How To Talk To Your Friends And Family About Kinda Liking THE MUMMY

A certain type of viewer will find much to enjoy in THE MUMMY. Everyone else will respond appropriately.

Note: This review may contain very mild spoilers for The Mummy, but they have been shared only to further sell this movie to the very specific type of person who will enjoy The Mummy. The rest of you won't like it, anyway, so don't worry about spoilers.

A few weeks back, I got taken to the woodshed by a number of readers who seemed absolutely dumbfounded to learn that someone out there enjoyed Alien: Covenant. I took their carefully-expressed concerns ("Scott Wampler has lost his fucking mind") about as seriously as I take anything else online - which is to say, not at all - but I feel compelled to mention them here because, hoo boy: if my support of Alien: Covenant brought you to the brink, just wait'll you hear how much I didn't hate The Mummy.

The first thing I should say is, Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy is not a good movie. I enjoyed myself way too much while watching it to call it a bad movie, but it's definitely not a good one. The mythology introduced here is far too complicated, the set pieces don't land with the explosive gusto we generally associate with Tom Cruise vehicles, Cruise himself generates almost zero chemistry with virtually everyone he shares the screen with (the love interest, the comic relief, the villain, whatever the hell Dr. Jekyll's supposed to be, some rats), there's no sense of tonal control on display, and - perhaps most crucially - the film's final five minutes are absolutely ridiculous. 

It's in that final five minutes that the true shape of this Dark Universe experiment really begins to reveal itself, and - without getting too deep into spoiler territory - if Universal's thinking of doing what I think they're thinking of doing, the resulting franchise is going to be flat-out absurd. Somewhat incredibly, we are staring down the barrel of a knock-off Marvel Cinematic Universe which seems determined to turn the classic Universal Monsters into quasi-superheroes with Universal Monsters-esque powers. To follow this train of thought any further, I'd have to start ruining things, so I'll leave it at that...but trust me: that seems to be the unspeakably silly intention here.

But, here's the thing: I'm kinda here for it?

Before readying your @'s, I think it's important to understand where I'm coming from. Of course I love the classic Universal Monsters, and of course I would prefer a more classical interpretation of them. Of course I am living in constant fear of what this hilariously ill-advised project will end up doing to my beloved Creature From The Black Lagoon (when that day comes I will be extra extra salty, my friends). Of course to all of these things...but also, I don't get a say in Universal's plans. That ship has sailed. If nothing else, we're definitely getting a modern-day retelling of Bride Of Frankenstein, and we're probably also getting that Johnny Depp-starring Invisible Man (lol). The Mummy lays the groundwork for all future Dark Universe films, and there's no backing away from that plan now. 

So, the way I see it is, if we're really gonna do this - if we're really talking about a Universal Monsters spin on The Avengers - we have two choices: we can do the ritual wailing and gnashing of teeth thing, or we can embrace this absurdity. Given how weird things get in The Mummy, I (a gentleman with a deep and abiding love for ill-advised movies, as you well know) feel the choice is obvious: I'm putting all my chips on "This Silly Bullshit."

What kind of silly bullshit are we talking about? As I watched The Mummy, I kept a running list. Looking over that list now, I feel that some of these notes probably count as spoilers, so I'll just rattle off some of the more innocuous things that happen in Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy: Tom Cruise gets engulfed in rats who, rather than attacking him, just kind of pin him to the ground; Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis outrun a concussive sound wave as it shatters glass throughout London; American Werewolf In London gets ripped off to a degree we can only call "shameless"; Tom Cruise takes a running go at the Mummy, who viciously pimp slaps him to the ground; a storm blowing through the streets of London literally picks cars up off the ground and tosses them around like toys, yet Tom Cruise is able to move about on foot, seemingly unfettered by the wind. Russell Crowe shows up and comes very close to eliminating all the goodwill he built up in last year's The Nice Guys with a truly atrocious performance as Dr. Henry Jekyll. There are gigantic secret labs, castles looming in the background on fog-covered hills, and a major plot point revolving around a gaudy ceremonial dagger with a giant, fake-looking ruby set into the hilt. 

It's all so, so silly. And yet, the film goes out of its way to also try and be an actual horror movie. Amidst all these other odd little kinks, there's a few legitimately cool monster effects (note: none of them involve Crowe's Mr. Hyde, who is possibly the least-scary version of that character ever presented to the public), and moments where you can tell Kurtzman was really hoping to ape the feel of those old classics - misty forests, labs filled with strange body parts, lots of talk about "curses" and the global destruction they might lead to. As an added bonus, there's also the reliable sight of Tom Cruise doing his damndest to sell material he must know to be ridiculous. What's there to savor isn't all irony-based, in other words. The movie does do a few things right.

Sure, maybe I was mostly entertained for the wrong reasons, but - speaking as someone who recently subjected himself to both King Arthur and Baywatch - I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on this whole "good bad movie VS bad bad movie" thing. I also think that entire debate is nonsense: either you're entertained or you're not. There were certainly dull moments in The Mummy, sequences I wish had been shorter or exposition dumps that could've been handled a lot less, uh, terribly, but overall I kinda had a good time watching it, and when I stopped to consider what kind of unfortunate franchise madness The Mummy could lead to...well. 

Look, you probably won't like The Mummy. Most people I know will not like The Mummy. These people will not be wrong. But there's a certain breed of film enthusiast who I think will absolutely find something to enjoy here, and I think that same breed of film enthusiast will be very excited, indeed, to see what other kind of monkey business this Dark Universe is hiding up its sleeve (the idea of a modern, action-horror take on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame was already funny; now it's hilarious). Those people should definitely see The Mummy. You know who you are.

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