The Horror Honeys: Monster Honey Unwraps Alex Kurtzman's 'The Mummy'

Monster Honey Unwraps Alex Kurtzman's 'The Mummy'

All photos courtesy of Universal

A New Release Review with Monster Honey Sarah Miles

The Mummy (2017)

When news broke that Universal would be remaking its classic movie monsters as part of a shared cinematic universe, now called the Dark Universe, the response was generally skeptical, and not just because of the general distrust of Hollywood’s culture of constant remakes. By launching this series, they would be remaking classic icons of not only horror but cinema itself. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the Universal monster movies highlighted character and atmosphere over today’s "one jumpscare per ten minutes of runtime" quota. Even if people haven’t seen them, you only need show them a picture of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein or Bela Lugosi as Dracula and they are instantly recognizable because they are such a big part of popular culture consciousness.

2014’s Dracula Untold was the first attempt at this monster universe idea, but that was undead on arrival. Next up to the plate was director Alex Kurtzman, accompanied by dedicated movie runner and disciple of Xenu Tom Cruise, with a brand new take on The Mummy that promised action, adventure, and a twist on the classic monster by having a lady mummy in the bad guy role. Of course Universal had remade The Mummy in with the 1999 movie starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, and apart from a few bits of dodgy CGI, that film more than holds up as an embodiment of movie fun. This new version of The Mummy is the antithesis of that; a non-experience completely devoid of fun that fails to entertain on any level. If Kurtzman's film is an indicator of what we’re in for with this Dark Universe, then it might be better if this whole idea is put back into its tomb and left there.

I can't even say I hated The Mummy because that would imply it had elicited some sort of strong response from me, and it didn't even achieve that much.

Nick (Tom Cruise) is a stealer and “redistributor” of ancient relics. Whilst in Iraq, he stumbles across the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who made a pact for power and killed her family. She now wants to resurrect Set, the Egyptian deity of death and has chosen Nick for the sacrifice and vessel. Nick must work with archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) and the mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) to find a way to stop Ahmanet’s plans before she unleashes unstoppable evil on the world.

"Rule Number One, movie: don’t steal things from a better movie. It just makes the audience wish that they were watching that instead."

This movie feels like a relic, and not in a fun throwback kind of way that has any semblance of self-awareness. Rather, it feels like a film from the early nineties and contains all of the lame tropes and clich├ęs that the rest of the movie-making world have moved on from. The action is by the numbers, even in regards to the much ballyhooed "plane scene," which might have had more impact if it hadn’t been in all the trailers. The dialogue so basic, you can recite many of the lines before the characters do, and as for those characters, they might as well be cardboard standees. Nick is "Movie Hero Archetype No. 17," the jerk with a supposed heart of gold that we’re told about but don’t really see because he’s too busy delivering forced one-liners and running.

So. Much. Running.

This role would have also worked better with someone younger playing Nick, as the cocksure attitude here just feels like a guy going through a midlife crisis. Jenny doesn’t fare much better as "Female Sidekick No. 12-B," a smart chick who, importantly, is still bang-able and has the required chemistry-less romance with the lead. I didn’t believe in anything either of characters did, or remotely care about what happened to them. When the possibility was raised of killing Nick for the sake of stopping the curse, I just thought “yeah, makes sense, needs of the many and all that." Then it all culminates in a predictable finale that consists of a fight that is more laughable than action-packed and our “hero” fighting off ultimate evil through that most potent of forces: the power of "Three Day Contrived Movie Love." The whole thing feels utterly pointless.

Hey, Tom! Remember when I was in GOOD movies, like Safety Not Guaranteed?
I miss that.
The movie also completely wastes Jake Johnson in the role of Nick’s friend and just uses him in an extended subplot stolen from An American Werewolf in London. Rule Number One, movie: don’t steal things from a better movie. It just makes the audience wish that they were watching that instead.

Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet is the only truly great thing on offer here. She looks amazing both alive and undead, and brings an energy and presence that stands out amongst the rest of the, ironically, lifeless cast. She, or at least her CGI stand-in, even gets a couple of creepy moments after her initial resurrection. This is all in spite of the incredibly flat character motivation of “POWER." Boutella just continues to turn out great work when given the barest minimum to do, so imagine what she could do with some real substance.

Unrelated Gripe: This movie can’t even get some basic mythology right, as Set wasn’t the god of the dead in Ancient Egypt. He was the god of desert, chaos, and war, which would have worked perfectly fine as the basis for a villain, but the movie really wanted to have the whole life and death thing going on. The funny thing is that in most mythological pantheons, the gods of death tend to be the most fair and reasonable, but movies love making them villains... because it’s easy I suppose?

Don't forget. The safe word is, 'cinnamon'
The set up for the wider Dark Universe is awkward and comes mostly in the form of Russell Crowe’s exposition delivering Dr. Henry Jekyll, who serves as a Nick Fury-like figure for a secret organization that hunts evil and is based out of the Natural History Museum in London. Funny, I don’t remember that on any of the tours. Maybe you need to join a newsletter or something. In general, this idea isn’t necessarily bad, but we’ve seen this kind of thing done much better with things like the B.P.R.D in Hellboy comics and movies. Maybe if given room to grow it could be something interesting, but right now, it’s just a thing that’s there and doesn’t amount to much. You have to wonder what the point of the Dark Universe even is. In the original MCU films, it was obvious what they were building to, but here, the universe as a whole seems to be the end goal in and of itself and that doesn’t provide much focus for a project like this to succeed.

Jekyll himself is another part of the movie that almost manages to be entertaining, particularly in the scene where the Hyde side is let loose. This sequence isn’t very long (we can’t have the movie start to be fun after all), but while it lasted it was decent. Although this whole dynamic does contribute to something that really annoys me. The dividing of Jekyll as being the “good” half and Hyde being the “evil” half is such lazy writing and completely disregards a lot of the layers of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original work. Jekyll creates Hyde so that he can indulge in depravities and still have the respectability of a gentleman. It’s a story about hypocrisy and repression, not morality. Also, this trope of the movie version of Mr. Hyde talking with a Cockney accent is really weird and seems to say “low class = evil," which is stupid and lazy. It's been done multiple times and it's time to come up with a new dividing character trait.

Hello, I'm Henry Jekyll, and welcome to my crib.
Everything about The Mummy shows the barest minimum of effort on the parts of the filmmakers, and ultimately the end result reflects that. It’s not fun, nor is it funny, and Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet deserves a better movie. You would have a better time digging out a DVD of the 1999 movie instead.

Or seeing Wonder Woman again.

Just go see Wonder Woman again.

Monster Honey Verdict: 2 sets of double eyes out of 5