When I first heard that a movie called The Mummy was coming out, I was appalled. Although I’m usually optimistic regarding potential remakes and reboots, a line must be drawn somewhere. Ready to loft my pitchfork, light my torch, and blast “The Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast at the idea that anyone could remake the iconic 1999 Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz film, I sat down to watch the trailer. Two minutes and change later, I found myself confused rather than angry.
Why are people calling this a remake?
This movie seems to have only two aspects of the 1999 movie in common: a white male and female duo in the lead roles, and an evil mummy awoken from millenia of sleep. Everything else seems different. The 1999 movie was set in the early 1900s, the heyday of Egyptian excavation, and had a campy, Indiana Jones-y feel to it. This movie is set in the modern day, and is clearly a way more dark and horror-centric action film. It seems to center on a mummy princess whose curse is unleashed when her rest is disturbed by excavation. The trailer shows us a variety of scenes of macabre destruction and ends on the ominous threat that “she will claim what she has been denied”.
Sofia Boutella, who’s playing the sinister Princess Ahmanet, is originally from Algeria, and so they have at least gone as far as casting someone from the continent of Africa to play the Egyptian character, although still not someone actually Egyptian. The rest of the main cast seems predictably lily-white, with Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise as the most recognizable cast names. While Cruise seems set to play our typical everyman protagonist, Crowe’s attribution on IMDb gave me more pause. Apparently he’s playing Dr. Henry Jekyll. Upon seeing such an incongruous character name amidst the rest of the cast, I went and did some Googling to find out what a 19th-century Robert Louis Stevenson character was doing in a modern day mummy flick.
Talk about burying the lede! Everything I’ve seen about this movie has been so busy calling it a remake that no one bothered to inform me that this is the first film in the planned Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe, which plans to later feature other old-timey baddies as the Wolf-Man, Invisible Man, and Frankenstein. So while this is arguably still a remake, it’s actually a remake of the old Universal monster movie classic The Mummy. And it’s from the creative minds behind the first season (aka the best season) of Sleepy Hollow, so it’s in the hands of people who have previously reimagined classic movies well. So while I was interested in this trailer on its own after watching it, I am even more interested in a shared universe of neat monster folk. I also think it’s ballsy of them to lead with a movie that recasts an iconic role as female. The world needs more awesomely powerful female villains who aren’t motivated by shit like romance, lack of romance, or jealousy of other women.
One thing I am worried about is that given the framing of the threat in the trailer—“she will claim what she has been denied”—the thing Princess Ahmanet wants might be perfectly reasonable. I hope that she is properly evil and doesn’t turn out to be a woman unnecessarily demonized for reasonable ambition. I don’t, however, have a lot of hope that Cruise’s costar Annabelle Wallis will get a chance to shine; given her minimal role in the trailer, I suspect she’ll be relegated to love interest status. While giving her a greater role than this trailer hints at will improve the overall screentime to women in the film, it will still enforce the idea that blond-haired white women are the good guys and dark-haired brown women are bad, and victories for white women at the cost of women of color are not victories I’m particularly interested in celebrating.
June 2017 is a ways away yet, and we’ve got plenty of time for more trailers and story info to drop in the meantime. (Hopefully they also get around to recasting the Invisible Man before that movie takes off—it’s currently got Johnny Depp in the lead role). Despite my initial pitchfork wielding gut reaction, I’m actually pretty interested to see this movie when it comes out.
Hear more from Lady Saika on Character Reveal, the podcast she cohosts with BrothaDom!