‘The Mummy’ Film Review
Resurrects more tired tropes than formidable villains.
In preparation for writing this review of 2017’s The Mummy, I re-watched 1999’s The Mummy, which catapulted Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz to screen stardom. A childhood favourite of mine, I attempted to not let nostalgia taint my critical perception of the movie. The 1999 Mummy is a silly, exposition-heavy movie with some poorly dated CGI—and I can absolutely, objectively, without bias, state that it is far better than the remake starring Tom Cruise. Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is a goofy, likable lead who has undeniable chemistry with his co-star, the writing pops with blockbuster zingers and the action scenes are properly lit so you can actually tell what’s going on.
Its remake is a cynical, plodding and dimly lit origin story with none of the B-movie charm of the original.
Before the movie even begins, the Universal Pictures logo flips around to tell us we’re in the ‘Dark Universe’, a new franchise of action monster movies which will include remakes of Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Let’s hope the first instalment is not indicative of what will follow.
Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a soldier out in the Middle East who breaks away from his battalion to loot for treasure with sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson). After a flash of cuts signifying they got into some trouble with the locals, our two heroes call in an airstrike as swiftly as an UberEATS delivery which reveals a giant, buried tomb. They accidentally resurrect Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who selects Nick as a human sacrifice so she can be with her ex-lover from thousands of years ago.
Director Alex Kurtzman (known as a screenwriter for several Transformers movies) and his six clueless writers have crafted a film that isn’t without a few thrilling moments. Unfortunately, it is so blatantly a marketing scheme cooked up by Universal’s executives to jump in on the franchise trend that the film becomes a fascinating study into what happens when a big budget action movie just plain doesn’t work.
The unappealing cast of characters is probably its biggest failing. Pushing 60, Tom Cruise is paired with bland Annabelle Wallis, 30 years his junior, and with whom he shares no chemistry. It’s baffling to consider Hollywood is prolonging this gross trend of actresses being almost half the age of their male co-stars, but this is just one of The Mummy’s many refusals broaden its horizons. The movie’s plot hinges on the inherent ‘goodness’ of Nick, a selfish liar totally uninterested in anything but the cash promised by his discovery. Boutella’s Ahmanet also seems to have eyes for Nick, as she runs her devilish black tongue up and down his neck. The movie seems to think that by swapping out the male antagonist from previous Mummy movies and casting a female, the audience won’t notice the screenwriters’ borderline disdain for its female characters. Too bad Ahmanet is a dull villain sexualised by scantily clad bandages and an absurd lust for Nick.
Who would’ve thought five male screenwriters would fail to produce a compelling female character? Though, to be fair, none of the characters are compelling.
Complementing the atrocious script is Alex Kurtzell’s direction, clearly gleaned from Michael Bay’s school of frenetic jump cuts that blind audiences to the fact that there’s nothing interesting happening on screen. Pair this with cinematographer Ben Seresin’s decision to colour every action scene in a steely blue, and the mummy fights are at headache if they’re not putting you to sleep. With the film’s backwards gender politics and incomprehensible direction it’s starting to look like Wonder Woman’s miserable antagonist.
Audiences shouldn’t have to stand for lazy filmmaking like this. Big studios can produce fun, campy action movies and they don’t need to blackmail audiences into returning for the next instalment with half-baked plotlines. Almost two decades ago The Mummy earned a sequel because audiences wanted to revisit its joyful tone and competent filmmaking. Audiences are flocking to see Wonder Woman because it’s an entertaining story and it breaks away from sexist trends. If the ‘Dark Universe’ is intent on employing hacks who prolong poisonous tropes, this cinematic universe is going to implode on itself pretty soon.