie basically just follows the main story arc of Nick and Amunet, with a bit of Jekyll and Nick’s love interest, Jenny, thrown in throughout. In the end, [SPOILERS] Nick does exactly what Amunet wanted and stabs himself with Set’s dagger, accepting the God of Death into the world. He uses his new abilities to defeat Amunet and return her to the crinkled old mummy she once was. At the end of the movie, Nick/Set is roaming the world on some unknown quest.
Some Reasons to Hate the Movie
- The comic relief. As unfortunate as it is, every new cinematic universe starting out has to compete with those who came before. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the giant in that field is Marvel, and Marvel’s tried-and-true formula always makes a point to make a joke or a jab whenever things start to get deep – because obviously the audience can’t take a bit of darkness or reality in a movie. This movie tried to follow the Marvel formula without making it obvious, and it completely failed. I don’t just mean that it wasn’t funny enough, or that it wasn’t often enough. What I mean is that every attempt at humor was ill-timed, poorly executed, and honestly more annoying than anything else. The comic relief character was Nick’s best friend, played by Jake Johnson. While I love the actor in New Girls, I don’t think his role in the film was appropriate. He was only used as a tool, had no real character development, and left people cringing more often than laughing with the terrible timing. Can I say it’s Johnson’s fault? No. It might be – or maybe it was the six different script writers each trying to tell their own story, more focused on making their own mark than on making a good script. But whatever it was, I honestly think the movie would’ve been so much better without the failed attempt at comic relief.
- Dr. Jekyll and all his chit-chat. I cannot express how much I hated Dr. Jekyll in this movie. Much like the comic relief character, I would rather his character not even exist in this film. Why, you might ask? He’s played by Russel Crowe! How can he possibly be such a terrible part of the movie? Well, it’s not about Russel Crowe. Russel Crowe is fine. He plays the intellectual doctor well. He plays the crazed maniac well, and honestly, even his shifts in accent and speech patters were spot on for a quality portrayal of a dual-personality! That is… if he’d HAD a personality. All he ever was in this movie was EXPOSITION, EXPOSITION, EXPOSITION. Not once did I see him being a character. Even when he had his first opportunity, the glorious moment of just maybe showing how intricate his character really is, what does he do? Tell his backstory. In third person. There is one rule in the world of good storytelling that when broken, can easily destroy a good idea – that’s the “show, don’t tell” rule. The whole point of visual storytelling is that there’s so much less you have to tell, because the person watching is typically smart enough to see the story you’re trying to tell. But they failed at even that. Instead of showing the reality, they had Jekyll tell his history. Or at the very least they could’ve done a flashback while having the guts to let Jekyll say it was him. That would be like me writing this review saying, “while watching this film, the writer of this blog post was displeased. She did not feel the delivery of some characters was appropriate, and it gave her much distaste for the story.” It would be annoying, right? Why wouldn’t I just tell you like any reasonable person – using the personal “I”? Maybe they thought it was artsy or clever, but when sandwiched by nothing but exposition in the same role, it failed to do even that.
- A lackluster female lead. I know what you’re thinking. “You’re just judging it because Wonder Woman came out the week before, and that’s a crazy-awesome female-led film.” That’s true, but that’s really not it at all. Jenny was cute. She was kinda feisty, and did her best to be independent and strong-willed. All of these are great things! Unfortunately, it was all cookie-cutter. She was cute in all the typical ways, she was feisty right when it was predictable, and even her strong-willed persona seemed to do nothing to get you to love the character as anyone exceptional or memorable. While she wasn’t as terrible for the overall movie as, say, the comic relief or Dr. Jekyll, she definitely didn’t feel like a stand-out, memorable character.
But There Were Some Moments of Perfection…
- They weren’t scared to go dark. This movie, as many people know, is meant to be the launching platform for a monster cinematic universe they’re calling the Dark Universe. These movies aren’t meant to be anti-hero stories, and they aren’t meant to be safe. Unless you’re the kind of person who typically roots for the villains – I’m talking to all you Jason Voorhees or Joker fans who seem to prefer the violent or twisted evil characters over the heroes we’re meant to root for. The Universal Monsters classically speaking are meant to be terrifying. And for all the flack this movie has gotten about the bad parts, the one thing I think it truly succeeded in was making Princess Amunet’s story a truly chilling one. No, she wasn’t the intimidating figure that Boris Karloff was, but not many movies can get away with the depiction of true evil like this one did. When Princess Amunet, sole heir to her father’s throne, sees that her stepmother gave birth to a son who would steal her power and inherit her throne, she sold her soul to Set, the God of Death. The scene where this happened was masterfully shot and visually delivered many tropes of evil without seeming cliche or old. Crows, blood, and even the fact that she was naked, are all visuals and standards surrounding selling one’s soul to the devil. But the true evil came when she killed her family. Killing her step mother made sense, and killing her father out of rage even moreso. [MATURE CONTENT: GRAPHIC] And while it is expected that she would kill the baby, that was the only death they showed which reiterated the evil in a visual cue – they literally splattered the blood of an infant on her face as she murdered him. That scene was pure, horror gold. I don’t care what the other critics say: that was true to the original spirit of the Universal Monsters.
- Tom Cruise as Nick. I know what you’re thinking. I have got to be kidding you, right? Surprisingly, no. Now I realize that there are people who are “Tom Cruise Crazy.” I am not one of those people. But I’m also not the kind of person to throw an entire person’s career into a bucket just because there’s some public psyche that the actor is crazy. But Tom Cruise’s character was the only one in the whole movie who did everything the script writers wanted for the rest of the movie…all in one character. And he did it well! The comic relief character failed, but when Nick (Tom Cruise) was asked how he survived, he downed shots and had the reaction any normal person would – utter disbelief and gratitude at being alive…while also taking shots and drinking beer. Ahh, good ol’ American fashion. And that scene was funny. I went to see the movie in theaters twice, and both times everyone laughed because that reaction was so honest. It was great! And yes, this was kind of a Tom Cruise movie. Yes, it had cheesy adventure parts that felt like Mission Impossible, but is that necessarily so bad? When you’re trying to make a dark movie, it’s nice to get a main character that is relate-able, but is also just a bit too cool to be your neighbor. He’s funny, charming, adventurous, and just enough of a jerk for you to feel for him when he gets himself into shenanigans. He’s not perfect, but he’s also not the perfectly-imperfect-Mary-Sue. He is redeemable. And he was the perfect counter to Sofia Boutella’s Princess Amunet because he wasn’t such a contrast he was blinding – the like failure that his friend was. Say what you will about Tom Cruise – and maybe the movie would’ve been just as good with another actor – but Nick’s character in the movie worked. If the movie was just Amunet and Nick (with side characters as necessary), this movie could’ve been perfect.
- When they showed instead of told, it was glorious. The biggest downfall of this film was in its exposition, as I mentioned above with regard to Dr. Jekyll. If they had removed his exposition, I don’t think there would’ve been much lost from the movie, either. But the best part, one of the greatest parts, is the flashbacks of Sofia Boutella’s Princess Amunet. The power of her stance, the full commitment to the role as seen in her face – tells the story in a way well beyond what any of the words could tell. If you haven’t seen the movie, then perhaps you won’t understand, but if you have, just imagine the backstory part of the movie in the silent black-and-white movie era with dramatic music overtop. You’d still understand the movie. And despite all my hate for the comparisons, I think those scenes easily do honor to Boris Karloff’s amazing work.
The movie is broken. I imagine watching this movie is much like trying to read a script through a broken mirror. Some parts will be clear and easy to get, but there is so much shattered, missing, or reversed that it’s hard to enjoy the good parts as much as they could be. Is this movie perfect? No. But is it really deserving of a 15% by the critics on Rotten Tomatoes? So maybe it fell prey to the pressure Marvel has set to build a full universe quickly. Perhaps it committed the same sins that people say Batman Vs. Superman did in rushing to a collab monster movie and introducing everyone rather than the one the title promised. But it’s not the worst movie of the summer, and even though it’s too late to give this movie a second chance, I think there are enough redeemable qualities for audiences (and ideally critics) to give the Dark Universe a second chance. Let’s just hope they don’t disappoint fans on the second go-round!
Note: This blog is typically for Christian reviews, but I wanted to focus more on the film-making and storytelling aspect in this particular review. Thanks for reading! If you would like a Christian analysis, comment below!
Blog Image Sources:
- Featured: http://universalmonstersuniverse.com/2016/08/11/what-does-brendan-fraser-think-of-2017s-the-mummy/
- Comic Relief: http://www.instyle.com/news/jake-johnson-hot-the-mummy
- Amunet screaming: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/214202526007898530/
- Boris Karloff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mummy_(1932_film)