The trailer for the new The Mummy movie came out last week, and my Facebook feed acted like it was a video of someone shouting insults at a Corgi.
Russell Crowe is playing Dr. Jekyll. Fun fact.
For years, the Mummy films had been paragons of virtue and status and Brendan Fraser, and here was this pretender to the throne, acting like it deserved to be a Mummy film. But that's forgetting, well, the entire history of the Mummy on film.
First of all, as a franchise, the Mummy legacy is not being "tarnished" by this new thing. And believing that there's some sacred level of quality that all Mummy movies must aspire to and have met thus far is hogswallop. 90 percent of everything that has had "The Mummy" in its title has been awful. In the original run of Universal Monster films, a lot of the first films in the series had equally interesting sequels. Frankenstein was followed by the weirder, superior Bride Of Frankenstein. Dracula was followed by the ahead-of-its-time Dracula's Daughter. Hell, even Creature From The Black Lagoon eventually had the creature transform into an angsty, mutant land dweller with the awesome The Creature Walks Among Us.
Why won't the humans just understand? He tears people apart because he's sad.
But what did The Mummy get? It got The Mummy's Hand, which was probably very entertaining for the people who watched 1932's The Mummy and thought "I would love this way more if it was fucking terrible." After that, we were gifted with The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost, and The Mummy's Curse, but don't let all of those different titles fool you -- they're all just worse versions of The Mummy. After the first one, that series becomes one long open casket funeral for the character. Sure, they sort of look the same as they did when they were alive, but now they're way more inflexible and smell like the cabinet under a sink.
The same goes for the Hammer films, which peaked, like most good movie series, whenever Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were forced to fight to the death on screen. The Mummy series that starred Brendan Fraser is better than what we usually got in that time period ("The world's gonna end / The bomb is gonna drop / The aliens are gonna win unless we can find someone that knows how to use a computer!"), but they're still at the ass end of nostalgia. It would be great to go back and say, "Wow, these are truly unsung classics!" And admittedly, the scarab beetle things that ate the insides of people haunted my nine-year-old brain for a straight year. But they're not. They're simply movies that happened. On the scale of farting to cheering, I give them all two indifferent burps.
Best review since 1998.
Tom Cruise being a factor is what has probably turned a lot of people off on this, and I totally understand that. He goes from giving solid performances to being the top of the Scientology cheerleader pyramid in the span of a second, and Scientology has made itself known as the world's most punchable religion. But if we stick to the movie side of things, the stereotypical Tom Cruise people imagine is no longer the Tom Cruise who appears in films. Anyone who's seen the last few Mission Impossible films and Edge Of Tomorrow knows that Tom Cruise spends most of his time now getting the shit kicked out of him.
The trailer takes 30 seconds (a fourth of its total run time) to show you Tom Cruise getting tossed around in an airplane. And sure, he does that typical "I got SECRETS and a PAST" look in the beginning ...
"I'd love to talk to you, but I've got too much of a SECRET PAST."
... and then shows off how fast he can run by the end ...
Sadly, you can't outrun a SECRET PAST.
... but if his recent roles are any indication, this film will feature way less of Cruise being insufferably badass and way more of him looking goofy while he nearly gets mangled in different countries. And that's the best kind of Tom Cruise.
Also, we're the ones who put Cruise in this thing. Did we go see Dracula Untold, or I, Frankenstein, or Victor Frankenstein, or The Wolfman, or any other attempts that Hollywood has made lately to prove that these narratives aren't grandpa stories for grandpa people? No, we didn't. Tom Cruise being in a Mummy movie isn't an organic thing. It's someone saying, "Well, we have to put Tom Cruise in this, because history has shown that if we don't, no one will see it." We did this. If you don't want Tom Cruise in your Mummy movie, build a time machine. Then go back and buy 20 million tickets to I, Frankenstein. Then come back to 2016 and bask under a giant movie poster for I, Frankenstein 3: Us, Frankenstein.
You'd have a bunch of Frankensteins, all in the same room. And they're all really goddamn sad.
The same reasoning applies to why it looks less like a horror movie and more like a weird X-Men spinoff. The second-highest-grossing horror movie of 2016 was Don't Breathe. Don't Breathe, a movie about a blind man's semen dungeon, made more than Hollywood's last two stabs at the Frankenstein character combined. And until they feel comfortable making hardcore horror Mummy movies for $8 million each, they're going to be these giant blockbuster extravaganzas. They're forced to be, because we've already shown them that we couldn't care less about any other option.
Frankly, I'm excited about a shared universe of Universal Monster movies. We've all been burned recently by DC's attempt at putting all of its characters into a big bucket, because they did so with the grace of a thousand cows all trying to complete one puzzle. But to write off the concept immediately as a one-and-done thing that only Marvel could ever possibly get right feels too cynical for me . Plus, by making all of the solo movies first and establishing the characters before their eventual team-up, they're doing exactly what we all said they should be doing. We can't praise an idea for years as the reason for massive success and then say "But not when you do it, it you stupid Draculas."
"Boooo! You're giving us what we asked for. Boooooooo!"
Do all movie series need to be a grand attempt at having superpowered characters meet each other? No. Is my enthusiasm for this movie being co-piloted by a 10-year-old, chocolate-milk-infused version of myself? God, yes. I want to see a Mummy fight a Dracula, a Wolfman fight a Frankenstein, and an Invisible Man fight a ... Phantom of the Opera, I guess. And I want all of them to team up to fight a Creature from the Black Lagoon, because he's my favorite.
This whole thing reeks of a studio blending a bunch of elements together and hoping that it emerges in the theater screeching with relevancy. And considering the character's history, it might just be one of the best Mummy movies ever made.
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