The Mummy (2017)

This review was originally featured on The Film Yap.

 

Somebody at Universal had to know that The Mummy was not a good movie. Right? Somebody had to know. I’d even wager several somebodies knew The Mummy was not good, and that this whole Dark Universe thing was a bad, bad idea, and yet … The Mummy exists. Dark Universe is emblazoned across its opening credits. And Universal just announced at least five movies that will probably never see the light of day because this is an unbelievably terrible movie.

Directed by Alex Kurtzman and clearly concocted by too many cooks, The Mummy is so bad I’m not even sure how to start talking about it. There’s nothing redeemable about it. Not one thing. It’s like this movie was put together by a bunch of men who maybe saw the previous 1932 and 1999 iterations of this story (and the rest of the original Universal Monster movies) as children and decided as older children that this “franchise” was a cash cow that needed to be tapped yesterday because they already missed the boat on the shared universe model that Marvel has perfected and DC / WB desperately wishes it could emulate.

Actually, no, I take that back. It’s not like that. It simply is that. Every decision in this movie was clearly motivated by a desire for money. It’s naive to assume other studios don’t make decisions the same way, but at least Marvel prioritizes creativity and some semblance of originality in its universe. The Mummy just wants to steal your money.

This movie doesn’t care if the plot makes zero sense. It doesn’t care if it sacrifices logic for expediency. And it certainly doesn’t care about the implications of erasing an entire culture that has already suffered Western appropriation and theft since at least 1798 (thanks, Napoleon) or of presenting its white male protagonist’s rape of the brown female villain (Algerian-born Sofia Boutella) as a moment of heroism.

Yes. You read that right. Tom Cruise defeats the Mummy by raping her.

For a half-second, I thought about adding an adjective to soften that sentence — that it’s symbolic rape, not rape rape. But that would be a lie. Using his newly acquired god powers (through means that are too stupid to explain), Cruise pins Boutella down and sucks the life from her. She writhes underneath him. She tries to fight him off. But in the end, as her body withers, all she can do is curl into the fetal position while he takes everything from her.

Kurtzman and Co. don’t even try to make this look like anything but rape.

And you know what? That’s not even the worst thing in this movie. It’s the final insult, sure, but from the beginning it’s almost like this movie goes out of its way to make the wrong decision, every single time. The only part of The Mummy that is remotely enjoyable is when Jake Johnson, the gem that has always made New Girl a sitcom worth watching, goes all-in as Cruise’s sidekick and better comedic half. And 10 minutes later, they kill him off and try to turn him into a poor man’s Jack from An American Werewolf in London, thereby obliterating what little goodwill I had for this movie in the first place.

As the movie goes on, the overwhelming question is just: “Why?” Why are we supposed to care about a bad soldier (Cruise’s Nick) who does bad things in a bad war? Why does a supposedly smart woman (Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey, a poor addition to Hollywood’s tried and true White Egyptologist Club) believe that he’s a good man “deep down,” when everything he does exemplifies exactly what kind of man he is: selfish, greedy, and small? Why should we empathize with Nick when his only motivation is to restore his sense of self after not one but two women (the horror!) have emasculated him? And why, in Anubis’s name, WHY is Russell Crowe even here?!

The insertion of Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, the leader of the Dark Universe-connecting but still amazingly ill-defined S.H.I.E.L.D. knockoff Prodigium, is so pointless it is laughable. My audience laughed. You will laugh. I, meanwhile, will go re-watch The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is certainly trash, but at least it doesn’t try to be anything but trash.

And then The Mummy doesn’t even get basic filmmaking right. A lot of big-budget movies these days aren’t really up to snuff content-wise, but at least ones like Snow White and the Huntsman and Jupiter Ascending, two of my favorite bad movies, have the benefit of being breathtaking to watch. The Mummy is visually bland, and the only thing that keeps you on your toes is how often it shifts in tone. Is this movie a horror movie? A comedy? A thriller? An action movie? It comes closest to sticking to the latter, but even then, it’s just … so boring. Even the much-hyped plane crash is boring. Action movies kind of have a free pass when it comes to stupidity, but they should never be boring!

It’s bad enough that this movie decides in its opening moments that brown people are not worthy of their own history, or that women can only exist in the virgin / whore dichotomy. And it’s very bad that this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. What’s worse is that Universal doesn’t know what Dark Universe should be. And boy, does it show.

You thought Warner Brothers might be jumping the gun when they announced a full slate of superhero movies before Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Well, The Mummy is the Universal equivalent of “hold my beer.” This movie is bad, and it’s probably going to kill Dark Universe for a second time. They tried this already with Dracula Untold, remember? Hopefully this kills it for good.



Aly Caviness is an administrator of Midwest Film Journal, possible witch, and lifelong film obsessive. Through Lynch, her grandmother taught her how to spot “The Girl,” and through Frankenstein, her grandfather taught her how to love in spite of fear. She blames Jack Sparrow for her MA in colonial Atlantic history and Guy Pearce for her marriage. By day, she works and writes in the Archives & Library at the Indiana Historical Society, which possesses such artifacts from Hoosier film history as James Dean’s high school yearbooks and posters from the 1997 classic, “George of the Jungle.” By night, she mostly cries about Laura Palmer.


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