Released on: June 9 2017
Starring: Tom Cruise
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
When I was a kid, I would watch The Mummy 1999 (the one with Brendan Frasier) regularly. Looking back on it now, it was a decent adventure movie. Brendan Frasier was charismatic enough to sell us on the “debonair thief” archetype, and the mummy itself was sufficiently intimidating for a villain while also being campy, making the movie fun. When the trailer for The Mummy 2017 released, people were immediately starting drawing comparisons to the 1999 movie. It became apparent rather quickly, however, that the 2017 film takes on an entirely different tone. When it was finally released, the consensus trended towards the negative. I decided to check it out three years later to see for myself. So, how bad was The Mummy 2017?
Let’s start with the positives.
I like the visuals of The Mummy 2017; they remind me a lot of a modern version of the 1999 Mummy. The mummies look creepy and decayed (which I hoped they would since they are rotting corpses). I also enjoyed the cinematography. With some action movies, I feel they often try to make them stylish, which would look cool if we could see what was happening. The computer graphics (CG), while abundant, didn’t go overboard, which made the stunt work impressive. The Mummy 2017 doesn’t overdo it with its action scenes either. I was able to follow every punch, kick, throw, and special effect on the screen.
The ideas and concepts The Mummy 2017 presents are fascinating. The fact that this mummy can absorb someone’s life, turn them into a zombie/mummy and then take control of them is a frightening idea. I do wish these ideas were pushed further, like resurrecting the monsters found on the compound.
My favorite aspect of The Mummy 2017, is the antagonist, Ahmanet (played by Sophia Boutella). She was the one thing that held my interest in this movie. Her powers are terrifying. She subtly controls the actions of our hero during the majority of the film. She sucks the life out of the living and reanimates their corpse for her to control. If I cared about the people, I’m supposed to cheer for on a more personal level, and if the world were more interesting, she would be a fantastic movie monster.
Now for the meat and potatoes of this review, the issues…
The pacing of The Mummy 2017 is too quick. The introduction of our protagonist happens abruptly; then, an action scene unfolds, then it gets resolved, in comes our romantic lead, out of nowhere, and shoehorns herself into the story. The movie also makes no effort to make these people relatable. It feels like The Mummy 2017 was not comfortable with its characters and just wanted to show off its action scenes. While the action scenes are cool, they would be more poignant if we cared about who these people are.
The Mummy 2017’s biggest folly is its story. Though the pacing mentioned above hurts the characters, even if this weren’t the case, they would still come off as forgettable. In The Mummy 2017’s case, I don’t blame the actors, but I will criticize the writing. Our protagonist, Nick (played by Tom Cruise), would have been compelling if we knew more about why he became a thief and why he enlisted in the U.S. military. I assumed he was in the army, but once they leave Iraq, they never get referenced again. The love interest is another person that I have trouble justifying. Sure, she can read hieroglyphics, since she’s an archeologist, and it is clear that her purpose is to be Nick’s romantic lead, but most of the time, I referred to her as “blonde lady” since she did little else to stand out from her archetype. The Mummy 2017 tries to have its funny moments, like in Marvel’s Avengers, or even The Mummy 1999, but because of how generic our heroes are, the humor tends to fall flat. Another example I can think of that the actors are just playing their part, and not living in a world, is when they set the mummy free. In The Mummy 1999, it was released from its sarcophagus by accident when the romantic lead read from the Book of the Dead (why one would read that is beyond me.) Foolish, but at least the mummy’s release was because of a magic book. In The Mummy 2017, our main character is the one that releases the mummy for no discernable reason, by shooting non-mystical, non-magical chains. I suppose one could make the argument that the mummy already had partial control of our hero, but nothing about that scene eluded to this being the case. So why did he shoot the chain that was keeping the mummy sealed? I sometimes have conversations with people that tell me, “it’s just a movie” like I am supposed to ignore the fact that our character does things that make no sense. Some people might be able to overlook something like this, but things like this can break the audience’s immersion of a movie.
While watching The Mummy 2017, I got the impression that the makers had an idea to make a “movie monster cinematic universe.” During the events of the movie, we meet Dr. Jekyll (played by Russell Crowe), who tells us that there are other monsters in the world, but for right now, we are focusing on the mummy. During this scene, we see a lot of references to other movie monsters, like the wolfman. The very beginning of the movie tells us that there was a crusade and that a lot of soldiers died and buried in England. I would usually be okay with something like this, but with something like “The Mummy,” I would imagine Egypt would be a better setting. All of this would be a neat idea if there were any sort of effort to build the world, rather than just telling us about it. The way the story plays out, and the lack of character development, I feel like I missed a movie that came before this one.
The Mummy 2017 had a lot of great ideas. It’s a shame that the story and characters are too weak to make the movie enjoyable. If the film had a slower pace so that the story can be more fleshed-out, the plot more focused on world-building than getting our characters from point A to point B, and it tried to be a standalone movie, rather than being a clear set up for a cinematic universe, then The Mummy would have been a much better film. As it stands, it is too dull and dumb for me to recommend.