M: The Mummy (2017)

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Please note I insist on using the poster without Cruise.

Good grief, where to begin?

I guess the beginning will suffice. The beginning’s okay.

In the early 12th century, Templars bury one of their own, with a mysterious jewel, in a hidden tomb. The tomb is discovered in modern times, and a odd panel of hieroglyphics tells the tale of an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), destined to inherit her kingdom – until her father has a son late in life. Ahmanet strikes a deal with the god Set, murders her father and half-brother, and is preparing to complete the rite which will incarnate Set into a living man – but the rite is interrupted and Ahmanet is mummified alive and interred in yet another hidden crypt.

All this is fine, if rather reminiscent of the opening of the 1999 Mummy. Nice to see a female version of the monster. I like Sofia Boutella.

Get out of my genre, Tom.

Back to present day, however, in Iraq, where ISIL is tearing down an ancient temple. Two Army scouts are watching from a nearby hill, One pulls down his scarf, revealing he is Tom Cruise, and everything goes to shit. Because at that point, it becomes a Tom Cruise movie.

I don’t hate Tom Cruise, as many people seem to – I just don’t watch his movies, mostly. I will admit enjoying the last two Mission Impossible movies, and Eyes Wide Shut, but he’s just not a factor that draws me to a movie. The story will continue to illustrate to me why this is so. Cruise is Nick Morton, who stole a map with some coordinates from a one-night stand with Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). He figures there’s buried treasure, and he and his partner, Chris (Jake Johnson) will be rich.

This is a bad plan, and Chris winds up calling in an airstrike just to save both their asses. The strike uncovers a hidden tomb, and re-enter Jenny, who holds an unreasonable amount of clout with the military. She gets a limited amount of time to examine the tomb, and against her better judgement is assigned Nick and Chris to assist.

Jenny represents a global organization called Prodigium. Prodigium means a number of things, among them portents, or wonders, or monsters. In this case, it seems to mean Bad Ideas ‘R’ Us as what they find is Ahmanet’s hidden prison tomb. Jenny correctly interprets all the signs and machinery as meaning DO NOT DISTURB, GO AWAY, THIS MEANS YOU, DON’T DO IT and she is still determined to bring this piece of erased history to light.

The cargo plane carrying our supposed heroes and the sarcophagus run into problems, mainly Chris getting possessed and killed and a flock of kamikaze crows causing the plane to crash (this movie can’t even get me involved enough to do the murder of crows joke). Nick manages to get Jenny into a parachute and out, but in the crash the sarcophagus is lost, and everybody is killed, including Nick. Yay!

Here’s an exciting scene from the movie we SHOULD have gotten.

Except that Nick wakes up later in the morgue. Ahmanet is loose, sucking out souls to regain her power. Nick is under some sort of curse and cannot die, or so he is told by his dead buddy Chris, who keeps following him around and trying to guide him to Ahmanet, who wants that jewel found in the Templar tomb to complete her magic dagger, and Nick’s deathless body to incarnate Set into, so she can rule the world in darkness, which is what your modern-day movie mummies do. None of that profaning-the temple or reincarnated love claptrap. That’s your grandmother’s Mummy movie.

This is still an okay setup for a movie. The major problem with the execution is that at this point the movie becomes entirely about Nick Morton, with the title character essentially becoming what seems to be an afterthought that annoyed the filmmakers. Ahmanet is captured in the second act and spends a remarkable amount of time restrained in a chamber while Prodigium embalms her with mercury (which seems to be the equivalent of silver in the Dark Universe), so that Dr. Jekyll can dissect her.

Oh, yes, the head of Prodigium is none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). His plan to dissect Ahmanet is in keeping with the organization’s credo of “The Worst Plan Possible”, as is his practice of injecting himself with the necessary drugs to prevent him from turning into Mr. Hyde (with, of course, an extreeeeeeeeme six-chambered hypo) at the very last second.

But I don’t really mind that – Russell Crowe is one of the very few bright spots in this movie. He’s the only one who seems to know what kind of movie he’s making – one that is destined to be labeled a Superfund site – and has decided “Fuck it!” and goes for it.

Reportedly Cruise used his influence during shooting and editing to emphasize his character, but whatever actually happened, the result is disastrous. Annabelle Wallis’s main function is to convince us that Nick Morton is actually a good person, and Cruise doesn’t cooperate. His usual wisecracking manchild persona just doesn’t fit here, and concentrating on that to the detriment of the intended story basically mummifies it alive. For a movie called The Mummy, there is damned little Mummy and a whole lot of some sort of Wandering Jew character that has no prior instance in the pop mythology supposedly being employed. How the hell do you hire Sofia Boutella and then not use her?

Did you know that the dictionary has a new illustration for “Hubris”?

This is rather famously Universal’s “No! Really! This time for sure!” launch of their Dark Universe titles, something that had been attempted before with 2010’s The Wolfman and 2014’s Dracula Untold, both of which apparently no longer exist, as far as Universal is concerned. The sad part is, they could have probably capitalized on the 1999 Mummy and even its sequels, which were at least entertaining, not an endurance contest like this one. As it is, it merely makes us miss that movie, and constantly ripping off An American Werewolf in London with the undead Chris doesn’t help matters, either.

As I did with I, Frankenstein, I’m going to quote a tweet from film writer A. M. Novak, who makes this very excellent point:

It has been proven over and over again that the rich heritage of Universal’s 1930s mastery of the horror genre is in very wrong hands. Supposedly The Bride is Frankenstein was next, though at the very beginning of October, Universal announced they were pulling the plug on it. Horror fans breathed a sigh of relief, since judging from The Mummy, that one would have wound up being about The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Buy The Mummy on Amazon. See if I care.

 

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the warnings. I was aaaaaalmost willing to give this a try *despite* the ad campaign making it clear that this was pretty much exactly the film you described. I’m not Cruise fan, but I thought War of the Worlds was pretty tolerable if one ignored the bits before the war machines emerge and the bits after Tim Robbins, so perhaps The Mummy might not be a vast annoying waste of time. So, thanks again!

    • I’m always glad to be the creepy old guy in slasher movies who tries to warn off doomed campers.

  2. Hey! I liked The Incredible Shrinking Man!

    Uh, anyway, yep. As soon as I saw the trailer for this rot, I knew it was going to be Cruise controlled all the way. Meh, I’ll catch it on cable at some point if I have time to kill. Universal is whiffing it on these reboots, but I do need to see two of those films listed in that tweet so I can see what you’re angling at. Crimson Peak was wonderful (and misunderstood by too many, grrr).

  3. I was really surprised after I saw the trailer that “The Shape of Water” wasn’t the Dark Universe reboot of Creature from the Black Lagoon.


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