I fully intended today’s article to be pure ranting, but something came along to soften my mood.
In a bid to catch hold of the rising star of the Marvel shared universe, Universal announced a while back that they had plans to bring together their classic horror properties into a single entity. It was initially slated to begin with Dracula Untold, the rough diamond that could have gone onto far greater things in smarter hands. It’s a shame, I for one enjoyed Luke Evans in the titular role as a king who embraced a curse in order to save his people, but I can respect why the cliched, overly romanticised and effects-heavy film might have grated on certain audiences. So instead the franchise begins with a new approach on The Mummy.
Tom Cruise was on the list of stars optioned for the role of Rick Connors in the 1999 action fantasy that ultimately went on to immortalise Brendan Frasier. It was a fun film, suitably terrifying while still light and fun enough that anyone could enjoy it, and Frasier, Rachel Weiss, and John Hannah formed a team of capable but humorous characters that richly deserved a third instalment that instead ended in tragedy, sadly dooming the future of that particular franchise without a reboot.
Of course, as we’re looking at a broader horror franchise, perhaps for the new film horror is the angle to take, rather than the kitsch family adventure we’ve come to associate with the Mummy title. I love the look of the new Mummy. No more Imhotep, introducing Ahmanet, cursed priestess come to conquer the modern world with her ancient magics, complete with giant screaming face in a wall of water, very cool. But for good quality horror we’re missing a few key elements, highest of which must be vulnerability.
Ahmanet is presented in the trailer as an overwhelming force, utterly daunting and positively apocalyptic in scope, a foe to be fought with wit and desperation. In the trailer we see guns which will doubtlessly be useless, but the rest of the footage is a sizzle real of Tom Cruise doing awesome things and surviving certain peril, not a trace of the calamitous pulp adventure stylings of the ’99 film. We have an action hero in a horror film, thus negating both. Whether I like Cruise or not (I don’t) he’s still a bad fit for the job, and I have a profound sense of foreboding.
Russel Crowe has adopted the role of Henry Jekyll, and here I must also levy a certain amount of scepticism. I suppose I have a little more respect for him as an actor, and I can certainly see him as the intimidating alter-ego but as the sympathetic and vulnerable doctor? John Hannah rather immortalised the part for me a long time ago.
I want to go see the new Mummy film, but I go with some preconceptions, the promotional work is not filling me with optimism for this or any other attempts Universal might make in the future. The MCU has been brought about as a labour of love, and everyone scrabbling for a piece of that shared-universe action is coming across as sad and desperate. Something new might be needed, something with a unified universe to build upon that could be brought to life by a director who already has a passion for it. Something like H.P. Lovecraft’s works assembled by Guillermo Del Torro perhaps?!
Anyway, let’s get to the good news from the week. We got a new Thor trailer, and it looks both epic and hilarious!
Immediately I’m struck by a lot of elements in the art direction that are screaming Guardians of the Galaxy at me, bold colour schemes, 1980’s graphics, industrially styled settings populated by a wide variety of alien species, and Immigrants Song – very fitting for a Norse god. We might finally see the tie-in we’ve been waiting for, a character connection that goes beyond the Infinity Stones and Thanos, a formal introduction to the more Earth-bound Avengers. All of this assuming nothing crops up in the new Guardians film coming out in a week or two!
Cate Blanchett as Hela looks truly epic, unclear is Loki’s allegiance in her war with Asgard. We get a fleeting glimpse of Karl Urban as Skurge dual-wielding automatic rifles, a look at the back of Valkyrie’s head, and out first shots of Jeff Goldblum in the role of Grandmaster. That’s a lot of stuff to take in all at once! So much detail, a spectacle that may yet escalate all that we have seen so far, a veritable tour-de-force for the series, but what’s everyone going to be talking about?
And may I say, “Awww Yeeaaah!”
Had the narrative not nimbly removed them from the fray, this is the rematch we all wanted to see in Civil War. Last time Thor took the upper hand by dumping Mjolnir on Hulk’s chest and pinning him to the deck of the helicarrier while the audience laughed at his frustration… at least they did at my screening. This time Hulk has scrap metal armour and no magic hammer, smashed to bits by Hela.
At least one meta-series is going according to plan, despite the people claiming it’s on its last legs or starting to look like it’s in trouble. Ragnarok is still while away, we still have Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man to go. In the mean time I will be watching developments in Universal’s efforts with curiosity. They’d better get Jekyll and Hyde right.