Okay. You may have noticed that we’ve missed a couple of posts lately. Well, the main excuse is that in addition to the inherent challenge of writing halfway decent material at a regular clip, both Shawn and I have had a lot of other stuff going on. And while we’re both efficient writers, still it seems a bit odd for busy-ish people to magically have the time to write a fresh article every day. At the same time, we started this blog because we have something to say. And of course we like hearing ourselves write too. So we’ve hit on a happy medium. We’re going for a weekly cadence instead of daily. Furthermore, we are also going to be comfortable with fact that what we write may not be, strictly speaking, relevant to games. Sure there’s a lot of stuff going on in the game industry right now such as the OnLive situation. But really, as well-placed business folks in the game industry, us writing about that wouldn’t be your typical pseudo-journalistic pap, we’d either be obviously holding back or stepping all over existing confidences. So we’ll steer clear of that sort of thing, occasionally pontificate on games, and talk about the other things that cross our minds. For example, an errant thought has been bouncing around in my head for years, and just fully formed together. I finally have true clarity on why the rebooted Mummy series sucks geometrically with each iteration. It has to do with a complete disregard for Mummetization.
In the first film of the reboot series, The Mummy (1999), the mummy is an absolutely unstoppable lord of death. He’s in charge, he’s got a plan, and he’s utterly invincible. And like the original Boris Karloff film The Mummy (1932), Imhotep is driven by pure love. It’s a wonderful combination of power and passion, that makes the titular character so potent. We love this in our cinema, whether it’s Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter or Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius. But there’s an added challenge here. Actor Arnold Vosloo has to convey emotion through the costume of a one-dimensional character, and show the full range of human emotion. In the film, Vosloo’s Imhotep does it. He convincingly shows rage, seduction, love, anger, menace, and pain without ever speaking a single word of English. There’s certainly other stuff going on here, there’s a goofy serial adventure going on. Brendan Fraser is doing a fair leading man impression and a pre-fame Rachel Weisz is an adorably bumbling librarian love interest. The film has a charming sense of humor, not that much gore, and Oded Fehr strides in doing a fair Omar Sharif impersonation every few scenes. It’s a tidy little bit of work for an Indy-starved time, with some lovely David Lean-esque landscapes. Compared to Mummy films before it, it’s a dramatic step up. It’s pretty much Mummence of Arabia.
And then there’s The Mummy Returns (2001). There’s a handful of immediately obvious reasons as to why this movie is only half as good as the first. For one, the movie does in fact get Rachel Weisz back, but she seems to be playing an entirely different character. She’s much more self-assured, wears far more eyeliner and eyeshadow, and is inexplicably a reincarnated figure from Imhotep’s court. Why nobody noticed this the first time around is anyone’s guess. Then also, this film falls victim to Kidification. Around the turn of the millennium, Hollywood decided that to maximize worldwide gross, all classic franchises needed kids to actually be in the movies for kids to relate to them. This is of course wrong, but it sounds like the sort of thing that if brought up in an executive meeting would make sense to the lowest common denominator in the room. And like parachute pants or a cultivated scruff, everyone started doing it. And it happened here. I don’t like it because putting kids in mortal danger breaks the fun of violence. It’s discordant. Then the movie all of a sudden becomes bounded, and needs to play by kid rules. You can’t have Indy just shoot the swordmaster, or Han just shoot the bounty hunter. The tone is fundamentally off. And I like my movies to have Harrison Ford just shoot someone. Still, none of this is what actually materially damages this film. We’re not talking great cinema after all, these movies already inhabit a middle zone, so theoretically Kidification shouldn’t even be that noticeable.
Instead, The Mummy Returns suffers its mortal blow because the movie simply doesn’t Mummetize. In this film, Imhotep isn’t in charge, he’s more just manipulated along. His killings are largely guided and controlled. There’s less Arnold Vosloo on screen, and more CGI. We therefore see less emotion of any kind. And most damning of all, he isn’t the principal villain. Instead, we have a wrestler inexplicably playing some completely fanciful and farcical giant enemy crab. Granted Oded Fehr is still doing his Omar Sharif impression, but it’s just not enough to save the picture. For a movie called The Mummy Returns, there’s far too little of Imhotep’s earlier range of total control over the fate of the world, tempered by a love so profound, he cheats death to consummate it.
Then the filmmakers truly lost sight of everything. Thinking said wrestler needed more screen time, they made a truly awful movie about his giant crab character, and then made another movie with the word mummy in it, but actually didn’t have Imhotep. Both of these offerings thus had zero Mummetization, and predictably were utter crap.
Frankly, I’d like the filmmakers to understand what they did wrong. Then go back and make a movie recognizing their oversight, and truly Mummetize this thing. I understand that homicidal villains intent on enslaving the world can’t win, but maybe he can at least get the girl. Maybe he pays some other price, perhaps he gets life in prison, but gets conjugal visits from Anck-su-namun. Or maybe that’s horrible. I don’t know. Just make it all about the Mummy. Not kids, not Rachel Weisz’s eye make-up, and certainly not completely unrelated giant enemy crabs or terracotta martial arts bullshit. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Okay. Next week, possibly something from Shawn when he’s back from vacation, and then in two weeks, my review of the audiobook of Fifty Shades of Grey.