The Mummy: Flopping In A Theater Near You
Released June 9, 2017 Rating:
Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
I’m going to be honest, I never really got into the “original” (I realize there was a 1932 film so I guess that’s not really accurate) franchise in the 1990’s. Which is kind of odd considering I am fascinated with Ancient Egypt, both its actual history and its mythology. I also am not a fan of Tom Cruise. So really, why did I even plan on seeing this movie? The trailer. The trailer made me want to see this movie. It did its job and sold me on the film. I wish it hadn’t.
Starting with the good – this movie is action-packed, never lets up on its pace, is under two hours (a rarity for an action blockbuster), has a few laughs (though emphasis on the few), has great special effects and most importantly: Sofia Boutella.
Boutella plays the titular Mummy, which isn’t the easiest role. Sparse on dialogue and more about movement, expression, and trying to convey so much with so little it would take extreme talent just to pull off. But Boutella does more than that, she steals the spotlight from Cruise – this is her movie. (I didn’t realize until I looked her up that this isn’t the first performance where I was like, “Wow, who is that?” Boutella played warrior Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond.) It’s all in her eyes, which are haunted, eerie, slighted, powerful, evil and at times, sad. She alone almost makes this movie worth watching.
Onto the rest… The Mummy is not a bad movie. It’s written by experienced screenwriters, most notably David Koepp, who know how to tell a story. The actors all gave decent performances and the director delivered exactly what Universal Pictures asked for… and that’s the problem. For the first time ever, I am actually blaming a flop on a movie studio, rather than the story, the actors, or the direction. I’m a little surprised, but I’m going to run with this.
Universal ordered The Mummy without actually thinking about what the original films were, why they worked and what audiences want now. First off, The Mummy is not a horror film. It’s not an action film. It’s a look at an alt-reality, which means we should be deeply rooted in that world, or at least be able to see it. Secondly, audiences have changed in the last eighteen years, which means what they’re interested in seeing has changed too. I would think a studio would be the most in tune with what audiences want to see, but apparently not.
The Mummy follows a strict formula that makes me envision an action blockbuster manufacturing plant that turns out one after another, like a conveyer belt machine. Of course with everything automated in this metaphor/imaginative reality there is no heart or substance in anything produced. It’s about quantity over quality.
As an artist/writer, I can understand that sometimes the “shot callers” have no idea what they’re asking for. They have an idea of what they want, thinking it will mean X, when they end up with something so flat and clichéd they’re upset when it’s what they actually asked for. I feel that’s what happened here at no fault to the writers, director or actors. Universal unknowingly asked for a flop when really they should have simply known better.
If you haven’t seen The Mummy yet, do yourself a favor and watch the trailer. And be happy with just that.