Friday, 9 December 2016

The Mummy (2017) - trailer speculation

If you listened to our Halloween Horror month of podcasts, you'll know that we went back and watched all the old, classic Universal Monster movies in anticipation of their reboots. In our review of the 1932 Boris Karloff classic, we speculated about the first of what will be a shared universe for these monsters in The Mummy. The original was a subtle story of looming dread and exploitation by the cursed ancient Egyptian priest Imhotep. You only see "the mummy" itself for a short but deliciously intense amount of time. Films were different back in the '30s. Very different.

This week, the trailer for the new version of The Mummy finally dropped, and the first thing you need to know is that this film has Tom Cruise in it. To be fair, its not unusual for films to trade on the the names of its leading actors, even the 1932 version sold itself on "Karloff the Uncanny", his name as big as the title. However, it was obvious who Karloff was playing in that film. The new version, we are left wondering, what is Tom Cruise doing here? Obviously in the army, he detects something awry with the sarcophagus tied down to the plane. Why just that one artefact? What's so special about it? Why do they need a crew of at least seven people looking after it? We don't know, but what I do know is that this film is looking awfully like a typical Tom Cruise action film, even if he does surprise us by actually dying, and then arising, much to his shock, later on.

OK, so the plane crashes due to a suicidal flock of birds... Might be because of that ominous looking ancient coffin. Already, bodies flung like unwanted toys to their death, and some explosions. Tom Cruise, action hero and obvious good guy, saves the lady scientist, and one dodgy scream later he dies, only to later find himself alive in a mortuary bin bag. The voice over states, "Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters", quoting Dr Pretorious from Bride of Frankenstein. Don't forget that this is a shared universe now. We even see Russell Crowe as Dr Jekyll, who looks set to become the exposistional dispenser of knowledge for Cruise and the audience, as he seems to have prior knowledge of The Mummy, Princess Ahmanet, played by Sofia Boutella.

While I am excited to see Boutella playing The Mummy, I was a little annoyed to find out that having a female mummy was really a consolation prize for director Alex Kurtzman, as he had initially planned on The Mummy to be male and quite possibly blue, but backed out of the idea because the post-credit scene to Days of Future Past showed Apocalypse looking exactly like his designs. Oh, alright then...Still, the iris' melding into two looks pretty awesome, and a bit of revenge can always be fun, but the costume? The one thing I feared was that they'd let themselves down on the make-up front. It doesn't help that the legendary Jack Pierce set the standard so impossibly high with the original Universal Monster make-up, but the raggedy bits of bandage around a pale body suit, scribbles on the face and matted hair (a bit too Enchantress-like for me)? Seems liked Universal skimped a bit there.

There's lots of impossible action, with explosions and jumping, and a completely implausible bit where Cruise manages to role through a crashed London bus, at speed, without killing himself. The editing, sound design, and shadowy figures lend a slight, PG-13 horror-esque atmosphere, which I suppose is better than no horror like they were planning to do. The action, like most action films, is gratuitous, to the point of distraction. I forgot that I'm meant to be watching a horror movie based on a beloved and much respected classic. I almost forgot that I'm watching a film based in Egypt, as not even Princess Ahmanet's sarcophagus looks particularly ancient Egyptian.

Obviously, Richee and I are huge fans of the original monsters, and we are clearly not the target audience for this remake. As we said on the podcast, if these series of films get people into the originals, then great, but the films have to be good in the first place. So far, in this initial trailer, The Mummy seems to be lacking all the magic and intrigue of the 1932 version, but maybe that's just me being sentimental. It's going to have to take a drastic change of tone in order to stand out from the rest of the generic action/adventure flicks that litter our summers to stand out.

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