The Mummy (2017)
Welcome to a New World of Gods and Monsters
People forget that long ago, before people even liked comic book movies, Universal was connecting it's stories of monsters in various ways. In it's long stretch of movies, I feel there's always been hits and misses, and any given person could really like one monster (such as Dracula, who always gets the love) and hate another (such as Wolfman whose costume wasn't as impressive). So of course, liking me some monsters, I knew that this rendition of the mummy would be something I'd get around to - heck, the last version of Dracula we got I really enjoyed, despite it meeting a lukewarm reception at best. Swirl in all the more recent movies that people have cried foul about that I've ended up liking, and there's no reason why I shouldn't imagine that this one will be any different. Still, could this movie make me seem even more like i'm bathing in mercury, or will I end up another in a legion of the judgemental dead?
The first thing I'd like to tackle here is the new-factor. With all these "tales as old as time," the best we can want is something new. A new take or spin can keep an old story, especially one involving a monster, feeling fresh and exciting, and appealing to a wider audience. With the first mummy movie, the mummy was more like a tool, hardly the villain most would think. In the more commonly remembered mummy movies, we get some comedy and a mummy who in fact is the villain with their own motivation - which might largely be why it's the more liked of the mummy movies, although as those went on they did get a bit wackier and arguably a bit worse off for the quality. Here though, the largest most obvious change is that the mummy is one lovely lady - after she gets a few souls down her gullet anyways. There's a plethora of reasons they could have gone this route, but in the end it's largely irrelevant - the part of "mummy" could easily be any gender in most stories without having a large impact.
In turn, it's nice to see that it flows fine with their desire - even utilizing it to give her a reason to have an accursed deal when her father has a son and bumps her out of line for ruling. Yes, it does make her character - for what it is - feel much more petty, but then you'd have to ask how often does deals with the proverbial devil not occur because of some petty reason? Her supporting cast isn't terrible either, with the other female lead serving as a moral grounding for the main male lead while alternating between useful and damsel in distress. That might upset a few, but the situations of D.i.D. are actually quite reasonable and rarely actually require the main's direct assistance. All three do a pretty good job of acting, even against some elements that are wacky or added in later. This, to surprise, leads me to the other main difference.
This movie is much more Van Helsing than the old mummy movies. If you take into account that the Fraser mummy series had it's secret brotherhood that were out to protect the tomb at all costs (and did a terrible job of it) than this isn't to crazy of a surprise. However, instead of just an anti-mummy defense club, this is very much that Helsing scale, where it's an outfit whose purpose is to deal with "evil" and monsters. It's implied through props here and there that they, if nothing else, at least have a decently large collection of research specimens (some little easter eggs there). This is by far the largest point in which it feels as though the movie is trying to force some kind of interconnected universe - but largely, it never feels like it's necessarily overstepping the bounds of it's story. Indeed, the opening logo that displays "Dark Universe" feels more obtrusively placed than the inclusion of the anti-monster group. This also provides us with some pretty decent acting from it's lead character, who gets to slip in some amusing cockney accent for a bit.
Flow wise, the movie is more akin to a standard action flick. A little setup, a set piece, a little more setup, another set piece, some explanations, and pretty near rinse and repeat until the final set piece event. The trick to it here, and what will probably get more people confused, is the tendency of the movie to use "vision time" - or moments when our main is having flashbacks or mysterious vision - to jump from one place in the story to the next, creating these odd moments of disconnect. Rolling in an alley covered in rats suddenly jumps to a different location in the middle of the street using vision time - and it's pretty much as jarring as it sounds, despite that narrative cover up as to why the time is jumping and the setting is off. Beyond that, however, it's a pretty simple and straight forward take.
The action sets are generally combined with plenty of special effects. For the most part, these all look pretty good - although there are certainly moments when that quality drops and you just shake your head a little bit. Still, plenty of explosions and soul-drying mouth to mouth makes an appearance, as does some mummy beat downs and interesting environments. Some of the locations are actually quite spooky and would be right in place in a straight horror movie - although largely this movie feels very similar to Marvel flicks at times, where even the most serious of mood can have the rug pulled from under it with a joke immediately or shortly after. Costumes are largely nothing fancy, although our mummified dead yield a nice appearance ranging from more skeletal dead knights to freshly jerked cops. Our main mummy goes through a bit of different phases, and largely doesn't necessarily impress in the costume department nearly as much as she does in the effects department. I admit though, the double-eyed effect is pretty neat, and really helps the impression of more than one person rattling around in a body.
Even without the connection to a "dark universe" this movie still ends sequel bating hard. It's not terrible, given that it still largely works as a self contained movie - although there are some issues with that. The movie starts off in a double-jointed manner, which largely makes it feel like its more a movie about this secret organization keeping tabs on monsters than it does the mummy itself. It's alright the way it is, but I do question if it wouldn't have been easier to skip the first scene and instead start with the backstory of the mummy herself, then throwing us to the modern times and our lead man. It may have saved an exposition dump or two as well if instead of narrating over that, they left that to be explained by the characters later (since that's basically what happens anyways). Again, it's not horrible, but it is redundancy that could have been time spent better elsewhere.
While not a bad movie, I do admit this one is probably overshadowed by the series before it. Although of higher quality, the last had far more charm than this one - which isn't to say this rendition has nothing to offer. Dropping a female mummy and using the gender as a story telling element when it isn't necessary to do so is a nice touch, and the cast all does a pretty decent job acting. Despite obvious strides towards wanting to connect movies from the get-go, the movie doesn't feel as though it's forcing it nearly as much as I was lead to believe. In all honesty, I feel like the movies biggest downside is that it just didn't do enough different from what we've had available to really set it apart in a more pronounced way. As strong or weak a dislike as that may be, this is certainly just another one of those movies that I feel got a larger overreaction than it deserves - it's mediocre at worst, and entertaining at best.