Quick Hit – Buckle in young’ins, it’s gonna be a long one today.
I’ve made it abundantly clear how fond I am of horror films. So I had cautious optimism when I began to hear rumblings that Universal was talking about building a present day cinematic universe with their famous cache of monsters. I stress “present day” because people forget that years before Kevin Feige and Robert Downey Jr. were born, Universal had the original cinematic universe with their monsters. There was Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein which essentially accomplished what Marvel has, and DC is trying to today. These movies are fantastic examples of how a series can go off the rails, by becoming parodies of their own genre in order to survive the ever daunting boredom of audiences.
That’s a long way of saying that the idea of a movie based on The Mummy (1932) starring a then practically unheard of Boris Karloff, has a lot of merit in my mind. Most modern audiences haven’t seen a mummy movie that wasn’t played for comedy, and instead embraced for the horror classic that it is. But the more I saw about the movie The Mummy (2017), the more my optimism waned. It was starting to look more and more like Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy (1999 – all these dates are getting confusing). That’s because it was looking more and more like an action/comedy, and less and less like a horror film.
Don’t misunderstand me dear readers – I’m a pretty big fan of Brendan Fraser’s series. It has some extraordinary effects and some truly scary moments that haunted me for weeks as a ten year old (like the mummy absorbing peoples body parts *Shiver*). But I don’t want that from a cinematic universe (at least not in the first one) about my Universal Horror Monsters. I want the horror aspect.
So, as I stood in line, all these things ran through my head, and I sat down wondering how bad it was going to be.
Honestly, all my worries were proved correct. This movie is overstuffed, and has such a tonal dissonance that much of the movie is a complete washout. Not a total one, mind you, but a lot of it.
After a large exposition delivered by a hidden Russell Crowe (who will know forever sound like Jor-El to me) explaining Ahmenet’s roots in Egypt, we are treated to Tom Cruise being Brendan Fraser in modern day Iraq. It's interesting, because after the extremely serious opening (which features infanticide), we now have Cruise and side kick Jake Johnson trading quips in a desert. It’s the first example in a long series of them of how the movie seems to want to have its cake and eat it too.
Cue future action scenes with Tom Cruise running, and a needless (though cool) zero gravity scene in a falling airplane. After this point full of seriousness, we’re back to comedy with a now dead Jake Johnson. Flip away from Cruise, and we finally get to see the mummy being a mummy. It may be one of my favorite moments in the movie because it’s actually scary. The movement, the setting, and the effects are awesome. It’s truly gruesome and horrifying, and the Mummy’s beginning is great.
Ok, to this point I’ve pretty much given you half the movie, but it’s half the movie you were going to know about anyway, so I don’t feel that bad. I’ll now do some real reviewing and quit ranting about everything.
There are some high points in this movie. The scene I mentioned prior to this is one. There are also some other standouts – I particularly liked Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll. I liked how they combined the science of evil with the magic of superstition and evil. It’s something that few films can do successfully, but this is one point that they knocked out of the park. The effects overall are pretty good, though I didn’t like some scenes that included the undead. The whole explosion into dust thing wasn’t my favorite, but you have to take that kind of thing with Mummy movies.
I also really liked the look of Sofia Boutella’s Ahmenet. She looked spooky, she acted spooky, and she had no issues really portraying an Egyptian goddess. I also thought that Tom Cruise was solid, if cliché, as the action hero here. His acting is rarely something I rave over, but he consistently hit all the emotional beats he needed to, even if they were lessened by the constant comedic/dramatic shift of the script.
Again though, I have to fall back onto the overstuffedness of it all. There are some scenes that seem straight out of Amazing Spiderman 2 that show images that are only meant to set up future things (I see your Creature from the Black Lagoon and Wolfman references). There is the constant comedic dead friend, who is reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London (thanks to Matthew at the screening for giving voice to this thought). And then there’s the overall Batman V. Superman feel of inclusion of scenes that only serve the purpose to set up future movies. I like seeing Eddie Hyde as much of the rest of them, but I sure can say it didn’t further the plot at all.
This film has lots of problems and only a few bright lights. It somehow manages to thrill me and times and ultimately disappoint me. I left the theater wanting more, but not necessarily more of this movie. I want more of the moments that are good. Give me horror Universal, and I shall give you the grade accordingly. It’s entertaining, but not enough to go to the theater to see it. I’m going to give this rendition of The Mummy a sad “C-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"