So as you may or may not know, Universal is launching a new franchise based on its monsters collection… Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, etc. And the first one they’re launching is The Mummy. And the first trailer for this dropped yesterday. And while I’m rarely conscious of developing expectations for such things, I am conscious of having them disappointed.
Last we saw of The Mummy was the Steven Sommers movies starring Brendan Fraser. The second was an abomination, but the first had a tongue-in-cheek quality and throwbacks to 30s adventure serials, so it was fitfully amusing. Still, one has seen the delightfully atmospheric and chilling Boris Karloff original, and if they’re doing a redo, one hopes that they might try to bring some of that magic back. Then the trailer comes out and—allowing that it is only 2.5 minutes of a full feature—not only is it not what one hopes for a Mummy movie, it’s not what one hopes for in a horror-adventure, it looks exactly like every single other blockbuster in existence.
Bad things we know about it is that it is directed by shit-purveyor Alex Kurtzman, who rode up with JJ Abrams along with fellow shit-purveyors Roberto Orci and dreaded kiss-of-death Damon Lindelof. The other troubling sign is that Universal is openly leading with the idea of starting a franchise, as if the average moviegoer says “Fuck yeah! Franchise, dude!” when they find out that Jekyll [of Jekyll and Hyde] is in the film, or that we can expect numerous crossovers in the Avengers vein [just wait until they team up to start fighting crime].
I read an interview with Kurtzman which betrays his delusion that this movie is in some way different than X-Men 17 or Mission: Impossible 12 or Pirates of the Caribbean 342, and he’s talking about how Tom Cruise here is not the hero we know by is actually scared and screaming for his life. Hmmm, well, too bad the big plane scene here is so reminiscent of the big plane scene in Mission: Impossible 5, and that the scene is edited so that it builds up to the “Tom. Fucking. Cruise.” payoff. You know: There’s a plane. It’s got a mummy on it. The crew are nervous. Weird noises are being heard. Then: Tom. Fucking. Cruise.
Kurtzman believes we are to be wowed and amazed because Cruise dies and returns from the dead, as though every single character in every single blockbuster of the past twenty years hasn’t died and returned from the dead. I marvel at what it must take to maintain that level of delusion. The rest of the trailer is all machine guns and explosions and running from waves of destruction and CGI sandstorms, absolutely indistinguishable from any blockbuster.
It’s a shame that we’ve narrowed it down to about four basic emotional states we’re allowed to have in mainstream tentpoles, and slow-building atmosphere, insidious creepiness, and engrossing mystery—all present in the Karloff Mummy—are not to be found among them. We used to say that blockbusters are so much the same that we are coming down to a choice between chocolate and vanilla, but recently it’s pretty much akin to a choice between vanilla and French vanilla.