Monday, July 3, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: The Mummy

The Mummy, which is not to be confused with The Mummy (1911), The Mummy (1932), The Mummy (1959) or The Mummy (1999) was written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman. Yes, somehow it took three people to write this script, and I'm convinced none of them ever communicated with each other at any point. It was directed by Alex Kurtzman.

Oddly enough The Mummy has some actual talent behind the screen, as it was written by people who've done some very good work in the past. This makes it all the more puzzling that The Mummy turned out so... bland. I guess you can't hit a homer every time at bat.


Koepp is a prolific and wildly uneven screenwriter who's penned some amazing films as well as his share of dogs. He previously wrote Dark Angel, Toy Soldiers, Death Becomes Her, Jurassic Park (!), Carlito's Way, The Shadow, Mission: Impossible, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Snake Eyes, Stir Of Echoes, Panic Room, Spider-Man (!), Secret Window, War Of The Worlds, Zathura: A Space Adventure, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (yikes), Ghost Town, Angels & Demons, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Inferno. Whew!


McQuarrie previously wrote The Usual Suspects, The Way Of The Gun, The Tourist, Jack Reacher, Jack The Giant Slayer, Edge Of Tomorrow and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. Kussman is primarily an actor, whose previous writing credits were Burn (?) and the TV series The Steps (??).


Alex Kurtzman is a very successful producer and writer of horrible films that somehow rake in hundreds of millions of dollars. He partnered with fellow terrible hack Roberto Orci for many years, creating and writing various TV series before branching into films. The two wrote The Island, The Legend Of Zorro, Mission: Impossible III, Transformers (!), Star Trek (the JJ Abrams one), Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (!!), Cowboys & Aliens, People Like Us, Star Trek Into Darkness (!!!) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. His sole theatrical directing credit was 2012's People Like Us, a low budget indie drama starring Chris Pine. Which of course makes him the perfect choice to direct a big budget, special effects-laden action/adventure movie like The Mummy!


Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet also get "story by" credit (which means they came up with the initial concept, but it was heavily rewritten by someone else).


Take any of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible films, mash it up with some Egyptian mysticism, add a healthy dose of Marvel Studios superheroics and you'll have a pretty good idea what this movie's like. Oh, and be sure and strip it of anything even remotely scary as well!

The film isn't quite as terrible as most critics are saying, but it definitely ain't good either. Mostly it's just plain deadly dull. I just checked and was amazed to see that the official runtime is listed as 107 minutes. That's gotta be a mistake, as it felt more like four hours.

The Mummy 2017 is the first film in Universal Studios' desperate attempt to start up their own shared movie world, which they've imaginatively dubbed "Dark Universe." Oy. This is obviously a blatant attempt to ape Marvel Studios and their highly lucrative cinematic universe.

Universal had great success in the 1930s and 1940s with their Classic Monster series, producing films featuring the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Bride Of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Phantom Of The Opera and the Creature From The Black Lagoon.

In 1943 Universal invented the concept of the shared movie universe with the release of Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. The film was a direct sequel to both The Ghost Of Frankenstein and The Wolfman. For the first time ever, a studio took characters from two different series and teamed them up in one movie.

Critics hated the film, but the public ate it up. In fact it was so popular that Universal continued the trend and released House Of Frankenstein in 1944 and House Of Dracula in 1945. Both films teamed up Frankenstein and the Wolfman again, but this time added Dracula to the mix. 

In 1948 they released Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which paired the comedy duo with the Big Three monsters for laughs. The film spawned an amazing three sequels: Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man, Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and Abbot And Costello Meet The Mummy. After that the "Monster Team Up Craze" petered out and died.

And here we are seven decades later, as Universal frantically tries to come up with another cinematic universe. They've been trying to start up a new one for ten years now, with increasingly disastrous results. They hoped that 2010's The Wolfman would usher in a new series of Classic Monster remakes. When that didn't work, they tried again with 2014's Dracula Untold, reshooting the ending to imply it was part of a shared world. Unfortunately audiences stayed away in droves, so they're trying yet again with, for some reason, The Mummy.

Every film studio in Hollywood wants a piece of that sweet, sweet Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe pie, but they're all going about it completely backwards. See, back in 2008, Marvel released Iron Man, a standalone superhero film with a short end credit scene that hinted at a larger universe. Over the course of the next five years, they slowly and deliberately built on that small foundation, expanding their movie world a bit at a time. This culminated in 2012's The Avengers, the ultimate shared universe team up film.

Sadly, Marvel's slow-but-sure method is too much like work for other studios. They want their shared universes, and they want 'em NOW. Screw all that patient world-building! Why establish individual characters and then team them up later, when you can start with the combo right out of the gate?


Sadly, this "cart before the horse" method never, ever works, but studios just keep on trying it anyway. Earlier this year Lionsgate Studios released their Power Rangers film, which they proudly proclaimed would be the first of a six movie franchise. The poor box office response pretty much guarantees that'll never happen.

A few months later Warner Bros. tried the exact same thing with King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, which was allegedly another attempt to start up a six film series. Once again, audiences said no thanks, and plans for King Arthur 6 were cruelly dashed.

Maybe someday a studio will set up a successful shared universe by carefully following the steps Marvel took, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Universal practically built their studio on the backs of their atmospheric, moody horror films. They're throwing all that away with The Mummy, as they attempt to turn their characters into a Marvel superheroes. I cannot emphasize this enoughThe Mummy is NOT a horror film. It's about as frightening as the average episode of Scooby-Doo, as instead it's an action-packed superhero origin story.

Seriously! Tom Cruise's Nick Morton character is basically Tony Stark, a "lovable" jerk who gains superpowers and learns to become a hero by the end of the film. There're giant action setpieces sprinkled throughout the film, as Nick battles an army of villains. There's even a Nick Fury analogue, who works for a top secret agency that's recruiting a team of "good" monsters to fight "bad" ones! Like a said, it's a superhero movie!

Part of me applauds the fact that Universal tried to do something a bit different here. After all, The Mummy's a property that's almost eighty years old— it's overdue for a fresh approach. But turning it into a superhero film was NOT the answer.

So what's Universal's endgame with their little Dark Universe? Have they really thought this idea through? They recently released a photo of the stars of their planned films, which consists of Tom Cruise (age 54) as the Mummy, Russell Crowe (age 53) as Dr. Jekyll, Johnny Depp (age 54) as the Invisible Man, Xavier Bardem (age 48) as the Frankenstein Monster and the baby of the group, Sofhia Boutella (age 35) as additional mummy Ahmanet. 

Oddly enough, the next entry in their Dark Universe series is supposedly The Bride Of Frankenstein, which is schedule to premiere in 2019 (why they're doing Bride Of Frankenstein before Frankenstein, I have absolutely no idea). That seems like an awfully long time to go between movies that are supposed to be interconnected. In comparison, Marvel Studios has regularly released two movies per year since 2008.

Anyway, by 2019 Bardem will be 50. I'm assuming Crowe will show up, since, as Dr. Jekyll, he's the glue that holds the universe together. If he does, he'll be 55 then. If Cruise deigns to make a cameo in the film, he'll be 56. Lord knows how old Depp will be if and when they ever get around to making an Invisible Man movie.

See what I'm getting at here? How long are they planning to milk this franchise? Whatever they're going to do, they'd better hurry up and do it fast, before all their rapidly aging stars shuffle off to the retirement home!


By the way, regarding this Dark Universe: if The Invisible Man movie ever gets made, I GUARANTEE you that Johnny Depp will NOT spend the entire movie in a transparent state. There's no way in hell Universal will pay him millions of dollars to not show up in a film. I'm betting they'll film it just like Memoirs Of An Invisible Man— Depp will be invisible to the other characters in the film, but the audience will be able to see him most of the time. He'll only appear invisible to us when it'd make a cool looking effect scene.

As you've probably gathered by now, The Mummy is a critical and box office flop (at least here in the States). So who's responsible? Is it Universal, for greenlighting a film no one asked for in the first place, and using it to jump start a shared universe?

Or does the blame lie with Alex Kurtzman, a hugely inexperienced director with one little indie film under his belt?

Amazingly, Universal Studios is blaming actor Tom Cruise! According to an article in Variety, Cruise saw Kurtzman floundering in the director's chair and shoved him aside, taking full control of the film. He allegedly even had the script re-written to beef up his part and downplay the role of the titular creature. He supposedly even supervised the editing and marketing of the movie as well!


According to Frank Walsh, The Mummy's supervising art director:

"This is very much a film of two halves: before Tom and after Tom. I have heard the stories about how he drives everything and pushes and pushes, but it was amazing to work with him. The guy is a great filmmaker and knows his craft. He will walk onto a set and tell the director what to do, say ‘that’s not the right lens,’ ask about the sets, and as long as you don’t fluff what you’re saying to him, he’s easy to work for (!)”
Whether any of this is true or not, it seems like a particularly dickish move on Universal's part to throw Cruise under the bus like that, placing the blame for the film's failure squarely on his shoulders. It's just gonna piss him off, and virtually guarantee he'll never star in another Dark Universe film again. Well done, Universal Studios! Way to spite that old face!

R.I.P. Universal Studios' Dark Universe: 2017 - 2017

So far the movie's underperforming at the U.S. box office, earning just $74 million against its reported $125 million budget. It's been saved by the overseas market though, where it's grossed a whopping $275 million, for a worldwide total of $349 million. Thanks a lot, China!

Due to marketing and other hidden costs, movies need to gross about twice their production budget just to break even. The Mummy passed that point, but it's still far from a runaway hit. There are reports that the actual budget was closer to $190 million. If that's true, then it's unlikely the film will ever turn a profit.

SPOILERS, I GUESS!


The Plot:

In 1157 London, a group of Crusader knights place a glowing red jewel in the hands of a fallen comrade and bury him in a catacomb. If you don't immediately recognize this jewel as a major Plot Point, then you've never seen a movie before.

Cut to the present day, when the catacomb is unearthed by construction workers. They're dismissed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (played by Russell Crowe), who assumes full control of this major archeological find. He sees a hieroglyphic symbol on the wall, which launches him into the first of many lengthy voiceovers as he infodumps the history of Princess Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella).


Ahmanet was a warrior in ancient Egypt who was all set to inherit the throne from her father, Pharaoh Menehptre. But then dad had to go and have a son with one of his wives, which automatically eliminated Ahmanet from the running. She made a deal with Set, the Egyptian god of death, who gave her a magic dagger in exchange for a corporeal body. She killed her entire family with the dagger, making her the sole heir to the throne. Then, per their deal, she prepared to stab her boyfriend with the dagger, which would allow Set to inhabit his body. She was stopped in the nick of time by a group of Menehptre's priests, who mummified her alive and took her sarcophagus out of Egypt, burying it in what is now Iraq. Got all that? Eh, don't worry, they'll repeat it again later.


Cut to present day Iraq. Civilian mercenary Nick Morton (played by a badly miscast Tom Cruise) and his pal, army Sgt. Chris Vail (played by Jake Johnson) are scoping out a small city that's occupied by insurgents. Nick has a map, which leads him to believe the city houses ancient treasure that'll make them both rich. He talks Chris into following him into the city.


Naturally things go wrong, as they're hopelessly outnumbered and pinned down by enemy gunfire on the roof of a building. Chris calls in a "small, precision" airstrike (?) which scares off the insurgents. They're still not safe though, as their building collapses, causing a deep hole to open in the ground and revealing the lost Tomb Of Ahmanet. Wow, what a coincidence!


Col. Greenway, and tears Nick and Chris new assholes for risking their lives and calling in unauthorized airstrikes. Why he doesn't just arrest them on the spot isn't made clear. Just then, archaeologist Jenny Halsey (played by Annabelle Wallis) shows up from somewhere (was she with Greenway?) and punches Nick, accusing him of stealing her map after sleeping with her. She forgets all about Nick though as soon as she sees Amhamet's Tomb.


Jenny wants to properly explore the Tomb, but Greenway only gives her one hour. For some reason, he orders Nick and Chris to help her. They descend into the Tomb, where they see a series of six statues facing inward toward a pool of mercury, which contains Ahmanet's sarcophagus. Nick and Chris pilfer gold and jewels while Jenny studies the tomb. Jenny sees there are chains holding down the sarcophagus and dramatically states, "This isn't a tomb. It's a prison!"


Jenny wants to raise the sarcophagus, but can't find any way of freeing it from the pool of mercury. Nick carelessly shoots one of the chains, which for some reason causes a series of weights and pulleys to lift the sarcophagus from the pool. Why this would happen when Jenny just said the chains were holding down the coffin, I have no idea. Nick then has a vision of Ahmanet calling to him. As he snaps out of it, he sees hundreds of camel spiders crawling out of the walls. Chris freaks out and begins shooting at them, as one bites him in the neck.


Cut to a chopper lifting the sarcophagus out of the prison, as Jenny has it loaded into a cargo plane. For some reason, Nick and Chris accompany her as well. The plane takes off just seconds before a gigantic sandstorm engulfs the area. 


Onboard the plane, Nick has another vision of Ahmanet. Meanwhile, a visibly poisoned Chris gets up and tries to cut the sarcophagus free so he can open it. Greenway tells him to knock it off, and Chris stabs him twice in the chest. A couple of soldiers pull their guns on Chris, as Nick begs them to stand down. He grabs a soldier's gun and tells them to back off from his friend. Well, until Chris starts trying to stab him, that is. Then he shoots Chris himself, killing him (!).


Suddenly a huge flock of ravens flies into the plane, crashing through the cockpit and killing the crew. In the film's signature setpiece, the plane dives straight down, as the passengers float weightlessly around the cargo hold. Several soldiers are sucked out the hatch, before Nick finds a parachute and gives it to Jenny. She puts it on and Nick pulls the ripcord, which yanks her violently out of the plane, no doubt breaking her neck or back. The plane then crashes with Nick onboard.


Nick wakes up inside a body bag in a London morgue, without a scratch on him. The ghost of Chris appears, exactly like Jack Goodman in An American Werewolf In London, and tells him they're both cursed. Just then, Jenny's brought in to identify Nick's body, and is shocked to see him standing there talking to nothing.


At the plane crash site, two lone policemen sift through the wreckage. One finds the opened sarcophagus, while the other finds Ahmanet's shriveled, mummified body. He sticks his face closer and closer to hers, practically touching it. To absolutely no one's surprise, she springs into action, sucking the life-force from the cop. She does the same to the other one, and they then become her shambling, undead thralls.


Meanwhile, Nick and Jenny sit in a pub, discussing everything that's happened. Nick sees Ghost Chris motioning to him, and meets him in the rest room. Ghost Chris says that Ahmanet has chosen Nick to be the new host for Set. Naturally this unnerves Nick, and he runs into an alley. He's attacked by a swarm of rats, as Ahmanet's bony body crawls toward him. Suddenly he snaps out of it, and finds himself standing outside next to Jenny. He tells her he's been seeing visions of Ahmanet.


Jenny infodumps some more backstory, telling Nick that after Ahmanet was buried, the Dagger Of Set was broken in half and buried in two separate locations for safe keeping. Too bad the Crusaders didn't just, oh, I don't know, destroy the goddamned thing and be done with it! Anyway, the dagger was hidden in a church somewhere in England, while the red jewel was buried with a Crusader (which we saw at the beginning of the movie). Without the jewel, the Dagger's powerless.


Nick says he knows where to find the Dagger, and leads her to a church near the plane crash. Nick enters the church and is immediately attacked by an almost completely restored Ahmanet and her minions. She breaks a small statue open and takes the Dagger from inside it. Just how she knew it was inside that particular statue is left to our imaginations. The minions hold down Nick as Ahmanet raises the Dagger over her head, intent on stabbing him.


Just then Jenny enters, interrupting the ceremony. Nick takes advantage of the distraction, grabs the Dagger and Jenny and runs outside. They steal a police van and race through the woods, as Ahmanet's zombie minions try to stop them. One of them causes the van to crash, trapping Jenny inside and throwing Nick clear. Ahmanet approaches him, but she's captured by a team of soldiers with high-tech gear.


Nick and Jenny are taken to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, er, I mean Prodigium, a super-secret facility under the Natural History Museum Of London. Nick Fury, er, I mean Dr. Jekyll welcomes Nick to Prodigium, explaining that the organization is dedicated to discovering, studying and controlling monsters. Jekyll then explains Ahmanet's origin story yet again as he explains it to Nick (and the audience as well). Nick sees Ahmanet chained in the center of the room, her body being pumped full of mercury to weaken her. 


Nick is concerned about the way they're treating Ahmanet, and walks toward her. She gives him the sad eyes as she pleads with him, promising he'll become a living god if he helps her escape. Nick snaps out of it and returns to Jekyll's office, where he's surprised to see that Jenny actually works for Prodigium, and Jekyll's her boss. Jenny asks Jeckyll what he's going to do with Nick, and he says he'll have to be killed to prevent Set from possessing him. Not surprisingly, Nick is against this.


Right on cue, Jekyll begins transforming into his evil alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. He reaches for his serum, but Nick grabs it, demanding to be released. A Prodigium grunt pulls Jenny out of the office as it seals shut and alarms sound. Jekyll transforms fully into Hyde, and begins tossing Nick around. Nick manages to inject Hyde with the serum before he kills him. He transforms back into Jekyll.


Meanwhile, Ahmanet summons a small spider (again with the spiders!) that crawls across the chamber and bites a Prodigium tech. He gets up and stops the mercury flow, which allows Ahmanet to break her chains. She grabs the Dagger and heads toward Nick. He and Jenny run from the museum and out onto the street. Ahmanet follows, conjuring up a sandstorm that engulfs the entire city.


Nick and Jenny flee into the sewers below London, where they're chased by a horde of Ahmanet's undead minions. They dive into the water to escape, and surface in a small tunnel. Ahmanet appears and pulls Jenny deep down into the water. Nick swims after them, but is captured by zombies. They just happen bring him up in the Crusader chamber from the beginning of the movie. Another amazing coincidence! Nick's horrified to see that Jenny's drowned body lying lifeless in a shallow pool.


Ahmanet senses the jewel in one of the Crusader coffins and opens it. She retrieves the jewel and places it on the Dagger. She confronts Nick with the Dagger, saying it's his destiny to become a vessel for Set. He tries to fight her, but she easily knocks him across the room. She's then horrified when she sees that Nick palmed the Dagger when she wasn't looking.


Nick smashes the Dagger on the stone floor, trying to destroy the red jewel. It cracks, and Ahmanet pleads with him to stop, tempting him by saying he'll have control over life and death if he lets Set possess him. He holds the Dagger out to her and she reaches longingly for it. For some reason he then stabs himself with it. He's now possessed by Set, and inexplicably punches Ahmanet a few times before sucking the life force from her. She turns back into a shriveled mummy and he tosses her aside. Nick then uses his newfound powers to bring Jenny back to life. She tries to get him to come with her, saying Prodigium can help rid him of his curse, but he says it's something he has to figure out for himself.


Jekyll and Jenny then place Ahmanet's body into a mercury-filled sarcophagus, so she'll be free to come back in The Mummy 2: Retribution. Jenny wonders what'll happen to Nick, and Jekyll says he'll have to decide which side he's on, and hopes his humanity will win out. He says they may need Nick's help someday, as "only a monster can defeat another monster." The audience then groans, realizing this entire movie had nothing to do with Ahmanet and was actually Nick's origin story.


Cut to Nick in the desert, his hands and face wrapped in bandages for absolutely no reason at all. Chris is there as well, and awkwardly thanks Nick for bringing him back to life. They take off on horseback on another adventure.


Thoughts: 

• When I first read that this movie would be set in the present day, I thought it was a mistake. I seemed like it would work much better as a period piece, like the 1932 version of The Mummy.

But then I remembered that version of the film actually was set in the present at the time it was released! It just seems like an historical film because we're watching it eighty years after the fact.


So I can't really fault this new Mummy for its modern setting. That said, I still think the idea of mummies, Egyptian tombs and grave robbing just seems better suited to the past.


• I mentioned in the plot synopsis that Tom Cruise is completely miscast in this film, and it's true. The character of Nick Morton is supposed to be a "lovable rogue," someone the audience likes and roots for in spite of his selfish actions.

Unfortunately Cruise doesn't have the acting range to pull that off. Instead of being a Han Solo type, he just comes off as an insufferable asshole. Even after he sacrifices himself to save Jenny, I still saw him as a jerk.

Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper or even Taron Egerton would all have been much better choices, and made much more convincing scoundrels. Those casting choices would never happen though, as Universal insisted on "star power."

By the way, Tom Cruise? You're 54 and your leading lady in this movie is 32. Literally young enough to be your daughter. It's time to stop pretending you're in your 30s.

• For a movie called The Mummy, very little of it actually takes place in Egypt, as you'd expect. There's a short prologue and a tiny bit at the end that take place there, but that's it. The bulk of the film is set in London for some inexplicable reason.

• Ahmanet gets the plot rolling when she makes a deal with Set. He gives her a magic  dagger, which she uses to kill her family so she can inherit her dad's throne. Yeah, did she really need the help of a death god and magical cutlery to do that? She kills a lady and a baby and then slices an old man's throat while he's asleep. She couldn't have done that on her own with a plain old everyday knife?


• I was going to go into a rant about how Dr. Jekyll says Ahmanet was captured by priests and "mummified alive." 

Yeah, that's not possible, and is a huge contradiction in terms. Mummification is literally the preservation of a body after death. It was an exacting ritual that involved removing the subject's origins and placing them in canoptic jars, a process that took around seventy days.

But pretty much EVERY Mummy movie ever made has featured a scene in which the titular character was "mummified alive." They did it to Boris Karloff in The Mummy 1932, to Christopher Lee in The Mummy 1959 and to Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy 1999. 

It's like a tradition at this point, so I can't squawk too much about it. Maybe they could just say, "buried alive" instead though?

• Once Ahmanet was mummified, her body was taken from Egypt all the way to what is modern day Iraq, to dishonor her soul or something. Um... the distance between Cairo and Baghdad is eight hundred miles, give or take. That's a pretty hefty distance in this day and age. It would have taken weeks, if not months, to travel that far in ancient times. Those priests must have reeeeeeally wanted to dishonor her!


• Nick is some kind of mercenary or soldier of fortune, so it makes a certain amount of sense that he can travel the world as he pleases. But what's the deal with his pal Chris? He's a Sargent in the U.S. army. Why's he following Nick around? Was he assigned to protect him for some incomprehensible reason? Or is he a special soldier who has complete autonomy, and can go anywhere and do anything he wants?

• After disturbing Ahmanet's tomb, Chris is bitten by a magical camel spider and becomes deathly ill. It has to be a magical one, because as Nick correctly points out, camel spiders aren't venomous. It's bite shouldn't have affected him at all.


Later on Chris becomes worse, as his skin turns a sickly white, his eyes grow cloudy and his blood vessels darken and become visible beneath his skin. Yet somehow no one around him seems to notice his obvious and dire condition.


Is this some weird case of the audience being able to see Chris' sickness, but the characters in the world of the film can't?

• The cargo plane containing Ahmanet's body takes off from somewhere in Iraq. Sometime later it crashes near London, England, a distance of about 3,100 miles, which would take around eight hours by plane.

To be fair, we have no idea how long the plane was in the air. At one point Nick has another of his visions. When he finally comes to, Jenny's tapping away on her laptop, while Greenway is dozing in his seat. Obviously some amount of time passed while Nick was out. Was he really in his trance for eight hours? That seems unlikely. Did no one ever try to talk to him in all that time, or notice him staring off into space for eight hours?


• This is some hardcore nitpicking, but whatever. After the cargo plane crashes, the British police send out a massive squad of two officers to investigate. Why do these English cops say the plane wreckage is spread out over two miles? Shouldn't they be saying "3.2 kilometers?"


Told you it was hardcore!


UPDATE! Reader Terence Marshall-Vaughan pointed out to me that even though the UK uses measurements such as grams, millimeters and centimeters, their road signs (including speed and distances) are still in miles! Odd! The movie actually got this right!

• Once she's resurrected, why does Ahmanet have double irises in her eyes? It happens to Nick as well after he's stabbed by the Dagger.

Is this supposed to indicate they're possessed by evil spirits? That explanation would make sense for Nick, since he's possessed by Set (sort of) at the end of the movie. But as far as I know no one's possessing Ahmanet. So why's she have double eyes? Because it look kewl?

Believe it or not, there's sort of a precedent for this. In many ancient cultures, it was believed that a person with two pupils in each eye had special powers. People believed they possessed the "evil eye"— literally!

Whether the screenwriters knew about this or it's just a coincidence, I can't say. If I had to guess though, I'd say it's the latter.

• Credit where credit's due: Ahmanet's zombified minions looked really good, and were easily the scariest thing in the whole movie. Seriously, they were far more terrifying than Ahmanet, and honestly I'd rather have seen a movie starring them.

Kudos to the makeup department that created the grotesque minions!

• Ahmanet's zombie minions highlight one of the main problems with The Mummy
— it's just not the least bit scary.

In an effort to be diverse, progressive and inclusive, the producers gender-flipped the titular monster, making her a woman. But not just any woman— this new lady mummy isn't some rotting, shambling corpse wrapped in filthy bandages, laws no. She's a sexy and alluring waif who uses her seductive powers against her victims. And there lies the problem— sexy mummies aren't scary.

• Someone on The Mummy's writing staff reeeeeeeally likes An American Werewolf In London. In fact they like the film so much they stole one of its best bits! Check it out:

In The Mummy, after Chris is killed his ghost begins appearing to Nick from time to time, dispensing advice as well as explaining the plot to the audience. Ghost Chris still has bullet holes in his chest from where Nick shot him.

In An American Werewolf In London, after Jack Goodman is killed his ghost begins appearing to David Kessler from time to time, dispensing advice as well as explaining the plot to the audience. Ghost Jack's face still has horrific claw marks from an attack by a werewolf.

Seriously, these scenes aren't an homage to An American Werewolf In London, they're wholesale theft. It's so blatant it's actually shocking.

• When Nick is taken to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ er, I mean Prodigium, he's led through a large storage area filled with hundreds of jars full of preserved artifacts. 

This little scene is obviously here to help advertise set up future Dark Universe films. In fact it's the equivalent of the "Wonder Woman Sits At Her Computer And Watches YouTube Videos Of Potential Justice League Members" scene from Batman V Superman. 


Thankfully this scene's slightly less clunky and obtrusive than that one was.


Among the artifacts Nick sees stored at Prodigium: a scaly hand, that presumably belonged to a Creature From The Black Lagoon-type Gill Man.

He also sees a skull with very pronounced fangs, which is obviously meant to set up the existence of vampires in this world.

A bit later, when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde, Jenny grabs a large book off a shelf and uses it to clonk a Prodigium grunt in the head.

We then see it's the Book Of The Dead from 1999's The Mummy, aka The One With Brendan Fraser. The book's got the same star-shaped lock and everything. So what do we think here? Playful Easter egg, or proof that the much more fun 1999 Mummy movie is part of the Dark Universe?

• Nick meets Nick Fury, er, I mean Dr. Henry Jekyll, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., er, I mean Prodigium. As they speak, Jekyll casually injects himself with his serum to prevent him from transforming into Mr. Hyde.

Less than fifteen minutes later, it's apparently time for another injection, as Jekyll starts to transform and reaches for his syringe.

Seriously? He really has to inject himself that often? God forbid he ever falls asleep!

• I'm confused by Dr. Jekyll's motivation in the film. Jekyll introduces himself to Nick, and they chat pleasantly for a while. Nick then sees Ahmanet chained up in the center and the room, and seems concerned for her welfare. Apparently this behavior troubles Jekyll (I guess?), and he announces that Nick has to die for the good of the world. He's then fully prepared to kill Nick right then and there.

Then at the end of the movie, Jekyll vows to do whatever he can to help Nick and lift his curse. Wha...?

So what changed? Why'd he want to flat-out execute him one minute, and help him the next? Apparently it's none of our business, as the conundrum's never dealt with.

• If you stick Dr. Jekyll into a movie, its inevitable that at some point he's gonna transform into Mr. Hyde— it's state law. Sure enough, shortly after he's introduced, Jekyll misses an injection and changes into his chaotic alter-ego.

Sadly, this consists of his eyes turning red, his skin becoming pale, his accent becoming more Cockney and... well, that's about the extent of his change. Talk about a disappointment! Heck, the real Russell Crowe is scarier than this. Especially when he starts beating up photographers!

In fact I think the 1931 version of Mr. Hyde looked more menacing almost NINETY years ago!

• I've been re-watching the original Twin Peaks recently, so when I saw Ahmanet strung up like this at Prodigium...

I couldn't help but think of Agent Cooper's dream, in which Laura Palmer said this.

• Let's talk poster design, shall we? The Mummy poster features one of the butt-ugliest, all-time worst layouts I think I've ever seen. It's dark, desaturated and worst of all, muddy looking. It looks for all the world like it fell in a puddle of stagnant, brackish water. Everything about it offends my eye.

Plus it seems to feature a thousand foot tall Tom Cruise looking puzzled as he stomps around downtown London during a sandstorm.

Seriously, what the hell happened to the art of movie poster design? There used to be some real works of art hanging in cineplexes. I miss those days.

I'm not crazy about this design either, but it's like a Rembrandt painting compared to the Cruise-centric poster.

• After Ahmanet was buried alive, a group of Crusader Knights took her Magic Dagger and broke it in half. To keep it safely de-powered, they hid the knife half inside a statue in a church, while burying the jewel in a crusader's tomb.

Why hide the pieces and risk someone finding them and putting them back together someday (which is exactly what happens in this film)? Why not just destroy the thing altogether and be done with it?

It's not like it was indestructible. At one point Nick smashes the Dagger on the ground and cracks the red jewel. Another hit and it would probably have broken for good.

• In the third act, Ahmanet enters the Crusader Knight's tomb, where she finds the Dagger's red jewel. She places it atop the Dagger, restoring its power.

The mummified remains of the Crusader Knights then crawl from their tombs and appear loyal to her, ready do her bidding. Does that seem right?

Earlier in the film we saw her controlling the two zombified policemen, so I guess she has some sort of power over the undead. But the Crusader Knights did everything in their power to stop her before they died. It just seems odd to me that they'd fall in with her after death.

• I don't really understand the rules of the Dagger, and I'm not sure the writers do either. If Ahmanet stabs Nick with it, Set will be reincarnated into his body. Then I guess the two of them will rule the world together or something? 


But then Nick goes and ruins the plan by stabbing himself with the Dagger and becoming possessed by Set. Nick gains all Set's powers over life and death, but for some reason still retains his own mind. Wha...?

So... I guess Set is in Nick's body vying for control, but he's constantly fighting him? Is that it? Did I get it right?

• Possibly the worst part of The Mummy comes at the end, when you realize you didn't just sit through a movie, but a two hour advertisement for future installments in this universe. 

The movie doesn't end, so much as it just stops, as the now possessed Nick skulks out of frame. Dr. Jekyll wistfully watches him go as he says to Jenny, "Who knows what amazing adventures Nick may have in the future? And we may have need of him someday, as it takes a monster to kill a monster." Hard as it is to believe, that's the actual dialogue in the film.

The Mummy is Universal's latest ill-advised attempt at starting up their own cinematic universe starring their Classic Monsters. Unfortunately they've forgotten their horror roots, turning the film into a superhero origin story. It all adds up to a bland, forgettable film that's as lifeless as the titular character. Stick with any of the many previous versions instead. I give it a C-.

4 comments:

  1. We don't use kilometres over here, miles all the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Color me shocked! I thought the US was the only country that hadn't switched to the metric system!

      Delete
    2. A bit too European I think, we have been forced into grams, kilograms, millimetres and centimetres with an occasional metre thrown in but all our road signs (speeds and distances) are miles just to confuse us all.

      Delete
  2. I totally agree with you about this one. It's a steaming pile of nonsensical balloon juice that only reminded me how much I hate a Tom Cruise movie. I hope the studio just abandons the whole concept and everyone just movies on. Classics like the Mummy are classics for the reason. At least the Brendan Fraiser movies were FUN which this one is totally devoid of.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Site Meter