I just watched The Mummy (2017).
Good god it is one of the oddest Hollywood movies I’ve ever seen. I may spoil it a bit because it is not a good movie and you probably shouldn’t watch it. I should say I am a fan of the 1999 The Mummy and the first sequel, though not of the director, who is honestly a bit of a shit (Stephen Sommers - I liked his work until I listened to the director’s commentary for one of the movies, I forget which, what a wanker). And whoever wrote this movie was clearly also a fan.
But that’s where shit gets weird. Because the dialogue of the movie, the way characters act, the entire setup, feels a lot like the 1999 The Mummy. We have a cheeky rogue as the lead, he’s always joking, always has an eye on the main chance, laughs in the face of death but is also a bit cowardly and so on. Perfectly Mummy-esque. You could see Brendan Fraser in this role very easily.
But they cast Tom Cruise. And the role was clearly not meant for him, but rather for some charming dude in his 20s or 30s. And Cruise tries, and he’s not bad - I dunno if he’s even capable of being a bad actor - but it’s not a role meant for him, and it just doesn’t quite work.
But really doesn’t make it work is that the entire way the movie is filmed, from the use of colour/saturation, to the shots, to the lighting, to the way scenes are handled, screams “grim modern horror movie”. Not cheery adventure movie. But desaturated, near-monochrome horror. Yet the script and events continue to be ridiculous and adventure-y. There’s this bizarre juxtaposition. And the setting contributes - most of the movie is set in the UK - and it’s just weird, because it’s 2017 Britain/London and it just doesn’t mesh - London is used solely as an themed backdrop like some bad '80s movie, and in a very '80s way, Britain is portrayed as a sort of quasi-medieval place, with only old buildings and cobbled streets (!?) and so on being shown. I mean this is a movie which literally opens talking about fucking Crossrail, a super-specific and modern thing, yet makes London seem like “generic dark and damp European city”.
And then there’s the relentless stupidity or perversity or whatever you want to call it. Anything which could easily have made sense, is presented in a way that doesn’t. The titular mummy gets her powers by doing a deal with Set. Okay, so what powers does she get? The power to walk around and stab people… like what?! She makes a deal with Set to become ruler of Egypt, then becomes ruler by just stabbing everyone in a way any normal person could have. So many questions. And this sort of idiocy continues non-stop. It’s completely needless and extends to even minor things, like a gem is detected with a thermal camera through stone… I mean no why no it makes no sense, you could have used sonar or something and it would have made sense but no, it’s a thermal camera. Or like when the mummy raises some dudes from being a thousand years dead and their chainmail and so on is fine, but then they poof into dust when done - and why does she even poof them into dust? She still needed them! Or and spoiler when Tom Cruises character, having stolen the evil dagger she was going to stab him with, offers it back to her, then fakes her out, and… stabs himself with it - which is exactly what she was going to do… it doesn’t work dramatically and it makes no sense.
And then Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde played by Russell Crowe is inexplicably there as a major character. I mean I don’t object but it’s bizarre. And there’s like a weird scene where Cruise and the female lead’s actions mirror each other in separate fights and… it has no dramatic purpose or meaning, the director just thought it was cool. If this was in the old Mummy movies even it would have had some meaning - the characters would have have noticed and it would have been a cute moment. Instead it’s just “random”. Oh and there’s this whole anti-occult organisation based out of a museum in London. Guess which? Yeah you guessed British Museum didn’t you? Nope, Science Museum? That’d make a bit less sense but still some, so no. V&A even, it’s full of artifacts, some surely occult? Nope. The fucking Natural History Museum. Jesus wept. Why that? Of all the museums in London? I possibly blame China Mieville but that seems unfair. They do focus on the giant squid at one point though.
At the beginning of the movie I was wondering why they had such a dumb backstory for the mummy, when they could have just used the backstory from the old mummy movies which was kind of awesome and could allow for a male or female mummy in theory. It’s because it’s a sequel to those movies, or at least set in the same universe - we know this because at one point the female lead hits a badguy with the important book from the old Mummy movies, and then the camera lingers on it for a bit as if to say “Oho!”.
And this links up to the dialogue because it really is aping those movies in style of dialogue (which were in turn inspired by Indiana Jones, which was inspired by older pulps and so on). So that’s also weird.
There are really only two good things about the movie:
The mummy herself, who played by an actress clearly having a good time with this, and chewing the scenery and walking ominously and licking people scarily and so on.
It does not go back on any premise or break any of it’s own rules. This is quite unusual in this general kind of movie. It only goes forward. So for all the idiocy and inexplicably and unnecessarily dumb stuff, it does keep, say, an unbreakable curse unbreakable, and not in a cute way either.
Everything else is bizarre. I think if you replaced Cruise with someone more suitable, got a female lead (not the mummy) who had some actual charisma (how they got such a non-entity to act opposite Cruise I dunno - maybe Cruise lost a bet or something), moved it to somewhere a bit more appropriate (even NYC would work a lot better - or Chicago), and got a different director and cinematographer, you could have had a decent fun movie here. But what we have is a bonkers mess.