Note: After reading his review of “The Mummy,” the author invites you to learn more about “Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing,” a new book that compares the writings of C. S. Lewis with the music of U2 in a life-changing journey through grief, joy, and longing for God. Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Hollywood continues its formula of reboots and building a cinematic universe with “The Mummy,” the first film in the Dark Universe, a new cinematic universe from Universal Studios that will draw from the world of monsters. The DU is certainly a good business concept and an exciting turn for monster movie enthusiasts, but “The Mummy” is a rocky start.
And, for my Christian readers, if you’re typically a hesitant fan of anything outside the faith-based film world or if you don’t care for horror movies or movies that uses strong occultic themes, “The Mummy” is not for you. It really pushes its PG-13 with its depiction of gore and zombie corpses, and it hovers more in the R-rated realm of the horror film genre.
(Observations) The Mummy’s Entertainment Value and Film Craft
“The Mummy” is a monster flick, pure and simple. It’s a continuation of a long, respected tradition of film studios to make larger-than-life monsters and have lots of thrills, chills, and explosions happen when that monster is let loose into the world. Universal Studios has, in its long history, a bit of a monopoly on all of the famous monster flicks because it’s responsible for so many of them. And now they’re bringing them all out for their Dark Universe.
I love the concept, frankly. I’ve always really loved going to Universal Studios in Hollywood (the theme park). They’re a studio that definitely loves a good old-fashioned scary movie.
And that, frankly, is what I was hoping for: something a little more old-fashioned intentionally, almost like the way “La-La Land” was a throwback to classic 1950s/60s Hollywood musicals. I was hoping for a throwback monster flick, something more restrained but still very smart and scary, that was perhaps more modest and clean than most modern scary movies, and that relied a little more on psychological thrills rather than leaning on edginess, gore, and occultism. I was kind of hoping for a tastefully old-fashioned Indiana Jones-style adventure film.
Instead “The Mummy” storyline leaned heavily on gore and occultism, at least more so than even I was expecting.
So the story didn’t suit my taste, I suppose, but one thing is undeniable: “The Mummy” has a stellar cast. Each actor, from Tom Cruise’s marquee role to Sofia Boutella’s villain to the supporting roles, brings quality to the screen. But the script, I think, did some disservice to the emotional end of their acting efforts. The history between all of the characters was assumed and alluded to. That works sometimes, but it just felt a little weak in this case, as if the thought line of the studio think tank was: Let’s skip all the minute-burning character development and get to the action.
I know that is a common complain, but we action movie fans have been spoiled by Marvel. The MCU has had the fortune of drawing on deep comic book characters that give them a million and one ways to develop a character quickly and effectively on-screen. The DU is at a disadvantage to the comic book movies for this reason. And for this reason, I think “The Mummy” probably needed to put more sweat and time into making the characters mean something to us before throwing them into the deadly embrace of the Mummy.
But besides the performances of the cast, the other strong point of this film’s entertainment value was Russell Crowe’s character. Maybe it was because I did not see it coming (the inclusion of his character, which I won’t mention here–no spoilers), but it was a very fun plot twist for me that made the story much more intriguing.
(Interpretation) The Mummy’s Worldviews, Deeper Layers of Meaning, Edifying Themes
One thing I try to clarify: I don’t think it is necessarily immoral to depict–or watch a depiction–of evil if the context of the story clearly exposes the true negative nature of the evil and does not glorify it. I think, for the most part, “The Mummy,” though it does depict occultism, clearly puts occultism in the context of villainous deeds. It is not glorifying occultism as a neutral or good thing–at least for the first two acts. In the third act, however, things get a little more complicated as heroes resort to using the enemy’s occultic rituals against them, which puts it more into a grey zone, and at that point I find the film’s depiction or view of occultism confused and inconsistent. The occultic stuff also has a strong sexual tone to it, which was not edifying to watch, even as a detached intellectual/philosophical exercise of “what it all means.” Overall I really could have done without all of the dark occultic themes. Hollywood loves going there for some reason, and I’m a little weary of it.
The film does get into some interesting layers about the nature of good and evil. I can’t say more without spoilers, but there are interesting moments where the nature of evil, and the internal battle between good and evil that every human faces within, is touched on briefly and explored in ways that got me thinking. It wasn’t necessarily a dumb action movie. There really was some valuable content that reminded me of the Gollum/Smeagol dilemma in Lord of the Rings, for example–i.e. because of the fallen/spiritually vulnerable state of human nature, we are each capable of far more evil than we usually care to admit, and there is always a struggle between good and evil going on within us, and it often forces us to wipe away our facades and ask the hard question: who am I really?
This movie touches a little on that whole topic, and it does so in interesting ways, but it is fleeting amidst all of the undead zombies and mummies sucking the life out of the living.
An other point I should mention: the film also follows a common Hollywood pattern wherein evil, especially ultimate evil, is depicted as being all-powerful and having traits and powers that only God (and in this case Jesus Christ–as far as the Scriptures pertaining to Jesus alone now having the keys to death and life) could have. In this film, the female mummy has the keys to death and life, and apparently has the ability to command any dead person back to life (against that soul’s will) to serve her evil schemes. And she does it by making a pact with Satan (the film actually mentioned Satan by name). Evil is inflated to look invincible and equal with God, in other words.
Conclusion: A Monster Movie with Good Actors, Interesting Themes of Internal Struggle and Fallen Human Nature, but Poisoned by a Dark Occultic Overtone
At the end of the day, it is a monster flick, pure and simple, but it’s one that throws in a lot of disturbing, dark occultic imagery and attributes the ultimate power over death and life away from God and gives it to a crazed female mummy who has made a pact with Satan using disturbing occultic rituals. Although it does make some very interesting observations about the battle within ourselves as we struggle against our corrupt human nature, the film, unfortunately, yields to too many common Hollywood pitfalls in their depiction of good and evil.
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Content advisory for this PG-13 film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: The female mummy, when she is a normal person and not a mummy, is scene straddling a man in a sexual way (though no nudity is seen) and preparing to kill him ritually with a knife. It’s a disturbing scene that combines sexual overtones, occultism, and violence and is repeated in flashbacks throughout the movie. She prays to the Egyptian god of death while naked, and the camera lingers on most of her bare body, though clever angles prevent any nudity from happening, but just barely.
Violence/Gore/Scary/Disturbing Content: Its gore is closer to R-rated than PG-13, basically because the mummy leaps on victims, “makes out” with them, and while she is kissing them their bodies shrivel slowly into grotesque, decaying corpses. Then she summons the corpses to life and they do her bidding. It’s essentially a mix between “Night of the Walking Dead” and a mummy horror movie, and it pushes the PG-13 boundary.
Language: Plenty of misuses of God’s name and a wide variety of the usual swear words. No f-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Several scenes of pub-drinking.
Note: The parental guidance content advisory is written from a Christian worldview. I am a person of faith with orthodox Christian beliefs like those expressed in “The Everlasting Man” by G. K. Chesterton, “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis, and “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. That being said, I do not believe that the depiction of evil, even graphic depictions of evil or negative themes in films, is in itself always immoral. I believe it depends on the context and the worldview behind the film’s depiction of evil. All that being said, I try to report the content that gives the film its rating so that you can make an informed decision about viewing the film. Some people need to know detailed information about the content, some do not, in order to make a decision. I try to provide enough detail to give you a sense of the nature of the content. If you need more detail to make a better decision, I recommend visiting PluggedIn.com, as they provide extremely detailed reports of a movie’s content.