The Mummy (1932) is a bonafide horror movie classic. Not to mention, the film was a work of viruoustic achievement, especially in terms of acting, effects, makeup, and lighting.
Ever since then, each Mummy film, for the most part, has been increasingly worse, and increasingly less scary. The worst films of the Mummy franchise are The Mummy (1999), The Mummy Returns (2001), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor(2009). All films had significant star power in Brendan Fraser, and, for the first two installments, Rachel Weisz. The purpose of rebooting the franchise was a way for Universal to make money off of an already well known and expertly branded film. The films leave much to be desired compared with the 1932 classic, and even some of the other original sequels such as The Mummy’s Tomb. With each film, the horror aesthetic dropped off into juvenile territories, replaced by expensive action sequences and, at times, laughable CGI.
Speaking of CGI, I have to admit, when the CGI version of Dwayne Johnson’s (a.k.a. The Rock) The Scorpion King appeared in The Mummy Returns, I lost all hope that the Universal execs could ever produce something as effective and beautiful as Boris Karloff’s interpretation of the shamed Egyptian priest Imhotep. Actually, I really thought that Universal simply had no desire to reproduce the fantastic, visually driven storytelling experiment.
Fast forward seven years later, and a new Mummy movie is being filmed. The film, starring Tom Cruise, will serve as a launching point for a supposedly fresh, new, and scary reboot of the entire Universal Monster lineup.
Here’s a non-spoilery synopsis of the film, due out in 2017:
“The story follows Navy Seal Tyler Colt and his mission in the Iraqi desert to find a group of terrorists hiding out in a bunker. To his and his team's surprise, the terrorists within the bunker turn out be nothing more than some grave robbers who have all magically died. Upon entering the bunker Tyler and his team also succumb to some mystical forces out of their control. They soon realize the bunker they have infiltrated is actually a centuries old tomb. Mayhem erupts as all the Navy Seal members start turning on one another and are captivated by the forces within the tomb.”
Will this new entry in the Mummy franchise be a horror film? An action movie with jump scares? A psychological thriller driven by monster and horror elements?
Will the movie be a successful first-entry for Universal’s ambitious relaunch of its much admired Hollywood Classic Cinema line of monster movies?
I have hopes. I have questions. I have some opinions.
Universal acquired a blockbuster lead in that of Tom Cruise, and a very solid supporting lineup of Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, and Courtney B. Vance. So far, we know that Russell Crowe will have a cameo as Dr. Jekyll (who will most likely be getting his own film). You could stick this cast in a movie about a cardboard box and it would be entertaining.
The film takes place in Iraq, and ties directly into the fallout of the Iraq War. A story starring Tom Cruise wandering a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq desert would be pretty terrifying without any supernatural elements.
The script and directorial style appear to be serious and slow burning.
Action will be involved, I’m sure, but probably much more muted than the preceding franchise entries.
The Maybe Not so Good
- According to IMDB, Sofia Boutella is listed as “The Mummy.” Yes, women were mummified in ancient Egypt. But Hollywood rewriting roles to try to conform the newest wave of political correctness, or cinematic gender identity issues, is always a tough proposition to swallow. I would much rather see big budget movie studios write original roles for women rather than playing the gender politics game.
Note, I have nothing against women in film, Sofia Boutella, women in horror, women as antagonists, protagonists, and women as mummies.
- The thought of a connected monster universe can be cinematic glory, or cinematic goop. Connected worlds work well for superheroes and comic book characters, mainly because that’s the way the source material has been written for years. Though Universal and other film studios experimented with monster crossovers in the 50’s through the 80’s, it never quite clicked the way Batman and Superman do.
- Russell Crowe has promised that the new Mummy film is made to scare audiences.
- But with the leading presence of Tom Cruise, an action star who can intertwine comedy and drama into any role, there will surely be enough fast-paced movement to satisfy those who want more than just scares.
Movies Change, Audiences Change, We Change
Some purists will still be upset about the direction the franchise reboot is taking. However, the horror movie purist is a dying breed, if it ever even existed. Universal is a large budget studio, and seeks to make a large profit from The Mummy reboot. Why shouldn’t they? Audiences change throughout the years, as do the definitions for “horror,” “action,” and “scare.” Audiences’ change because preferences change, and preferences change because there is strong collective desire for content to not be static. Sometimes movies create this change, and other times movies are simply a response to change. But I think what we are seeing with this reboot is something different. Promising a certain pace and a certain level of horror is quite difficult, as doing just one of those things alone inside a two hour film is incredibly difficult.
As someone who gets all warm and fuzzy inside when thinking about Universal Monsters, I’m excited for any honest effort to make a good movie, even if it is not scary in the traditional sense of the term. Knowing that there is some intention to scare me, however, makes me all the more hopeful that we will never see the Scorpion King again.