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The UnPopular Opinion: The Mummy (2017)

09.21.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

In hindsight, the summer movie season of 2017 will go down in history less as forgettable than the outright disaster many media outlets have made it out to be. Sure, the box office is at the lowest level in a number of years and the quality of films are suffering from reboot and sequel fatigue, but it is far from the death knell of the medium that you would think from the headlines on social media. I will not argue that there were a lot of mediocre movies released this summer, but some movies have been unfairly bashed even before audiences got a chance to see them. One such film was Alex Kurtzman's THE MUMMY. Starring the immortal Tom Cruise and set to kick start Universal's proposed cinematic universe of horror monsters, THE MUMMY did not even gross $100 million domestically which doesn't bode well for potential sequels and already announced additions to the Dark Universe franchise. But, in watching the movie with an open mind, I found that I really enjoyed the movie despite the glaring issues in the story. THE MUMMY is far from a great movie but it is nowhere close to the abyssmal failure that you have been lead to believe.

Before I go too much further, I will remind you all that I have been pretty contrary to the recent films of Tom Cruise. I found the JACK REACHER movies to be boring and I found nothing interesting in EDGE OF TOMORROW. Still, I appreciate Tom Cruise when he is less brooding and more approachable and THE MUMMY is the first time I have seen Cruise look like he was having fun since KNIGHT AND DAY. Many critics accused Cruise of phoning in her performance as Nick Morton, the devil may care antiquities thief and put upon hero of THE MUMMY, but I found him much more likeable than many of Cruise's recent characters, including MISSION IMPOSSIBLE hero Ethan Hunt. Tom Cruise works best when he is a rogue who doesn't take things overly seriously. My one complaint about the last few MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies is their lack of fun. Yeah, the stunts are amazing, but outside of a quip or two they are mainly brooding and dour. THE MUMMY may be from the writer of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and multiple TRANSFORMERS movies, but Alex Kurtzman can never be said to take things too seriously.

The UnPopular Opinion, The Mummy, Fantasy, Horror, Dark Universe, Alex Kurtzman, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Sofie Boutella

I didn't even mind the exposition-laden world building that takes up a good chunk of THE MUMMY's running time. I would have preferred if the film had spent more time with Nick and Sofia Boutella's Princess Ahmanet, but I was intrigued by the idea of Prodigium. Led by Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, Prodigium is exactly the kind of group fans of Universal Monsters have been clamoring for since the 1930s. As a huge fan of THE MONSTER SQUAD, I have wanted to see these creatures team up for the longest time. Kids have been collecting toys of Frankenstein and Dracula for decades and pretending to face them off. Even classics where Frankenstein fought The Wolfman showed the potential for such team-ups and face offs. Maybe THE MUMMY wasn't the right place to kick off this concept, but it is also far too early to abandon it. I have faith that Universal will continue to develop their horror world with actors like Javier Bardem and Johnny Depp already signed up. The problem with THE MUMMY is less the execution but rather the marketing.

When your first trailer gets released without the right sound, you know something is amiss with your marketing campaign. For far too long, trailers have been designed for the 99% rather than to service the product they are advertising. THE MUMMY is presented in every advertisement as a dark and serious horror/action hybrid when it is actually a lot lighter and funnier than that. THE MUMMY shares a lot in common with the Brendan Fraser series of films in that there is a sense of humor and levity in the face of hordes of demonic mummies and impending doom. I do not recall a single theatrical trailer that even showcased Jake Johnson's character. Johnson, a great comedic addition to JURASSIC WORLD, is excellent in a protracted role that was rightfully compared to AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. But, rather than look past that parallel and appreciate his delivery and timing, critics declared the plot element to be derivative and didn't give it a second thought. I found myself smiling and chuckling through THE MUMMY as I enjoyed every action scene. Maybe it was because I didn't expect much that I was able to sit back and have fun, but I cannot figure out why this movie is not just disliked but hated by everyone who reviews it.

Now, I don't want to bash Tom Cruise based on the rumors of his personal life and his religious beliefs, but I also feel it is necessary to separate the artist from their work. Cruise is a damn charming individual but the baggage he carries around with him permeates any production he is involved in. Those involved with production on THE MUMMY have said that the actor had unprecedented control over the production of this movie which many blame for the finished product. While Cruise is put at the forefront of the story, why would we expect anything less? Clearly, the Dark Universe was designed to have Cruise carry the mantle of the Egyptian god Set and become something of an antihero. I found that twist to be unexpected and puts the actor in a position to be a hybrid of a monster and a hero. This anchors Cruise to the lead of the hypothetical AVENGERS film that could be the culmination of the Dark Universe rather than forcing rehashed sequels that doomed the Brendan Fraser franchise. THE MUMMY, unlike DRACULA UNTOLD, had the job of starting the Dark Universe and was always going to be something of a muddled compromise that didn't execute everything perfectly. But, the potential it opens for future movies more than makes up for it's clear shortcomings.

The other big criticism of THE MUMMY was the lack of worthwhile supporting characters. I was expecting Russell Crowe's role to be a throwaway cameo but ended up being much more significant than I thought. Annabelle Wallis holds her own against the unnaturally charismatic, Jake Johnson is quite funny, and Sofia Boutella is once again a jewel in any role she plays. Taking over the mantle from Boris Karloff, Arnold Vosloo, and Jet Li, Boutella is at once gorgeous and terrifying. Her dancer's body movies in such a way that you cannot take your eyes off of her while she is on screen. And, like in KINGSMAN, Boutella uses somewhat limited screentime to her full advantage, expressing more with facial expressions than any of her bulky dialogue. I found her Princess Amahnet to be quite scary but also sympathetic in a way. Like any good villain, this mummy is three dimensional. If I have any complaints about the film, it is that the special effects don't really seem all that much more advanced than what we saw in the 1999 version of the story, but updating the setting to contemporary London imbued the narrative with a lot more presence than another period film would have.

The UnPopular Opinion, The Mummy, Fantasy, Horror, Dark Universe, Alex Kurtzman, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Sofie Boutella

THE MUMMY is far superior to either of the sequels to the 1999 version and the SCORPION KING spin-off. With an actor the caliber of Tom Cruise on your poster, I can understand why many were expecting THE MUMMY to be a groundbreaking blockbuster to kick off Universal's new slate of films, but that does not discount the movie completely. Yes, THE MUMMY is nowhere near the level many were hoping for it to be but it is also light years from being the debacle many made it out to be. THE MUMMY is a film that is best viewed with your brain turned off and your eyes wide open, absorbing the spectacle on screen. There is a lot of potential in what THE MUMMY put on screens this summer and that includes a true understanding of the horror side of the Universal Monsters. There is a lot to work with here and I implore the studio not to shut down the Dark Universe before it really gets going like they did when they excised DRACULA UNTOLD from the mythology. THE MUMMY is the type of film that we all would have been clapping and enjoying twenty years ago. But, when Marvel Studios burst on the scene, we all lost sight of enjoying a cheesy summer movie was all about. So, turn down your expectations, turn up the volume, and give THE MUMMY another shot.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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