If you’ve ever seen the “Inca Mummy Girl” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you might have an idea of what to expect from Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy. In the fourth episode of the second season, Sunnydale High School participates in a cultural exchange program, and students from all over the world fly into sunny California to stay as a guest at the homes of various SHS students, including, of course, Buffy Summers. Buffy is assigned a boy named Ampata, but little does she know, an ancient Inca mummy princess has other plans. The princess, who was recently freed from her five-hundred-year-old tomb, takes on the identity of Ampata and begins picking off the boys of Sunnydale High, one by one. In order to survive, she lures the boys in with a kiss, then literally sucks the life out of them, growing stronger and more human with each victim she sucks down. Eventually, the “Ampata” sets her sights on sweet little Xander, Buffy’s best friend, but when it comes time to drain Xander of his youth, she hesitates – she can’t overcome her romantic feelings for Xander long enough to take his life away. Luckily, in Alex Kurtzman’s movie, his fierce female mummy has no problem preying on vulnerable men.
It all starts – surprisingly – in England in 1125 A.D. A group of priests bury the body of one of their dead in an old sarcophagus, but not before laying a glowing red crystal on his chest to be sealed in with his remains. Flash forward to present day England, and a group of construction workers accidentally burrow into this old room, finding dozens of ancient remains, leaving them to decipher what step to take next. That’s where Dr. Henry Jekyll comes in.
Played by Russell Crowe, Dr. Jekyll begins a voiceover as he tours the tombs, handing out a lot of information very quickly as he does – this is mainly how the movie goes. A ton of information, which is relatively easy to understand if you’re paying attention, is handed out to the audience all at once, very early on.
Apparently, in ancient Egypt, there once lived a beautiful warrior princess named Ahmanet. She was heir to the throne, and, as was evident by her unfathomable beauty, her quick skills on the battlefield, her sharp decision-making skills, and her seductive nature, nothing could stand in her way to officially become the most powerful person in the world. However, when her mother and father brought a new baby boy into the world, Ahmanet was shoved aside, and it was the little child who would become the next to rule because although he was technically younger, he was the male and she was the female. Ahmanet wasn’t about to let that stand.
Ahmanet called on the forces of darkness and asked them to aid her in her fight for power. Taking the darkness within her, Ahmanet was gifted a special sharp blade with a bright red ruby at the hilt, and reborn as a monster, using her newfound power and madness to end the lives of her father, mother, and baby brother in the quiet of the night while they slept soundly in their beds. In order for her ritual to become the greatest ruler of all could become complete, she had to create a male companion to serve alongside her, in her honor. She was to take her new sword, stab it through the chest of her chosen male, and take her rightful place on the throne, for now, and for always. Unfortunately, before she could complete her task, she was attacked, mummified while she was still breathing, and thrown in the cold earth to rot for centuries to come. Soldiers carried her body far away from Egypt, burying her instead in Mesopotamia, where mercury was dumped on her body for hundreds of years to keep her weak, and where hopefully, no one would ever find her. Cue Tom Cruise wrecking all of the ancient’s plans.
In modern day Mesopotamia, a.k.a. Iraq, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his buddy Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) use their places in the military to travel around the world, steal ancient artifacts and sell them on the black market for profit. Their latest endeavor involves stealing a map from Nick’s recent romantic interest Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) in order to hunt down the treasure she seeks and pawn it off before she can ever get her hands on it. Much to their dismay, she catches up to them, but not before they accidentally uncover the burial ground for an Egyptian sarcophagus – a strange thing to find in the middle of Iraq. Out of curiosity by all parties involved, they bring the structure up the surface to see what’s inside, but what they don’t realize is that they’ve already played into the mummy’s hands – they have freed the primeval from her prison, the mummy has eyed Nick, and anointed him her “chosen one”. Can you feel the Buffy vibes?
Once all of the background is out of the way, the action can finally begin, and there are quite a few noteworthy moments – especially the plane crash. Before she can even be broken out of her tomb, Ahmanet begins controlling and tormenting those around her, getting into Nick’s head and bringing him under her thrall, and placing a spell on his best buddy Chris which turns him into an updated rendition of An American Werewolf in London’s Jack Goodman, as he appears throughout the film as an undead guide, poking fun at Nick’s misfortune and telling him which step to take next. Through her power, Ahmanet escapes the confines of her tomb, begins sucking down men’s lives left and right, and eventually gains human flesh again, so she can finally begin the hunt for her sword and stab Nick through the chest with the blade in order to welcome the undead spirit of Sepi into his body, making him undead as well, in order complete her ritual, and once and for all, become the most powerful being on the planet.
For the most part, The Mummy is admittedly a pretty goofy movie. If you’re looking for a film that honors the past black and white Universal Monster Movies with vigor, intelligence, and respect, you probably won’t find it here, but what it does have to offer is still very enjoyable. Tom Cruise plays such an absent-minded chauvinistic pig that it’s actually pretty hilarious and honestly, even empowering to watch Ahmanet use him and control him in order to get what she wants. She has the power. She is the destructor. She is warrior princess coming to claim her crown, he is just the means to end, and there’s nothing he can do about it. If that’s not a wickedly cool modern day fierce female character, then I don’t know what is. This is the kind of film where you wind up rooting for the villain, partially because Sofia Boutella is a strong sexy unstoppable priestess, and partially because it’s just nice to see the men run and hide for once, while the women are the ones hunting down their prey in order to attain and keep their powerful positions.
Sure, there are questionable moments within The Mummy. Why didn’t Dr. Jekyll morph into a terrifying monster instead of simply turning a shade of blue when his evil side took over? Why are we left with such a cliffhanger ending, other than to set up the eventual sequel and continue the universe? Why the second half of the movie seemingly slow down so much, trading in much of the action for more dialogue? However, despite these issues, it’s still a movie that has turned out to be much better than expected, and set up quite an exciting start to the Dark Universe, which, according to the lab they walk through at Dr. Jekyll’s will definitely include the Creature from the Black Lagoon and perhaps at some point, Dracula as well. 2017 is the year of the woman, and from Wonder Woman to The Mummy, it’s clear that females are becoming the character to revolve the story around; the actresses are the ones that we should be putting our trust in to lead our big blockbuster movies. What a time to be alive. What a time for a new and exciting Universal monster movie.