Gisell Says THE MUMMY Bites The Dust

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FILM REVIEW: THE MUMMY

BY GISELL BUTLER

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The Mummy has been a staple in horror cinema and pop culture since its creation with 1932’s black & white classic starring monster legend Boris Karloff. It’s hard to believe it’s been 85 years since it first graced the silver screen. In the last several decades, we’ve had many different variations of the bandaged monster. Beginning at its formation, we’ve had several notable “Mummy” periods in which audiences were treated to different films and stories. The first was the classic Universal line (with legends like Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.), then came the campy fun of the Hammer Horror years (starring the late, greats Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), then came the most recent interpretation found in Stephen Sommers’ 1999 version of The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Sommers’ vision took ideas from the original classic, but improved upon the story by making it more comedic and adventurous, while trying not to take itself too seriously. This version is the one that’s most relevant since it was the last truly successful Mummy film. The budget at the time was 80 million, and though it was hit-or-miss amongst critics, the film generated over 415 million dollars at the box office. It was so successful, it led to more sequels, as well as its own action-packed amusement park ride at Universal Studios.

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It’s incredibly significant to know just how much The Mummy, as a figure in cinematic culture and history has had on not only theater, but society as well. I’m an old school monster fan and my favorite monster (besides Dracula of course) is Creature from the Black Lagoon. When I heard the announcement by Universal stating that they were creating The Dark Universe as a way to bring all these classics back to the big screen, with fresh new stories, while keeping them true to their beginnings, I was beyond excited. This new interpretation starring Tom Cruise, is an unveiling of that universe and what’s to come, by introducing new monster figures, as well as old ones, while enlivening audiences with a fresh take on the monster mythology and stories for the modern day. As much as I am still behind the idea of supporting this dark new universe of creatures and curses, this film was a colossal disaster for me. The Mummy in 3D outstretched its metaphorical arms and suffocated me with a tediously, ragged story and severely mishandled control. The most obnoxious thing was that this is an action-vehicle starring Tom Cruise…as well, a zombified version of himself. His performance in this film is one of the weakest and unattached that I’ve ever seen. Aside from the stunts that he did by himself (I commend the man for putting his life on the line to entertain audiences) this movie is a jumbled mess. At least in movies like Mission Impossible, I believe he’s Ethan Hunt. I didn’t care for his performance in this film at all. It took me completely out of the movie and was far more distracting than the glaringly painful CGI. If this was supposed to be the first foot forward into the rebooted classic monster universe, then someone severely neglected a road along the way.

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It’s hard to review this film because so many frustrations that I have with this movie veer straight into spoiler territory, but I will try my best to generalize my grievances. During the first act, we’re given a brief backstory about Ahmanet (the Mummy, played by Sofia Boutella) which explains why she is seeking vengeance and return from the afterlife. Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his sidekick, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are looters who steal treasures and sell them on the black market for profit. Armed with a map, both of them journey to Haram (a dwelling that supposedly holds buried treasure). After arriving, they begin exchanging gunfire with insurgents, which eventually leads the characters being introduced to the mummy’s burial site due to damage following an air strike. They accidentally unleash the monster, and they must think of a way to stop her.

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From this point on, this vapid story just meanders on and the plot is way too obvious to enjoy yourself. Another huge complaint is the character development. I tried not to compare this film to the 1999 version, but when you have the old characters of O’Connell and Evie (played by Fraser and Weisz), I believed them as love-interests. Their chemistry onscreen was entirely plausible and their interactions together were charming. This awful match-up of Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis (whom plays Jenny Halsey) was the most boring love story angle that I’ve ever seen. Their chemistry was pointless and unreal. I know this film isn’t about a love story, but the writers introduced the idea in this film so poorly, and when the time came to care for the characters, and their “history”, it felt meaningless because of how badly their characters were developed. Also, how many people love sidekicks in these films? I know, I do. Well, in this one, the sidekick is resurrected in the form of a zombified vision that makes his appearance an ongoing gag throughout the entire film, which clogs up screen time and is a completely and utterly useless waste of film. There’s cheesy fun, then there’s just bad decision-making. I question how these writing choices were given the green light.

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Another big gripe is that this new mummy figure is not scary, even tatted up, and covered in symbols and dyes; through the entire movie, she just doesn’t feel like the embodiment of pure evil and death. She goes around French-kissing half the town, sucking their souls out of them in order to regenerate and it’s repetitive and lacks excitement.  She also must be taking lessons from Samara (The Ring) because this mummy can now bend her body in different directions and climb sideways up walls. This film also makes mummies, the new and improved “zombies”. Not only can the mummy curse be passed on to others and infect their body and minds, but they sound like zombies, walk like them, and swim under water as well, it just felt beyond ridiculous. This movie makes me want to re-watch the old versions in order to erase all of the mind-numbing atrocities of this new reboot. This film does a huge disservice to fans and I hope the studio is prepared to fan the flames. It could’ve easily been called Victor Frankenstein 2, and no one would’ve questioned it. Speaking of doctors, poor Russell Crowe. That man deserved better. I know Crowe has made some bad movies, but Crowe is a versatile actor and the way they wrote Dr. Jekyll was entirely laughable and way too tacky for its own good. Not to mention, they show his alter-ego in this movie, which in my opinion was jumping the gun, and that reveal should’ve been more carefully thought out and saved for the next film. Courtney B. Vance (whom plays Colonel Freeway), all I can say is…this film didn’t deserve you. Vance appears in a few short scenes, and in those small moments, he seemed to outshine everyone else, even with limited screen time.

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For hardcore fans that will go see this regardless, you might enjoy yourself with a few of the action scenes and seeing Tom run from danger, but other than that, the story (which had incredible potential) falls flat on its mummified face. There’s a big twist at the end, which relies on continuing the universe, and it’s something that is interesting to ponder, and might work well on paper, but won’t play out with any sort of credibility in the future. When you have incohesive writing, terrible characters, dialogue and acting performances, cheap laughs, and you make this new mummy ooze sex appeal instead of a scary demeanor…you should be ashamed. I’m wondering if the writers were under the mummy curse while filming? This is a classic case of big talent being cast in a big blockbuster, doesn’t always mean a big success. Sorry Universal and The Mummy, this is difficult for me to admit, because I know everything rides on this origin story of this big dark universe being successful, but another one bites the dust, and this time, it’s you my tattered friend.

 

FINAL WORD:  StarHalf StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star