So I went to see The Mummy this morning.
(Very mild spoilers ahead.)
Yes, I’ve seen the reviews (19% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is worse than both Baywatch and the new Pirates of the Caribbean), and the trailers, and I am not an idiot. I fully expected it to be shit…but I still couldn’t not see it, because a) I love action/adventure movies, b) I often find bad movies fun, which is why I watch Deep Blue Sea every time it’s on television, and c) good or bad, The Mummy is urban fantasy writer catnip. Monsters, magic, new/old gods, Egyptian mythology, dark London alleys and sunburnt desert skies. And the whole Dark Universe concept, especially as an alternative to the MCU or the DCCU, intrigues me to no end. It’s a modern day Penny Dreadful, people. How could I not go? It’s like I mail-ordered it from a catalogue, only someone mixed up the orders and accidentally added Tom Cruise.
First things first: The Mummy is not a great film…but it’s not the piece of London bin fire it’s being portrayed as, either. In fact, if you’d taken out Tom Cruise and replaced him with a better, less Tom Cruise-y actor, I’d endorse it pretty unequivocally. It’s fun. Yes, it’s mostly about elaborate mummies-vs-humans set pieces, but damn, they’re held together with a story that’s good enough. And yes, I had predicted the ending, and the female lead could have had a little more to do (though hers wasn’t the Sexy Lamp part from, say, Dr. Strange). She does spend most of the film trying to save Tom Cruise and stop the mummy, in that order, but if Tom’s storyline were removed, she’d still be trying to stop the mummy.
Here’s the best thing about The Mummy: the promises it makes. We really only get one great Jekyll/Hyde sequence, but it’s exactly as fun as you think it’ll be. For the first part of the movie, Russell Crowe seems like he got the boring end of the casting stick, but then he switches to Hyde and damn if it isn’t awesome. There are also scenes in his lab/secret base where he walks past formaldehyde jars and I was practically drooling with excitement at the specimens he’s collected. There’s even a brief visual shout-out to the two Brendan Fraser Mummy films (I refuse to acknowledge or see the alleged third).
There have been a lot of movies lately that want to deconstruct or dampen with realism the big fun summer blockbuster: Logan, John Wick, Deadpool, Suicide Squad. This isn’t that. The Mummy celebrates and emulates the American popcorn movie, with a pretty tight script by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, and a million others) and Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects). I respect that.
So The Mummy is not a great film, but here are just a few of the movies it’s better than: Scorpion King, the alleged third Fraser Mummy (I’m assuming), Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Jason Bourne. It’s more fun than the American Godzilla remake, weirdly more plausible than most of the Fast and Furious movies, and the bad guy’s whole motivation makes a lot more sense than in Civil War.
Look, I’m not suggesting you hire a babysitter and pay $18 a person for an IMAX 3D screening, but if you’re even mildly interested in a fun two hours, please go see a Saturday morning 2D show of The Mummy— not because you think it’ll be amazing, but because I really want more Dark Universe movies, and this film is good enough for what we need to kick off this multiverse. And to see the Jekyll/Hyde scene. And Sofia Boutella turning in yet another stunningly physical performance.
Did I mention the Swamp Thing hand?