Jul-4-2017

Reel Snippet – The Mummy

Summary: Fortune hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner Chris Vail (Jack Johnson) strike it big when they uncover an Egyptian tomb in the middle of Iraq, filled with naught but mercury and a foreboding sarcophagus. Turns out this contains the mummy of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), the daughter of a powerful pharaoh, who turned to the dark arts, killed her family, and was punished for it by being buried alive. The initial leader of the expedition, an archeologist named Jenny Halsey (Annabell Wallis), reluctantly lets Nick and Chris escort the sarcophagus back to London, but this trip is interrupted by an awakened Ahmanet, who plans to use Nick to bring Set, her patron deity and the Egyptian god of death, into the mortal world. However, Jenny works for a secret organization called Prodigium, which is designed to hunt supernatural evils under the leadership of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). The world must be saved from Ahmanet’s darkness… but at what cost?

Review: The Mummy was as an intriguing movie… but ultimately a bad one. It’s hard to pin down one particular problem, but a big one that stands out is redundancy. Throughout the movie, we’re repeatedly told or exposed to information that’s already been relayed to us. A particularly egregious example is when Russell Crowe narrates Ahmanet’s entire backstory in the beginning before we even get introduced to Tom Cruise’s character. Afterwards there were a lot of scenes where I found myself thinking, “Man, this would be a lot more impactful if the prologue hadn’t told us everything.” I can’t help but wonder if some executives ordered the prologue’s inclusion because test audiences were confused without it.

Tom Cruise, while charismatic in his role, was the absolute wrong choice for the lead character. He is constantly mugging, which can sap the seriousness out of scenes intended to be dramatic. On top of that, while his performance is charismatic, his character is incredibly unlikable. Between lying to people, duping his friends and colleagues into entering hazardous situations, and sidetracking a whole conversation to argue about his performance in bed, he reminds me less of Nathan Drake and more of Shia Labeouf’s character from Transformers. Not a great point of comparison.

There are some other parts that confused me too, particularly over the nature of Ahmanet’s powers. There’s the standard super strength and near invulnerability and a really impressive bit where she turns all the glass in London into a sandstorm. But then there are bits where she can either teleport or the editor forgot where she was. Also, she has the power to summon and control rats and crows. Why not scarabs and snakes or other more traditional things? Sure, those others were indigenous to Egypt too, but a bit of iconography couldn’t hurt. Speaking of, while I get that they wanted to move the tomb to Iraq for the want of being topical, would anyone explain how a group of Egyptian tomb makers made the 888 mile trek to Mesopotamia on foot while carrying a cursed sarcophagus and gallons of mercury? It’s a stretch too far of trying to suspend your disbelief, especially since when I tried to look up the travel time on foot, Google basically told me to go screw myself.

But yet again, this is one of those times where I have to talk about the ending to really give you a feeling of how badly this was botched.

[WARNING! SPOILERS BEING UNWRAPPED!]

In the final confrontation with Ahmanet, Tom Cruise takes the mystical dagger and stabs himself, completing the ritual and letting the dark god Set enter his body. I’m sorry… what?! Unless I missed something, everything leading up to this moment indicated that this was a bad thing, like the start of the end of the world. In fact, Jekyll’s big plan was to complete the ritual and then shoot Cruise dead, since Set would have mortal form and be destroyed. But no, Cruise is a good person on the inside, so he… keeps being Tom Cruise, just with the power to resurrect his dead friends. I think a police officer left the building during the writing sessions because this was a total cop out.

[SPOILERS BACK IN THE TOMB! YOU CAN COME OUT NOW!]

I’m being a bit too negative. Whatever this movie was, it certainly wasn’t boring, even if it was only because of the sheer insanity of some of the decisions. I also didn’t find their attempts at establishing their own shared universe intrusive or hamfisted, even if it does raise questions of how they’re going to pull it off. In fact, Crowe’s Jekyll/Hyde character was easily the best thing about this movie. Even so, I still can’t recommend this, except for a bad movie night. Having promise isn’t the same thing as being good and if this is the foot they’re starting out on, then the Dark Universe has a long way to go before it makes the grade.

Fun Tidbit: Allow me to slip into my mythology buff pants to say that the notion of Set (or Seth, as he is also known) being the god of death is quite wrong. While Set is the god of many things, including storms, disorder, violence, and foreigners (no, seriously), death is not one of them. The role of god of the dead is split between two deities: Anput, the goddess who watches over their mummification, and Anubis, who oversees their embalming and protects them after life.

Additionally, the idea that Set is an evil god is a misconception that came about during many other countries’ conquests into Egypt, where Set became far more demonized. This mainly comes from a story in which Horus, god of the sky and sun, overthrew Set for usurping and murdering his father Osiris. The truth is that legend depicts many times where Set has been beneficial, such as his role on the boat of Ra, chief god of the Egyptian pantheon, to defend him from the chaos serpent Apep while Ra carries the sun across the sky.

Wow, I haven’t worn those pants in so long…


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