And so it begins… the first film in Universal Studio’s Dark Universe franchise, the 2017’s The Mummy, a remake of the 1999 film that starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. While the original was a strange but somewhat effective mix of horror, comedy, adventure and corny one-liners, the 2017 remake kind of tries to do the same but takes its own twists.
It’s been a while since I last saw Tom Cruise star in a bad film, but I guess no actor or actress will be able to escape from having a few bad films under his or her belt. Remakes tend to do much more poorly than its original and it did not help that it was released during the week Wonder Woman was also released. But let’s dive in to see what it’s about, shall we?
Disclaimer: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
*For this review, I’ll be comparing both the original 1999 film with the 2017 film and praising or criticizing the remake as part of the review.*
Just like the 1999 film, we start with the origins of ‘The Mummy’, which in this film is Princess Ahmanet. She was originally the sole heir to the Egyptian throne but lost her position and power once her pharaoh father remarried and had a second child, a son. Ahmanet then decides to make a pact with Set, the god of death in Egyptian lore, in order to regain her lost power. She later wishes to rule Egypt with Set by her side but requires a living mortal to bring him to the mortal plane. However, she was stopped and mummified alive by the priests before she could finish the ritual.
Rating: 9/10. I like Ahmanet’s backstory a lot. It had a lot of contrasts to the original. A person committing some sort of treachery to the throne and was stopped. The live mummification this time felt more horrifying as there was a closeup of Ahmanet’s eyes before she was buried. It was a refreshing take on the film’s villain too, electing for a female villain compared to Imhotep, her male counterpart in the 1999 original.
Compared to the original film, Imhotep, the original villain of the franchise, was slightly underwhelming compared to Ahmanet’s story. Imhotep was introduced as a high priest and that implied he knew magic to some extent as he was to revive his lover, the wife of the pharaoh, that he had an affair with.However, comparing the two, Ahmanet definitely has an edge for bringing in more Egyptian lore and giving audience that exposition that she was powerful because she got her powers from Set, which was the equivalent of making a deal with the devil.
Winner: The Mummy (2017)
Rating: 5/10. This is where the film kind of struggles. It tried to bring in some twists on the characters we had in the original film, modernizing them.
- Princess Ahmanet: She had a very interesting backstory and whenever she’s allowed to take the scene, she does it extremely well. Furthermore, to add to that power she has, she is also seductive when she needs, charming Nick, played by Tom Cruise, to join her as her ‘chosen one’. Not only that, in her newly mummified form, the CGI for her ‘corpse’ moved in a disturbing way and that was quite scary yet oddly fascinating. Props to the animation team for bringing to life The Mummy again this time around.
- Nick Morton: Tom Cruise’s character in the film and the stereotypical action-loving treasure hunter Han Solo type of character. Basically, he had very little character development as he was shown as reckless (sneaking into the base of insurgents, awakening the mummy) and then spends the remaining bit trying to be humorous and coming off as bland and kinda cookie cutter-ish.
- Chris Vail: Nick’s friend in the film and his ‘partner-in-crime’. Vail was a supporting character and was mainly used for comic relief. The bad part of this was when the jokes come off as kinda meh and the humor continued even after he died in the narrative, so a funny zombie was… really not funny at all.
- Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Eddie Hyde: You done screwed it up, Universal. Stop showing your hand so early!! Russell Crowe plays Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde and is kind of the ‘Nick Fury’ of this DU franchise. He was thrown into the film as a way to tie in all the DU films but he was unneeded in a short fight where we get an appearance by Mr. Hyde (which looked underwhelming). Meh.
He probably should have had minimal screen time, just a mystery man that seeks to document everything the ‘new world of gods and monsters’ has to offer. Probably reveal his last name as Jekyll at the end or in a post-credit scene, to maintain a sense of mystery around him.
- Jenny Halsey: The love interest of Nick played by Annabelle Wallis. Very unlikeable character to me as her first impression was her appearing and start bossing people around and slapping Tom Cruise and she spends most of the film getting saved by Nick or running away. Sigh, it’s not an acceptable excuse to write a damsel in distress just because your main villain is female.
Comparing to the old film, the new film takes itself wayyyyy too seriously and it shows in the way the characters act. Other than Imhotep, who is meant to “play it straight”, the original cast of characters felt like caricatures of the stereotypical role they played, which helped to keep the sense that the film was a little self-aware. However, the new film suffers from having only one improved character: The Mummy. And she hurts from the writing, which I’ll talk about more in the next part of the review.
Winner: The Mummy (1999)
Rating: 1/10. DEAD ON ARRIVAL. I was appalled at the scene in which Jenny just went on a exposition vomiting spree on who Ahmanet was, a scene that happened just shortly after we just watched Ahmanet’s origins.
The original film built the atmosphere right, with the cast exploring the tombs together and then having to go through the chamber of flesh-eating scarabs, etc. This film just skipped all that and had the cast barely spend more than 10 minutes in a tomb. In a film about ancient mummies. Sigh.
Winner: The Mummy (1999)
Rating: 6/10. I wish the plot had tried to be a bit more subtle with its universe-building elements as the film definitely suffered from it. The Mummy was meant to be a unstoppable force type of villain but she barely got to go around scaring the crap outta people before she got captured by Jekyll and underwent mercury embalming. I still rated it to be decent because it was still easy to follow and isn’t completely garbage. I’ve seen worse. Except for that ending. What in the hell was that deus ex machina bullshit? I felt like it would be more interesting for Tom Cruise to die later and a evil-turned good Ahmanet would have been a much more interesting character for the DU franchise. /shrugs
The original film was just more cool in the way Imhotep basically did whatever he wanted until he was stopped, while we saw Ahmanet get stopped by some harpoon(?) guns, which hurt her character as this unstoppable force of magic. I did like the new Dagger of Set plot device over the Book of the Living/Book of the Dead from the original.
Winner: The Mummy (2017)
Overall Rating: 5/10. It really hurts the DU franchise with a weak swing with its first entry. It’s not a great film like how Iron Man (2008) helped Marvel build the MCU but like the DCEU, we’ll have to wait and see whether more will be added to the DU before we can judge. I’ll still recommend to catch the film if there’s nothing else to catch at the cinema because the CGI is pretty nice really and Sofia Boutella’s portrayal of Ahmanet is very impressive. It’s just an example of a film that wants to establish a universe but forgets it has to be a good movie first before it can act as a solid pillar for the franchise to build from. Until next time!