Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

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Director: Alex Kurtzman

Writers: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrieDylan KussmanJon SpaihtsJenny LumetAlex KurtzmanRobert Louis StevensonJohn L. BalderstonRichard SchayerNina Wilcox Putnam

Stars: Tom CruiseRussell CroweSofia Boutella

Verdict: Trash garbage, mid one star. 

Is this what other cultures feel like when they’re appropriated..?

I think what I was telling my self going into The Mummy was that it would probably be “apocalyptically bad”, but go in with an open mind, and I did, but it was. 

I can’t remember what the plot was (it’s that boring), after about a week so here’s the official synopsis, “Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years.” and before I’d seen the film that might actually seem vaguely entertaining in a kind of post-but-also-knock-off Raiders of the Lost Ark way, but after I’ve seen the film, just reading the synopsis is sending me into a fucking coma. It, in theory, stars Tom Cruise, (Top Gun, MagnoliaMission: Impossible), and Russel Crowe, (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind)

It’s not just that The Mummy is boring, it’s badly put together, badly characterised, intellectually offensive, sexist, racist, militaristic, derivative and has effects that’s slightly better than the animation in Foodfight!. Or in the old The Road Runner Show cartoons when you’d always know what rock was going to explode because it was added on from a different palate and looked funny. It is just intergalactically stupid and I’m ashamed to have paid money to see it. 

Let me elaborate for a second. There are two female characters with speaking roles. Two only. One is the Mummy herself, played by Sofia Boutella, (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond), which the less said about that the better but fuck it. She initially is designed like, both in the art direction and her own physical performance, to be how I imagine director Alex Kurtzman, (People Like UsTransformers: Revenge of the FallenThe Amazing Spider-Man 2), pictures, in both he wet dreams and fever dreams his fantasy dominatrix. They then proceed to put her up in extreme bondage gear. The degrees of sexual repression contortionistics that it must take to pull this off is frankly mind-boggling. There is one other female character who – despite having a first scene that is frankly how a two year old would try to demonstrate that this character is quoteunquote ‘strong’ – only serves to be a piece of theoretically intelligent eye candy that Tom Cruise gets to drag around places. 

Then we get into racism. This one takes some explaining. There are different ways you can present the ‘Other’. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial chooses to make it cute and friendly and full of wonder, Alien chooses to make it fucking terrifying. Now, an Egyptian character really shouldn’t be ‘Other’ anyway, but she is presented just about as ‘Other’ as Cthulu. Considering it was written by a group of white men, the way that they present the ‘Other’ in the form of an Egyptian woman, seems to be; to fetishize it, then to box it, and beat it up. This by itself would probably be reading into it too much but then there’s how it approaches anyone who isn’t American, and considering it takes place in Iran and London, that’s just about everyone who’s not Tom Cruise or… a ghost… thing..? The film takes The Mummy from Egypt to the Middle East, it says, because she’s just that evil that they had to move her out of her country. The actual answer it seems is so that you can blow up terrorists and make a joke of it with no remorse, in a way that is depicted as jingoistic, militaristic, and superior. Exacerbated by the fact that Tom Cruise, tomb raider extraordinaire, is a soldier and calls in air bombings so he can uncover artifacts. America can just come in and steal your history and your culture by force of firearms and bombs and that’s fine and it’s the actual fucking military doing it. Then they move the action to London, where I live, and oh boy. Aside from the fact that the way they incorporate British history just makes absolutely no sense, any British person who is meant to appear at any point nice and is also important to the story sounds like they grew up in a private boarding school that a royal child also happened to be sent off to, and anyone else speaks like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Fuck me.

Then there’s the case of Mr. Hyde.

Hm.  

When he shows up he is depicted as, essentially, Bob Hoskins, (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Long Good Friday), with the black death. It’s actually hilarious and maybe played for laughs..?

Now, Alex Kurtzman seems like a decent guy, he likes the same movies as me, he is a particular fan of early Cronenberg works like Scanners and Videodrome both of which I love, and he clearly understands why they’re interesting and tried to take inspiration from them for this film. He clearly, demonstrably, understands the point of the original Universal Monster Movies like Frankenstein and The Mummy when he’s off camera. the film itself clearly tries to cite works like The Evil Dead and An American Werewolf in London, both of those films I adore or respect hugely. So where did he go wrong? I think the key can be seen in his other work. With stuff like Mission: Impossible III, he demonstrated himself as a fine writer, and he’s run some good television, the problem I think is that he’s a hack who’ll write anything for a buck but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something great in him if he ever just wrote something that took these inspirations in a more independent context. The Mummy, however, is quite clearly, painfully, and disappointingly, not that.  

Russel Crowe though, is absolutely fucking hilarious and the whole movie and franchise is worth it for more of him. He just knows he’s in a franchise’s worth of shit films and is trying to see what he can get away with and it is, fucking, glorious!

 

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