For the Labor Day Holiday (in the US), I watched The Mummy (2017). I thought it was fun and the action set pieces were very interesting, but The Mummy tried to mimic several things from the previous Mummy movie (with Brendan Fraser) and didn’t do it as well as it could have. Here is a short review (& rumination) on some of the reasons why the movie was not as successful as it should have been.
We were supposed to understand and buy that the main character is a “rogue,” similar to Han Solo. He is a man of questionable actions and intents, but ultimately has a “good heart.” This doesn’t come through in the script. This is told to us by other characters, mostly by the female lead, but we don’t actually get to see him be a good man or a scoundrel. We just get to see him make several questionable choices that don’t really make sense. The filmmakers needed to have given him one “trait” that he could have done over and over again to emphasize that he is “impulsive,” let’s say, or something similar. He frees the mummy without asking the “expert,” but is unprepared to deal with the consequences. If he kept doing impulsive things throughout the movie, then that would show us that he acts before he thinks and this would have been a problem that he could have worked to solve (or understand) by the end of the movie, but that’s not what happened. Look at World War Z if you want to see characterization by showing rather than telling.
“Witty Banter.” My bane in Ken Smith’s Writing Class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (at least during my early, formative days as a writer). I had to learn that witty banter (a la Star Wars and Star Trek) doesn’t equal a good story. Witty banter comes about with characters who are in opposition with each other, but who are also clever and know they’re clever and they fight not just with guns and swords (or phasers and lightsabers), but who also fight with words. The writers used witty banter in place of true characterization and instead of making the characters seem human and real, witty banter was included to make the characters seem hip and cool. The problem is that without true characterization, the banter felt (to me) forced and didn’t have the necessary zing to it.
Finally, there was a problem with the tone. The movie wanted to be everything at once. It wanted to be dark, funny, irreverent, clever, scary, and a blockbuster all in one go. It had too many elements that didn’t mesh as well as they could have. It was trying to channel the old irreverence of the Brendan Fraser Mummy while still trying to tell as serious story like King Kong: Skull Island or something similar. It reminded me very much of the movie Sahara starring Matthew McConaughey in terms of tone. It was angling to be a much more serious movie, but was undercut constantly by in-jokes, witty banter, and improbable plot turns that turned it into something more like a comedy than an action movie. The same is true here. It had the same type of protagonist, the same “ditzy” sidekick, and the same independent woman/dependent woman love interest.
Now again, I thought it was fun movie, but even as I watched it my mind was critiquing it for the problems that it had. Truly exceptional movies, however, have the power to withstand my inner critic and only upon repeated viewings do problems arise. If the makers of The Mummy (2017) really want a successful movie franchise, then they’re going to have write it in a much more believable and consistent manner or audiences are not going to show up for future installments.