Rejuvenation and spittle, in "the Mummy"
Not the best of times to feature someone in their twenties of partial Middle-Eastern ancestry, suddenly turning from a regular Joe into someone loyal to an ancestral sect, who'll suddenly start stabbing people, especially if London subsequently is much of your movie's setting. In his case, a spider -- focusing on him, for some reason, on Tom Cruise's sidekick in the film, Jake Johnson's Chris Vail, that is, when there were other options available -- bit him, and made him a minion-in-hiding who would soon turn radical. I was shocked when the character suddenly out of nowhere stabbed the army officer in the chest with the knife, and the recent London attack did come to my mind, which was a real crime inflicted on the actor playing the part, to see him momentarily as a real-life terrorizer, that is, because he had given the movie such a good, loose, humorous start... some serving of "Second City" comedy in the desert. We'd rather he'd been handed something, been fourth-wall rewarded rather than punished.
I'm not for the film's knife play, innocently made truly insidious owing to the timing of the film's release, but I am in some sense for the film's harpooning of an antagonist -- which's apparently the new trick to take down a monstrously powerful opponent. I've seen it featured recently in "Great Wall, "Furious," Logan," and now "Mummy." It's quite a de-escalation from nuclear missiles, its predecessor in the only-thing-humans-have-to-take-on-opponents-way-beyond-our-ability arsenal. I wonder if this change means that somehow socially we're beginning to anticipate the unfolding of a sequence of societal changes which is going to require a decade to fill out, and, unconsciously, with the backbone of it somehow sensed, seen, beginning to be established, we're less in the mood for films that only do cities-destroyed, missiles-unleashed, total apocalypse. They don't need to reflect our titanic doubt concerning the future but can de-scale a bit and be almost only a scuffle. The "players" we revere in the film won't be insulted by it, seem only small for it, because they're all somehow tethered to the larger narrative which will unfold over years.
I suppose in this film there is the Mummy and that undead horde she has control of under London, which together is a pretty potent, maybe city-destroying, force. But she is reconceived, reduced, contained, in the middle of the movie as being actually only one monster amongst many that haunt the world, and she's not meant to ever recover from this blow to her standing as a distinctively dangerous force unleashed to the world. "Batman vs. Superman" did this too, take all pretence away from a monster that was maybe hoping to be the kind of monster a world never recovered from, when somewhere in the middle of the film it took all attention away from it (to be honest, I think it was actually still incubating, but we knew we were soon due for it) and put it on our thinking on the future adventures of Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League -- on other films... and other monsters as well -- yet to come. One almost sensed the rest of the creature's subsequent carnage as mostly just a temper-tantrum at having been defeated so unfairly in the middle of the film rather than at his due, the finish. Not the audience, but his controllers, the movie makers, had taken out their phones to scroll to what was ahead... yet he'd already passed his audition and been chosen, god damn it!
The Mummy is a threat physically, and she moves compellingly, like a dancer, but really her most dangerous power is her ability to control huge number of hosts -- rats, ravens, and undead. Given orality is her key feature -- she hungrily, voraciously, is shown sucking the life force out of humans she's embraced -- we might cognate them, not as mentally controlled instruments, but particulars of eschewing streams of her vomit. Rats do pour through the streets, zombies do chase down a subway tunnel like a torrent. Given we also see her slowly, sensuously, licking, and equally memorably / reverberatingly, her loudly wailing / screaming, I personally left the film thinking I'd almost tasted drips of her spittle, splattered on me after her breath and lips had wafted near my person in delectable force. Not the response you'd expect to receive from a film featuring a mummy, but a neatly induced effect nevertheless.
The movie does well to have zombies that can actually be destroyed fairly readily. This seems only fair -- they've got their sheer horror as well as remarkable numbers on their side, so they shouldn't as well be difficult to individually neutralize, but we often don't seem to get that, just monsters that are dangerous even after you've hacked them to pieces -- and it's fun to watch them be cracked apart against walls and such. It also does well in making the Mummy's growth from her initial eviscerated state -- just old bones -- to much more sustained state, impressive to watch, and seem an accomplishment we'd want to credit: all that encouraging tendon rejuvenation, that splintered bone setting -- all that medical management, taking her closer and closer to becoming a being of uncrunched form, when at the beginning she was so not-there it was going to take an effort to stalk any prey outside of catching them out in total surprise.
The movie doesn't make the Mummy someone we can't identify with, someone only a monster. She's a woman with grandiose hopes and ambitions who was spurned in a very alarming way we might all be able to relate to. She thought she was everything to her parents... and then attention was grossly whisked away to the new entrant into the family, all the spoils promised to her, now given to him, and she, rendered to becoming someone of no import, really: she might as well die -- because her importance was only as a descendent, a role for which now there is a supplier, even better. How evil do we really understand her subsequent obliteration of her family, especially given her rebuttal is set within an archaic, harsh-world, early-civ setting?... isn't this just the brutally cast-off refusing to go down quietly? I suppose a more mature response would be simply to take the hard blow but end up forgetting about all of them... which she actually ends up doing, as she shapes her own "errant" future for herself, involving "objects" maybe repugnant to the rest of her society but reconceived in a new light by her -- the role in her life for the demon Set, for instance. In the film, she's someone unleashed to the youthful life of confident expression that ought to have been hers. We never simply hate and fear her, nor rejoice in seeing her contained. Unless there's something awful happening inside of us, we should instinctively understand that only the dead should be so wrapped up.
Besides, we needed a counterpart in the film, someone's who's always free from trying to make her type A self become more type B. Who doesn't tire of the rascal who can entertain and delight with his innovation -- in this film, Tom Cruise's Nick Morton gets his sidekick to go along with him by neatly diverting his attention away from what other could be used to force him to go along on another ridiculously dangerous adventure other than a threat upon his life, by first pointing his knife at him, having him focus on that interaction, and then suddenly striking down upon his water satchel instead (cunning, no?) -- restricting himself into someone who can be true to the film's cold fish? That kind of character development is always one of taking someone "enfleshed" and tightening the bonds, so that some averse force finds you more agreeable.
When she -- Annabelle Wallis's archaeologist, Jenny Halsey, specifically -- thinks she has him, has transformed him into her version of a virtuous person, and he instructs her that in giving her the last parachute he wasn't demonstrating himself capable of sacrificing himself for another, because he'd absolutely presumed there was another parachute at hand to soon offer him just as ready an escape, one would have hoped this had given her enough of a gut-punch that in the gaps of her recovery he could find resolve to wrestle himself free of her influence. As we see abundantly in every film he makes, not just physically but in spirit there's a lot of youthful life in Tom Cruise... he's our only astronaut currently exploring the prospects of a terrain we might soon scientifically be docking on -- not the alienness of Mars (I know, I know -- many of you will insist that the only kind of thing he could legitimately accounted successful at docking on is the like of alienness), within which some paltry life might actually exist, but life that is rich and that never needs to cease -- eternal life, that is. To check up on his progress, is why we never really regret that he keeps on popping up in summer films -- he's months closer to showing it's really possible; that maybe he's already accomplished it, without our knowing. He's imperturbably on his own path, and we've finally come to the conclusion that there might be some social use in this, so let him be and allow him a chance to reveal the new or to delineate ultimate limits. If people stop being interested in his being attached to twenty and thirty-year-old women, which is still every film, it's owing to this. No one else will be granted the exception for not being qualified as the only true odd ball out there, constituted to be immune to our collective shaming / influence, but maybe open to influences of some tangential universe that'll metastasize into powers we might want to suction into our own.
If he's still like he is now when he's seventy, there will be expeditions sent into Scientology catacombs to find out what in their crazy they yet chemically stumbled upon mixturing. At the finish, as with this film review, is where you'll find Dr. Jekyll -- or maybe rather, actually Mr. Hyde -- telling us of how he concocted the first living god on earth, chosen because there were risks involved and Tom Cruise... I mean, man, the guy just doesn't relent.