If we’re being honest with each other, I’m not typically a big fan of behind-the-scenes videos and features. These days they all seem the same: an actor jumps in front of a blue background and lands on a blue foam pad, and everyone stands up and smiles at each other for a job well done. My one big exception is Tom Cruise movies. Cruise’s action films are a testament to doing things the hard way, so every highlight reel of the actor slamming into cars, hitting his head against walls, or getting punched in the face is a testament to a dying trade.
I’m not sure why, but I’m really excited for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a supporting class that includes Eric Bana and Jude Law leveling up his Young Pope to a Young Evil Sorcerer. Maybe it’s because the last few trailers featured music by Led Zeppelin and I really enjoyed the synergy of folk-inspired rock with the film. Or maybe it’s just because there’s something endearing about Ritchie’s fight aesthetic, one that seems about ten years out of date (or whenever it was the last Matrix movie hit theaters).
To understand why I’m more excited than most for The Mummy, it’s important to make a list of all the things that I’m a sucker for. Tom Cruise movies? Check. Trailers or commercials that use the Rolling Stones’ ‘Paint it Black’ as a musical cue? Check-check. Movies where soldiers fight monsters? Check-check-check. In fact, if you do the math, the only thing on my Hollywood wishlist that the second The Mummy trailer doesn’t deliver is a John Wick-style gunfight, and there’s still time. One of those might still find its way into the final movie.
Popular culture travels in waves. A decade or so ago, when every studio was trying to copy The Matrix and start their own action franchises dripping with self-serious stylization and slow-motion fights, I would’ve killed for a summer movie that took a grounded approach to heroes and villains. Now, after several years of Marvel movies and grimdark blockbusters, the pendulum has swung back the other way. It’s not that Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like a good movie, per se. It’s just that I’m in a place where I can really appreciate its goofiness.
A few years ago, when details started emerging about George Miller’s failed attempt at a Justice League movie, the biggest heartbreak for me was losing Armie Hammer as Batman. I’ve been a big fan of Hammer’s since his early appearances on the horror-comedy series Reaper; in my book, he’s on the same level as someone like Chris Pine, another actor who possesses the marquee good looks of a Hollywood leading man but the instincts of a character actor. And despite working in big summer movies with some of Hollywood’s most visionary directors, Hammer has watched his opportunities sink under bad reviews. He’s been good; his movies, not so much.
Every year, when the bottom drops out of the summer movie season and audiences decide to stay home and watch television instead, some well-meaning critic will publish an article asking if cinema is dead. And every year, I pose the same question in response: “Is Tom Cruise still an action star?” As long as Tom Cruise is running across multiplex screens — fighting rogue nations, government consiparcies, and even the occasional mummy — there is still hope for cinema. Then, when Cruise’s career is done and Hollywood is in ashes, then, cinema, you have my permission to die.
It’s a classic premise, and for good reason: guy’s wife/girlfriend/daughter vanishes into thin air, guy drives himself halfway to madness in dogged attempts to get her back, guy grows unkempt beard of mourning. It has drama and intrigue wired right into the plot beats, allows for some salacious secrets, and who doesn’t love a good mystery? George Sluizer’s 1988 film The Vanishing may have done it best, but just a couple of years ago, David Fincher gave him a run for his money with Gone Girl. And today, we get our first look at the latest entry in this grand storytelling tradition.
After a few delays, Universal is preparing to kickstart their new shared universe of classic monster reboots. The franchise will begin in 2017 with The Mummy, and casting has been ramping up, with Tom Cruise recently confirmed to headline Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut. Annabelle Wallis, star of Peaky Blinders and Conjuring spin-off Annabelle, is in talks to join Cruise in the cast of the modern day action-horror flick, in which she’ll play a scientist who will presumably have a lot of ’splaining to do.