Cinema Dispatch: Top Ten WTF Moments in The Mummy

So if you read my review of the movie, you’ll know that I consider this one of the rare films that you can legitimately classify as So Bad It’s Good, but what does that even mean?  First of all, it’s one of the hardest things for any filmmaker to do as these kinds of movies live on a precarious balance of context that informs whether the flaws in place are enjoyable or not.  For example, The Room is one of the gold standards when it comes to this kind of movie due to the inexplicable nature of… well, EVERYTHING in the film.  HOWEVER, that context only works when you’re under the assumption that Tommy Wiseau had no understanding of what he was doing which, if you watch the movie again, isn’t really the case.  I don’t know the guy personally, but if you take another look at the movie from the perspective of a misogynist, what with the story being about a man scorned by an inexplicably evil woman who’s ruined his life to the point of him committing suicide (the movie even makes a point of putting ALL blame for the affair on Johnny’s girlfriend while framing Mark as sympathetic)… yeah, it kind of loses a lot of its charm; throwing off that perfect balance between being awful and being delightfully so about it.  Now on the other side of the coin, is it possible for this kind of balance to be reverse engineered?  Eh… I wouldn’t say it’s IMPOSSIBLE but other than MAYBE Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, I’m hard pressed to think of one that didn’t happen NATURALLY.  It’s lightening in a bottle plain and simple, and while there’s the rare filmmaker out there who can wrangle it themselves (I truly believe Werner Herzog to be a deity among mere mortals), we’ve gotten enough failed attempts from the likes of Robert Rodriguez and Quinten Tarantino (though Grindhouse is still a pretty high bar for intentional attempts at bad movies) to realize that trying to force this kind of movie isn’t something worth attempting and why it’s so great whenever we get another one to enjoy.  Now to celebrate this movie being added to the pantheon of Horribly Watchable Films, I’m gonna give you the top ten WTF moments in this utter disaster that’s landed in theaters!  Needless to say that I will be spoiling EVERYTHING about the movie so be wary if you want to experience it yourself.

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10) Necronomicon Ex Mortis – A random reference to the Brenden Fraser film

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When Tom Cruise’s character Nick is brought to Prodigium for the first time, there are a few quick references to other monster movies such as Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as one reference to the 1999 Mummy film.  The big MacGuffin of that one was the Book of the Dead that ended up reviving Imhotep after Evelyn opens it up and reads from it, and in THIS movie the book is at Prodigum and gets a nice long close up before being forgotten about completely.  Fair enough I guess as it serves its purpose of being a cute little call back, but doesn’t it seem like kind of a waste?  I mean, I don’t remember EVERYTHING that it did in that first movie, but surely they could have at least cracked it open to see if there’s a BANISH EVIL MUMMY LADY spell or something; ESPECIALLY considering they don’t really have a plan to stop her in the first place!  I don’t know, maybe they lost that weird key thing or something!

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9) Crusaders of the Living Damned! – Ahmanet’s amazing zombification skills

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Okay, MAYBE I’m expecting too much from a modern day monster movie (by which I mean it’s a disaster movie with something spooky at the center of it), so trying to question the Mummy’s powers could be considered quite the Sisyphean task.  Still, I have to wonder exactly how she manages to resurrect SO many zombies to serve her that she isn’t even remotely near; especially ones in an underground tomb who were Crusaders!  To me, adding THAT little wrinkle into it raises a whole lot of questions that the movie probably didn’t expect me to think about, such as how these supposed champions of Christ, HUNDREDS OF YEARS AFTER THEIR DEATHS are roused from their eternal rest at the behest of an Egyptian witch.  I mean… doesn’t this KINDA imply that Monotheism is bullshit if God can’t even protect his holy warriors from something like this!?  I guess it COULD be a commentary about The Crusades themselves being fought by opportunistic and bloodthirsty war mongers, but something tells me the guy who wrote Transformers 2 wasn’t thinking that hard it when he shot this scene.

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8) Sure we angered the Gods, but curses aren’t real! – Annabelle Wallis’s confusing characterization

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Man, I just want to give Annabelle Wallis a gold medal for having to suffer through this.  While Tom Cruise gets to be BAD ASS ACTION MAN, Russell Crowe gets a nice juicy paycheck for a glorified cameo, and even Sofia Boutella getting to be a badass mummy witch, she’s stuck playing a character named Jennifer Halsey that feels ripped out of a movie from two decades ago where female characters more often than not got the short shrift as far as characterization and agency.  I’m not saying it doesn’t STILL happen in movies, but we’ve been turning away from that in recent years, and it’s ESPECIALLY glaring the uselessness of this character when Wonder Woman is breaking box office records in the theater next door.  There’s the fact that her introduction is an exposition dump about her relationship with Nick, there’s the fact that we don’t learn anything about WHY she does this kind of work (presumably a plot thread to be resolved in another movie but isn’t compensated for with anything useful here), and probably the most maddening is the fact that she makes no freaking sense for a good ten minutes of this movie after the plane crash!  Once Nick wakes up from being dead, she’s trying to tell him that he’s probably invoked the anger of the Gods or something like that which indicates that she DOES in fact believe in the supernatural and that monsters exist in this world.  Nick isn’t convinced right away, but manages to become a believer within ten minutes and admits the he’s been cursed by the mummy… at which point Jennifer tells him he’s crazy and that he should see a doctor.  WHAT!?  SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME BECAUSE IT’S HURTING MY BRAIN!!  Actually, you know why this is in the movie?  It’s so they can do a joke later where she DOES see the mummy and is extremely surprised by it.  That’s it.  If the movie stayed consistent with her believing the mummy cursed him, they couldn’t do this scene, so they decided to turn one of the only two female characters into an incomprehensible idiot who says whatever the dumbass script needs her to.

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7) Tis but a scratch! – The slow and extremely obvious death of Jake Johnson

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Jake Johnson’s character Chris Vall is the first victim of the mummy as he gets possessed rather early on in the story.  I’m not entirely sure HOW though as the one thing that MIGHT have caused it, namely a bite from some sort of spider in the tomb, is something the movie takes time to EXPLICITLY tell us means nothing (Nick says in no uncertain terms that the specific spider that bit him isn’t poisonous and the movie doesn’t make it clear if the spider was under Ahmanet’s control) but that’s not even the most important part.  What IS important is that it takes almost no time for Chris to start coming down with symptoms as he turns deathly pale, coughs a lot, and I’m PRETTY sure there was a bit of moaning as well.  Okay, maybe I projected the moaning, but the point is that the movie informed us (the audience) that he was sick purely through visual cues… and yet NO ONE AT ANY POINT (not even Nick) picked up on the fact that he was coming down with something.  It’s not like he’s isolated as he’s not only with Nick and Jennifer but is surrounded by soldiers, and yet no one bothers to ask if he’s alright or if he might have caught something while going into that tomb!  Of course he ends up turning full zombie slave and even stabs Courtney B Vance right in the chest which comes as a TOTAL shock to everyone on board the plane, but by that point I can’t feel sorry for any of them because of how clueless they were up until now!  Even if they didn’t believe he was infected with the T Virus, they still should have caught this WAY before he had access to sharp objects!!  And yet… that’s not the most ridiculous thing they do with him in this movie.

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6) Didn’t they already do this in Pet Semetary!? – Jake Johnson’s ghost shtick

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I have a confession to make and while I hope you all don’t judge me too harshly for it, I’ll understand if you do.  Okay, here it goes.  I’ve never seen An American Werewolf in London.  Look, it was already on my catch up list and has now been fast tracked to the top of it, alright!?  Anyway, there’s an aspect of this movie that people have been comparing to An American Werewolf in London (though I remember this same idea being used in Pet Semetary) which is that after Chris is presumed dead from the plane crash, he starts visiting Nick as some sort of ghostly spirit; providing exposition dumps about the mummy and cracking jokes whenever he can.  It’s actually one my favorite parts of the movie because Jake Johnson is given some really great material to work with (not QUITE breaking the fourth wall but there is some self-aware humor there) and the movie will sometimes even pull some interesting visual tricks with his scenes.  Now obviously it doesn’t make any sense, but then again it didn’t in make sense in Pet Semetary either, so I won’t even really call this a So Bad It’s Good moment as it is a legitimately interesting (if unorthodox) aspect of this movie.  On the other hand, the movie DOES pull a So Bad It’s Good moment with his character at the very end when after Nick wins the fight and gets Mummy Powers or something (oh spoiler alert, he wins the fight and gets Mummy Powers), he bring Chris back to life… somehow.  Dude was presumably turned to little chunky meat piles after getting tossed around in a plane crash, yet Tom Cruise is able to resurrect him like he made a wish on the Dragon Balls!?  I don’t remember Princess Ahmanet having THAT power!!

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5) Makin’ Movies, Makin’ Songs, and FIGHTIN’ ‘ROUND THE WORLD!! – Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Honestly, I could fill this list up by just pointing and laughing at everything they did with Prodigium, but the part that REALLY takes the cake is Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Now just to clarify, I’m not opposed to the Dark Universe and don’t have a problem with them more or less copying the IDEA of a S.H.I.E.L.D. style organization as a central point for all future movies to come together around.  They didn’t do it WELL here as it’s shoehorned into this movie about as poorly as The Justice League was in Batman v Superman, but everything they set up here CAN work in another film provided Universal makes enough money to even want to move forward with these.  That being said, there’s some REALLY ridiculous shit in there that had me giggling through the entire second act, and nothing got more laughs out of me than what they wrote for Dr. Jekyll.  So it turns out that our Nick Fury to this universe’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is the aforementioned Dr. Jekyll as he’s the head of this organization and provides exposition dumps to Nick once he arrives.  Really BAD exposition dumps by the way where he keeps saying the words Darkness and Evil over and over again without ever really clarifying what the hell he’s talking about.  Now as we all know, Dr. Jekyll has a dark side named Mr. Hyde that INITIALLY was brought out by a formula he created, but eventually overtook Jekyll and could only be SUPPRESSED by the formula.  At least that’s what I recall from the book, and where this splits off is that Jekyll WAS able to continue making his formula (in the book, he ran out of a crucial ingredient and died) and… I guess he wants to kill monsters now.  So to make sure you don’t forget that he’s Dr. Jekyll, the dude has a briefcase filled with GIANT syringes filled with his super serum, and he injects like three of them (what has to be nearly a liter of fluid) directly into his hand every time he feels the urge to Hyde out.  I mean, at least he’s not injecting directly into a vein or else I’m pretty sure he’d have a freaking aneurysm, but I can’t imagine injecting THAT much fluid into your body as often as he does (he seemingly needs to do so every hour or so) is all that good for him, ESPECIALLY considering how much damage it seems to have already done to his hand which looks PRETTY infected!  It gets better though when he does eventually turn into Hyde (because of course he does), and pretty much turns into that parody of himself that was done in that one episode of South Park where he just gets the urge to fight everyone.  I’ll give the movie credit for one detail which is that there’s a SPECIFIC protocol in place in case Hyde ever gets out (basically everything goes on lock down), but you have to question how Prodigium ended up with THIS guy as its freaking leader.  Seriously, isn’t this EXACTLY the kind of thing you’d get Van Helsing for instead?

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4) Wait!  That’s not rain! – Mercury dripping from the ceiling of an ancient tomb

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I had to do research to prove this one is bullshit!  ARE YOU HAPPY!?  Anyway, the plot of the movie kicks off in earnest once Nick and Chris uncover Princess Ahmanet’s tomb and the two of them (along with Jennifer), find said princess inside.  Never mind that the movie fails to address WHY an Egyptian tomb is in Iraq (did the ancient Egyptians drag her sarcophagus to another country, dig out an elaborate tomb, and leave her there just to be extra spiteful!?), the most baffling thing about it is that liquid Mercury is dripping from the ceiling like water droplets in a muggy cave.  First of all, from my understanding, liquid mercury does not occur naturally in the quantities that would cause a constant drip-drip-drip in this cavernous hole in the ground!  Does this mean that, on top of dragging the Princess over eight hundred miles of desert, they were lugging gallons upon gallons of liquid Mercury as well!?  Not only that, her sarcophagus is SUBMERGED in a pool of liquid mercury!  Given that, let’s take a conservative estimate.  We’ll say the diameter of this specific pool is fifteen feet, and the depth is say… twenty feet.  The math comes out to OVER TWENTY SIX THOUSAND GALLONS, and that’s WITHOUT including the obscene amount of the stuff dripping from the ceiling!!  Where the hell did the ANCIENT EGYPTIANS get THAT much Mercury, and how the hell did they get it there!?

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3) Now where did I put that thing? – How Ahmanet finds the knife

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So the big MacGuffin of this film is split into two pieces; a magic knife and the jewel that powers it.  The jewel is found fairly early on in a place that doesn’t make a WHOLE lot of sense (it’s found in a Crusaders tomb right under London), but is easy enough to buy in a movie like this.  The location of the knife on the other hand remains unknown until Princess Ahmanet herself finds it… in a statue of the Virgin Mary inside a church in England.  WHAT!?  She has Nick pinned down on a table in the church, reaches out to a statue that’s right above his head, smashes it, AND THERE IS THE ONE AND ONLY MAGIC KNIFE!!  The movie tries to explain this in two ways.  First, that she has the ability to SENSE where the knife is (the church is where she crashed the plane) and second, that it ended up there due to the Crusaders who pillaged Egypt and brought it back to England about a thousand years ago.  Now the first point is bullshit because a big plot point right after she gets the knife is that she doesn’t know where the jewel is.  You’re telling me she can MAGICALLY sense a knife a thousand miles away, but can’t find the jewel which is even closer!?  I don’t know, maybe the knife is the only one she installed Magic GPS into so maybe I can buy that a little bit as Magic is, by its very nature, inexplicable.  The other point where they try to explain how it got there in the first place… yeah, I’m calling bullshit.  So the Crusaders find a magic knife, know enough to separate the jewel from it, and put one in a statue of the Virgin Mary which not only survived dozens of generations but is kept in a church instead of say… a museum?  In all this time, no one accidentally knocked it over or brought it to the British Museum for safe keeping and preservation?  Even if the intention was to hide it in plain sight, a whole lot of good THAT did considering how easily she ended up finding it!!

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2) It always feels like somebody’s watching me! – Russell Crowe and Annabelle Wallis watching Tom Cruise have sex with a mummy

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Here’s a perfect example of visual shorthand being used in all the wrong ways… or maybe I should say all the RIGHT ways because of how hilarious it is!  Okay, so the idea is that Princess Ahmanet is inside of Nick’s mind, and there’s a scene right in the middle where he’s confronting her at Prodigium.  During this confrontation (all from the point of view of Nick) we start to see the visions that Ahmanet is putting in his head to try and convince him that he should join her and fight for the dark side or whatever, and one of these visions is of them having sex.  Now the thing is, Nick is still just standing in the middle of the room and both Jennifer and Dr. Jekyll are there with him with the former trying to yell at him to snap him out of his dreams.  The movie visualizes this by having Jennifer and Jekyll in the background of the visions… which of course means that we get a good fifteen seconds of those two watching Tom Cruise bang Sofia Boutella.  Now obviously this is just a visual representation as they don’t ACTUALLY see what we the audience sees (the visions Ahmanet is putting in his head), but it’s still absolutely ridiculous; especially as it’s a scene that CLEARLY isn’t being played for laughs.  This is played fairly straight, yet it’s probably the single funniest moment in the entire film.

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1) Seriously Tom… not cool – Tom Cruise forcibly kisses the mummy to death

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Sadly, we’re gonna have to end this on less of a joyful WTF and more of a SUPER uncomfortable one.  The biggest problem that this movie has is the way that Nick is written to be the White Male Savior and to be the sole focus of pretty much everything that happens.  Despite being a generally shitty person who robs other countries’ natural treasures, the movie frames him as an affable rouge who doesn’t want to be tied down but has a heart of gold.  The movie short changes his love interest Jennifer to having almost no personality and no character arc which means that anything that happens to her exists solely to reflect upon Nick and to get a reaction out of him.  Worst of all though, is the way the movie ends and the way he defeats Princess Ahmanet.  Throughout the whole movie, she needs the knife and the jewel so she can stab him which will release the EVIL God Set (not ACTUALLY an evil God, but whatever).  However, he ends up stabbing HIMSELF with the knife which… I guess is different from HER stabbing him because all it does is turn him into a super badass with the same powers that she has.  To prove his dominance over this woman (who kicked his ass all over the place until now), he grabs her by the neck, throws her on a stone slab, and sucks the life out of her using his mouth.  Now there are AT LEAST two problems with this.  One, the intent of imagery used is CLEARLY sexual (otherwise why not just stab her with the knife or rip her head off?), but the filmmakers failed to realize that the imagery INSTEAD calls to mind sexual assault; what with how aggressively he’s forcing his lips onto hers and the protracted writhing as she’s slowly being sucked dry and reverting back to her mummified state.  It’s probably the most cringe worthy death in a major motion picture since Zara’s protracted murder by dinosaurs in Jurassic World, and I’m sure the usual suspects from back then will putting their Bu-But-Butting and Well Actually-ing skills to good use for this one, but as usually those “delightful” individuals can be ignored as there’s no talking your way out of the skeevy nature of this ending.  On top of that, there’s ALSO the issue of… appropriation I guess?  As in Tom Cruise gets the same type of powers as Ahamnet (which is very specific to HER culture and not HIS) and not only manages to be stronger within a minute of getting them, but ALSO uses them for GOOD as opposed to this Egyptian woman who I guess couldn’t be trusted with them… because White Dudes make better Egyptian Super Heroes than Egyptians do.  To be clear, Sofia Boutella is not Egyptian as she’s half Algerian and half French, but even if you want to argue the specific and minute details, it doesn’t override just how tone deaf this whole movie is when it comes to how much it worships Tom Cruise at the expense of people of color, women, and especially women of color.  I certainly had fun with this movie as a great example of So Bad Its Good, but because of this HUGE and glaring issue, it’s hard to recommend this movie fully as the spectacular mess that it is.

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I hope you enjoyed the list, and you can check out my full review of The Mummy here!

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