I was led to believe the new Mummy movie sucked, that Tom Cruise’s star power is waning, and the film couldn’t decide what it wanted to be although it seemed to want to be Indiana Jones. I don’t much care about Cruise as a person (if only he’d found meditation instead!), and he seemingly picks roles based on a fear of whether or not he’ll look dumb, and his films can sometimes be rote, but I’ve never left one thinking it was terrible, so I figured “How bad can it be?” Armed with lowered expectations and a free pass, I went to The Mummy this evening.

I liked it. I’ve come to the generalization that movie reviewers just see so many movies, it’s got to be truly remarkable for one of them to like a blockbuster, and what with Cruise’s comfortable-in-front-of-the-camera-but-a-wee-bit-wooden delivery in his own blockbusters, I’m not surprised they didn’t like this, but it doesn’t deserve the trashing it’s gotten. Even Ordinary Movie Watchers can get a little jaded about a film. Years ago, I saw American Beauty at the Toronto International Film Festival with three friends, two of whom had seen three to four movies a day for a few days and this was their third just that day. At the end, they were kinda meh while I couldn’t even find words for the way it had affected me, either that day or since. Now, I’m not saying that The Mummy in any way compares to American Beauty, but that story is my go-to analogy for why movie reviewers can’t seem to like movies that are likeable.

Apparently, this is supposed to be the first of a Dark Universe series, re-imagining the old monster movies of yore (Frankenstein, vampires, etc.) and while it starts out goofy-funny, some stuff that happens after the discovery of the mummy’s tomb demonstrates that it’s a dark universe they’re aiming for; it’s not horror horror, but this film came to play. People die. It’s also not Indiana Jones, where the only people who die are the bad guys, but the Indiana Jones films also balanced humour and drama and no one said it had a hard time trying to decide what kind of film it was. It goes from “Asps, very dangerous, you go first,” (funny) to melting Nazis and the Angel of Death (not funny). Movies with drama and comic relief are good, like life. Most of the humour is Cruise’s character just trying to adjust to his situation, which is pretty bleak, and I prefer his confusion to the general screaming and panic that a Real Person might experience if this kind of thing was going on.

The Mummy also has some empathy for the villain, like all good monster movies. Our bad guy, Ahmanet, was a good girl, until the patriarchy pulled the rug out from under her and she resorted to the options available to a royal good girl gone bad thousands of years ago. You know, killing people and stuff. And while we’re at it, I’ve never understood why bad guys need to be buried alive when you know it won’t kill them. Seriously, if she’s become an actual living god, and you leave her buried for 5000 years (should have been maybe 3500 years, but more on that later) how pissed do you think she’ll be when she gets out? And you know she’ll get out. Bad planning. There’s probably an environmentalist metaphor in there if you look hard enough. Or not. It’s just a movie. Just make a note of it; if you’ve got a super bad guy you can hold on to long enough to bury alive, find a way to kill it before you bury it. You’ll thank me later.

Quibbles:

1. Jennifer, the archaeologist, tells the military guys helping her ship the sarcophagus that it’s 5000 years old, but later says the hieroglyphs are from the New Kingdom, which is, at its oldest point, about 3500 years ago. I know there are maybe 1000 professional and amateur Egyptologists they’re going to piss off with this, but dude, take 37 seconds and look it up on Wikipedia. That shit’s sloppy.

2. I never could buy Tom Cruise being in love with the women in his movies, and this one is no exception, at least with the modern, alive archaeologist. I kinda dug his feelings about Ahmanet, though, and sort of hoped those crazy kids could make it work.

3. Russel Crowe, man, play a role we can sink our teeth into. It hurts my heart the way you’re phoning it in.

4. I know why it’s not horror horror, but that might be interesting. Someone at Dark Universe, talk to Joss Whedon about how to mix comedy and scary like he did in The Cabin in the Woods.

Likes:

1. A couple of twists and turns, not entirely predicable….but mostly, so…

2. An exceedingly brief moment near the end where Cruise reminds us that he can act, man, and why he embodied the vampire Lestat when he had the chance. Please, Mr. Cruise, do more of that. Stop being afraid!

3. Sofia Boutella goes all out.

4. A little American Werewolf in London homage. Can’t go wrong with that. Hey, the girl is also named Jenny! I just remembered that.

5. Things blow up real good.

6. A somewhat open-ended ending.

So, if you were on the fence, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for. Go see it, it’s good, G-rated (not literally) horror fun with very pleasant special effects, but could probably use more nudity, like most films. Except Disney cartoons. That would be weird.

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