The Mummy (2017)

I’ve never seen the originals, and I don’t know much about them – but I’m assuming that they had to be a damn sight better than this in order to warrant a remake in the first place.  The first Mummy must be turning in his grave, more so than he already was.

In the spirit of full disclosure – I didn’t walk into this movie expecting to enjoy it.  I’m not a huge fan of Tom Cruise-style action movies, and the thing I enjoyed most about the trailer was Paint it Black blasting in the background.  Still, I was bored on a free day and figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

It didn’t hurt, but it came pretty close.

I’m aware that it’s pernickety to make any kind of historical complaints about a movie like this.  It’s not a documentary on Ancient Egypt, after all.  It’s just borrowing elements of it, viewed through a westernised lens and distorted for the purposes of the story.  Still, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow when the eponymous ‘Mummy’, in this film Princess Ahmanet, is described as unspeakably evil for murdering her family to try to secure the throne for herself.

Sure, it’s not the kind of thing we condone now.  But back then, wasn’t it fairly common that Pharaohs took power by marrying or murdering family members – or both?  Cleopatra and her contemporaries were bloodthirsty as you like.  Granted, they didn’t try to make a pact with the God of Death, but as far as my knowledge goes, Set wasn’t regarded as some kind of Satanic figure anyway.

The point is, it’s hard to suspend this much disbelief.  Maybe I could manage it for something really enjoyable, but this movie drags.  Like low-grade TV shows that assume their viewers aren’t paying attention, it repeats and repeats and repeats the information at the heart of its story – despite the fact that anyone who’s seen a movie like this before probably already understands what’s going on.  An ancient relic, destined to bring about the greatest darkness known to man once found and activated?  Got it.

Sofia Boutella is good as Ahmanet, filling a number of roles in one.  She moves sleekly between the headstrong Princess angling for her own success, the decayed, limb-dragging monster, the seductress, the fully-realized destructive force of nature, and the pitiable chained-up creature.  The movie probably owes its best moments to her.  Ahmanet’s attempt to persuade Tom Cruise’s character to fight her corner, all tied up and powerless but still infecting his mind, was interesting.  For a minute there, I thought they might pull a switcharoo and change villains.

I should have known better than that.

Maybe the most frustrating thing about this movie is its laziness.  It doesn’t even try to develop its female protagonist Jenny, who is presented as being approximately as incompetent as any swooning damsel in distress – and whose early characterisation as a woman furious at being swindled, stolen from and lied to vanishes into thin air.  Beyond that, it also steals, begs and borrows from a nonsensical array of sources.  Pardon my ignorance if this happens in the originals, too – but why on earth were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ever part of this movie?  And whose bright idea was it to import the recurring, rotting best friend’s corpse from An American Werewolf in London?  Is that supposed to be a deliberate callback, since this movie is also set in London?  If so… well.  That’s unfortunate.  The Mummy isn’t funny enough to get away with it – so it suffers under that comparison.

As for the story… well.  There is one.  I’ll say that much.  The end is a bizarre grab at setting up a sequel.  Judging by the reviews, it doesn’t deserve one – but since it has already more than doubled its budget and Tom Cruise remains a moviegoer magnet, it just might get a chance.  I can’t say I recommend giving it a look either way, but… hey.  It killed two hours.

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