If you read our recent review of Kong: Skull Island, you may remember that we discussed the idea of blockbuster films that look easier to skip than sit through. We explained that this particular film wound up being worth a look, but this is also the time of year for big budget blockbusters that often wind up as flashy, over-produced jumbles of action. It can often be difficult to tell which ones are worth buying tickets to and which ones aren’t. Of course, you never truly know the answer until you bite the bullet and see for yourself if a movie is good or not. In this post we’ll look at another 2017 blockbuster and try to determine if it merits a look.
The Mummy is expected to come out in early June. Directed by Alex Kurtzman and distributed by Universal Pictures, it is meant to be the first in a series of Universal projects bringing legendary monsters and their surrounding characters to life. Films concerning Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and more will follow The Mummy, as the studio attempts to build a “connected universe” in the image of what we’ve seen with comic book movies. This first effort stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, and Russell Crowe, so no one can argue that Universal isn’t pumping some star power into its rather ambitious monster movie venture.
The premise is fairly straightforward for those who are familiar with previous iterations of the “Mummy” story. An ancient Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was mummified several thousand years ago and a group of present day adventurers, including Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), unearth her tomb and accidentally awaken the mummy to unleash terrors on the modern world. It’s unclear what sort of role Russell Crowe will play in all of this, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The trailer makes it look though the studio is sparing no expense, but just because it has a large budget doesn’t make it good.
Naturally, a lot of us trying to decide whether or not to see The Mummy will relate it to the 1999 film of the same name. That project had a few key differences, such as a male mummy and less star power, but in a broad sense it told the same story we’re about to see again. Brendan Fraser starred as Rick O’Connell in what seems to have become the Tom Cruise role (interestingly enough, the role was offered to Cruise back in 1999), and Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, and John Hannah were on board as well. It was a goofy and ridiculous action film, though the critical consensus was that while it didn’t represent any sort of real cinematic achievement, it was “undeniably fun to watch.” That still seems like a fair assessment today.
What few could have predicted in 1999 was that The Mummy would have a lasting impact. It led to both sequels and spinoffs, ultimately helping to set the tone for unabashedly ridiculous action movies, including everything from 300 to the recently released The Great Wall. The film itself even retains a fan base, as evidenced in part by the fact that a game based on the ’99 version is still circulating online. A number of slot reels and other games mentioned by this collection of internet platforms are based on a wide variety of popular movies with several horror and action films featured among them. While many are based on other series experiencing modern resurgences of their own (such as the Alien or Tomb Raider franchises) the Mummy remains a popular option for those looking for online adventure.
It’s also still recognized by many as the (admittedly less than impressive) peak of Brendan Fraser’s career, and as a sort of standard for only semi-serious monster movies. As such, it might serve as a better foundation for this rebooted monster universe than one might think.
The debate over whether to skip or see 2017’s The Mummy is simple. If you’re up for fun but mindless entertainment, go for it. If you’re expecting cinematic brilliance, stay home. However, because it’s essentially the first film of a series, The Mummy is also a more complicated than that. This one might be worth checking out just to see if the rest of Universal’s planned monster projects are building on a strong foundation. It’s worth looking at because Tom Cruise is being set up as perhaps the lynchpin of the universe—as well as because Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll character appears to be setting up something interesting. Jekyll, of course, belongs to his own monster tale, though his role has hardly been hinted at in this particular film.
Like Kong: Skull Island, it may wind up being better and more significant than it looks. We’ll just have to wait till June 9 to find out for ourselves.