This year’s The Mummy turned out to be a wasted opportunity, but what if it had starred Sofia Boutella as princess Ahmanet, in search of power and justice in Ancient Egypt?
The Mummy hit theatres last week and got resoundingly negative reviews. From Tom Cruise’s painfully terrible acting, to a storyline that felt like a mash-up of many movies we’ve seen before (which is, essentially, the entire premise of this Dark Universe franchise), it made for a disappointing re-incarnation of the original. In Hypable’s own words from our movie review: “Hollywood is giving movie fans content they didn’t ask for.”
If there was anything worth salvaging from the movie, it was Sofia Boutella’s entrancing performance as Ahmanet, the Mummy, which was played up in the trailers only to be terribly mistreated by the film itself.
Despite almost offensively reduced screen time, and an unnecessary amount of focus on Ahmanet’s nudity, she’s still the one aspect of the story that leaves us wanting to know more.
The opening minutes give us what could certainly make for an amazing feature-length film. Ahmanet, a capable fighter and ruler, is the sole heiress to the Pharaoh of Egypt, beloved by her father. But when the Pharaoh’s wife gives birth to a male heir, Ahmanet’s future on the throne is stolen from her, and she resorts to a dark pact with the gods to seek justice.
Of course, The Mummy takes this plan one step further by inexplicably making her need a man to confirm her hold over Egypt… a plan that is ultimately foiled when she is buried alive.
But what if the movie had focused on the Ancient Egyptian story instead, rather than Ahmanet’s modern-time resurrection and search for a male vessel? What if we had gotten a complex drama about an Egyptian princess who has done everything to deserve the throne, but is horribly robbed of her throne by patriarchal laws? What if we had seen her struggle to persuade the father she loves to respect her right, or her gradual realization that there might only be one way out? What if we had gotten a movie about family, power and injustice, with dark magic and the amazing Egyptian desert as a backdrop?
There’s an unfortunate lack of strong female leads of color in film, even with our obsession with Ancient Egypt and stories surrounding its gods. Even worse, when we do see them, especially in fantasy, they’re very often reduced to being sexual objects — which we see in the camera’s obsession with Boutella’s nude body, even with the PG-13 rating — and a strange sort of rule, it seems, that if a woman wields power, she must be evil. It makes the appearance of strong, ambitious women with complex personalities and nuanced stories very rare in film in general.
A Boutella-led Ancient Egypt movie wouldn’t even have had to end well. It could have ended the way it does in The Mummy. As amazing as it would have been to see the successful story of a woman becoming Pharaoh, it could have been just as interesting if the hero ultimately became a villain — as long as the decision to do so was hers. Much like Charlize Theron’s Snow White and the Huntsman, or its sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War, it could have told the story of an individual’s struggle with humanity, the stakes surrounding power, and just how far one should go in search of justice.
The sad part is that this was exactly what was intended with Dracula Untold, which was originally meant to be an origin story for Universal’s ill-fated Dark Universe. While the idea was ultimately scrapped, and the film was released as a standalone, it remains a confusingly bad decision on the writers’ part. Especially when it comes to Ahmanet — whom they presumably are hoping to have back for other films in this franchise — a movie like this would be a much more appealing one.
While there are enough action/horror movies with an evil female entity hunting down humans, there definitely aren’t enough stories about female Pharaohs fighting the injustice of their political system with magic.
So what prompted the strange decisions made for The Mummy, and the surprising lack of the Mummy herself in a movie named after her? Maybe it was Cruise’s input, which is rumored to have majorly changed the script and actually taken screen time from Boutella’s character. Or maybe it was the script itself, or the very concept to begin with — the constant drive, on behalf of Universal, to push more and more reboots together instead of trying anything new.
It’s a pity that a character as good as Ahmanet and an actor as good as Boutella were sidelined for the sake of the cheap action movie The Mummy turned out to be. If Universal ever wants to make the most of what came of this disappointment, they might want to consider giving the Egyptian princess’ story a chance.