“Please be less scathing,” is what my colleague asked me. She was referring to my review of the Fast and Furious 8.
I could have been had I been asked to review something like Logan, but I was requested to review Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.
After watching Universal Studio’s first installment of its Dark Universe series, I have a request of my own: Can white people stop making movies about ancient Egypt?
The Mummy takes prominent position in Hollywood’s long list of movies that are little more than wanton acts of cultural vandalism and murder of history.
I was fuming during the movie and once I got back home, I looked up IMDB to find many factual errors.
The supposed archaeologist says that the mummy has been locked up for two thousand years. However, two thousand years ago, Egypt was a Roman province. It had been conquered nearly fifty years ago, and it had no magic princesses left. Also, the big pyramids were built roughly four thousand and six hundred years ago. Not two thousand.
The Mummy's name, Ahmanet, is not a possible ancient Egyptian name. The similar name Amunet, is an ancient Greek version of the Egyptian name I-m-n-t. I-m-n means, roughly, the Hidden One, and Amunet, therefore means "the female hidden one," or "She of Amun" (a major Egyptian god). However, the name in this movie, Ahmanet, is not a possible name for an Egyptian.
The marks on the Mummy's face and body are a newly made-up writing system. They are not Egyptian hieroglyphs, which would certainly be used in any religious, magical, or deity-related context. They are not any form of ancient Egyptian.
None of the art/props have any actual ancient Egyptian styling or features to them. The Mummy's sarcophagus is not ancient Egyptian at all. None of the designs are consistent with ancient Egyptian iconography or archaeological reality.
The uncritical among you would say that it’s just a movie, but some of us aren’t down with non-western cultures being used as fodder by western cultural institutions for cartoonish fantasy.
Leaving aside the lack of encyclopedic merit, the film is hollow on almost every other front. The movie is directed by Alex Kurtzman who also directed the Transformers and, from the get-go, The Mummy is a very Alex Krurtzman film in the worst way possible.
The story is about the coming back to life of an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahamnet, who was mummified and cursed for eternity for making a pact with the Egyptian God of death and killing her own father and sibling in an attempt to become the ruler of Egypt. Princess Ahmanet is woken from her curse by two unknowing bounty hunters and her mission is to honour the pact with the God of death by sacrificing Tom Cruise’s character, for which she’s ready to wreck havoc onto the world.
Just like in the Transformers, the main female character in this film is there for navel gazing (literally, in one scene). Played by Annabelle Wallis, Jenny Halsey is an archaeologist on a mission to find Princess Ahmanet’s tomb, but her main draw is not her acting talent but the fact that she’s a thin, pretty blonde.
And what other way to drive it home than by giving her some of the inarticulate lines in the film.
Additionally, a source of constant annoyance is Tom Cruise’s sidekick, Chris Vail (played by Jake Johnson), thanks to his utterly failed attempts to be a comic relief in the film. I was relieved when he was bitten by a spider as he was bounty hunting for Ahmanet’s tomb because it looked like he was going to die and never appear again, but I was wrong. He was just as cringe-worthy in his after-death.
Russell Crowe exudes authority and presence as he plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. I was in awe of him, I have to say, not to mention glad that there was finally some good acting. Dr. Jekyll heads a secret organisation, Prodigium, trying to protect the world from evil, which in this film is Princess Ahmanet.
He is given a decent amount of screen time and we get to see Dr. Jekyll’s other side, Edward Hyde. There are also clear references to Dracula and Frankenstein, which are two of the other films lined up in the Dark Universe series.
Even though the story line is linear and unsophisticated, it becomes somewhat intriguing toward the end when Tom Cruise’s character Nick Morton turns out to be an anti-hero of sorts. Despite that, however, the film remains all about him. And by him, I mean Tom Cruise and not Nick Morton.
Synonymous with Agent Hunt of the Mission Impossible series, it is hard to dispel that visual memory attached to Tom Cruise. Had I not known that I was watching The Mummy, I would have thought that it was Agent Hunt trying to pull off a job somewhere in Egypt.
I don’t understand what was the merit of having him as the main character. If it was his star power, it clearly hasn’t worked since the movie has hardly been a hit in the box office.
The joke is that Tom Cruise is the mummy because he’s so old. But I didn’t think that. He’s the mummy not because he’s old, but because he’s the same. He was the same in Minority Report, Mission Impossible, and in The Mummy. Tom Cruise is actually not a very versatile actor and, just as a mummy, he hasn’t changed much through the sands of time.
It is hard to dispel that visual memory attached to Tom Cruise. Had I not known that I was watching The Mummy, I would have thought that it was Agent Hunt trying to pull off a job somewhere in Egypt.
Talking about the mummy, it’s Sofia Boutella who plays Princess Ahmanet. While I’m always happy to see non-white faces in Hollywood, it comes with a sense of trepidation. The Algerian-French actress is a competent performer but unfortunately, the film doesn’t treat her with justice. The focus is more on her exotic factor. Sensual and alluring, Princess Ahmanet’s rescuer – or The Chosen – is Tom Cruise, a white man. Hollywood can never get race relations right.
The only memorable instance from The Mummy is Russell Crowe’s powerful performance, even if the watered-down lines he is given are beneath an Oscar winner like him. Other than that, the only thing to ponder upon from the film is the next installments of the Dark Universe series.
The film’s ending opens up to what’s to come. I am looking forward to Dracula and Frankenstein, but I hope that Universal Studios gets its act together and treats the rest of the films with respect and seriousness, which was so severely lacking in The Mummy.