Friday, June 9, 2017

Analysis & Symbols: The Mummy (2017)

There are four dominant traits of Princess Ahmanet: first, she's female, second are the double-pupil-ed eyes, third is the writing on her face and body and, last, but not least, her wide, gaping mouth, which the Egyptians even translated to her sarcophagus (pictured above). The Mummy is at least the third film to take us to ancient Egypt to discuss the occult and economics (the other two being the beginning of X-Men: Apocalypse and Gods Of Egypt with Gerard Butler). Why? Ancient Egypt was an advanced society, a capitalist society (they had a class system which business people could move in and out of, even if the upper-class was perpetually shut-off for them) and a society which was pagan. Given that Christianity has suffered so much, publicly and privately, in America today, I think we have to say that America has become a pagan culture, in spite of the relatively high numbers of people who still claim they are Christians, but live in a state of sin (such as addiction or adultery).  As you have seen me write countless times,dear reader, historical films (or a historical moment in a film) is NEVER about history or that historical moment, it is, rather, about the here and the now, how that moment in that country's history reflects what is going on in our own world today. For example, the two most important words might be spoken by the airplane pilot carrying Ahmanet's sarcophagus as the birds start hitting the windshield: "November 4th!" the pilot says into the microphone; why? November 4, 2017 was the date Hillary Clinton was scheduled to be elected president of the USA, but was beat by Donald Trump (The Mummy film makers didn't know that at the time of production, so we will have to keep that in mind watching the film). So, I think there will be at least a sufficient platform for us to use as a catapult for interpreting Ahmanet as Hillary Clinton, or at the very least, modern feminists.
We know the mouth symbolizes the appetites, so a gaping mouth, like the one pictured above, is going to stay open in order to take in as much as it possible can (then we also see, in the dust storm taking over London, Ahmanet's face appear in the blowing sand and, again, her mouth is opened wide to take in everything she can AND, when she slits her father's throat, what happens? Some of his blood splatters onto her mouth, meaning, she develops an appetite for spilling blood.
Something I find rather interesting--and I could be wrong about how it happens in The Mummy since I haven't seen it yet--is how it seems that rather "ordinary" Egyptian citizens stand up to these colossal super-natural threats in X-Men: Apocalypse, Gods Of Egypt and The Mummy. From what we have seen of The Mummy, embalmers condemn Ahmanet to be buried alive, and we saw the brave soldiers of X-Men risk their lives to keep the occult aliens from taking over the world in Apocalypse; Bek and Zaya help defeat Set in Gods Of Egypt. So, if Nick Morton's name does mean "victory of the people," we definitely have a film championing the "populist" movement. 
It's finally here.
This weekend, one of the films I have most anticipated for this entire year opens, and sadly, it looks to not be projecting very well: The Mummy is expected to bring in $30-35 million, much more internationally; if it fails to open at that level, it could jeopardize the entire Universal Dark Universe reboot (and they have just added two new monsters: in addition to Van Helsing, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and the Invisible Man, they announced remakes for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Phantom Of the Opera; it has also starting circulating that a "collaborative film" with all of them together is not on the table). Here are the topics upon which we need to focus during the film: first, Tom Cruise's Nick Morton.
This is at least the third morgue scene we have encountered recently, the other two being in Baywatch (please see Baywatch: Toxic Masculinity, Toxic Femininity for more) and John Wick Chapter 2 (when Wick has been taken to meet the Bowery King and has gotten his wounds sewn up and he's on the table with the two dead janitors who had tried to kill him). Nick's last name, "Morton," is interesting, because it comes from the Latin for "death," and since Prodigium itself is Latin (meaning "wonder" or "great sign,"), we know that we are on the right track seeing Nick as a "face of death" himself. In other words, Nick Morton is right at home in the morgue because (somehow, I don't know how yet) Nick has been "dead" his whole life, and that is something we will have to look for when we see the film. What about "Nick?" Nick probably means "Nicholas," which is "victory of the people," and maybe it means that in the film, however, there is also the possibility that "Nick" refers to a "nick," like when you are shaving and cut yourself, or you nick a piece of furniture. We'll have to see. We know that Nick dies, but then he is resurrected, but he's not resurrected in Christ, he is, rather, resurrected in the Curse, but I don't know how that happens in the film at this point. So, issues and the boundary of life and death, are going to be imperative, because it's not really biological life, rather, political life, or political death (remember, Ahmanet kills to gain power over her country, so this is a political film) but there is also spiritual death and spiritual life; who gains life, who loses it?
Nick is not the kind of character we are used to seeing Tom Cruise playing: Nick Morton is, according to writer/director Alex Kurtzman, "amoral," meaning he doesn't have a particular moral code by which he lives (such as chivalry or even Dominic Tiretto's code of family in Fast and Furious); why? Why would Kurtzman risk such a character, with an actor known for always playing the hero? At this point, I have not seen the film, but I think we can venture the answer that it's because we are used to seeing Tom Cruise act in a particular way that when we see him fail to live up to that, it's going to be more highlighted, whereas an actor we are used to seeing as a "creep," like Will Ferrel, that behavior would be expected. Nick, then, is going to be much more like a carbon-copy of most men today, rather than a role-model type (which Cruise usually portrays). How is this important? Ahmanet is able to possess Nick, or at least come perilously close to possession. If Nick were stronger, Nick wouldn't be in danger, which leads us to our next point: the Crusades.
This is a great scene, even without the zero gravity stunt thrown in! We just saw in Wonder Woman how Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) pierces through the protective barrier of Diana's island when his ship crashes and she has to save him. In that situation, Wonder Woman film makers are claiming that the failure of men (Steve losing control of his plane) had invaded the feminist world (Diana's island) and feminists would not have gotten involved in the American civil war of the Obama administration (and still going, this is represented by World War I in Wonder Woman) had it not been for mankind's desperate need of a savior (Diana). In this scene for The Mummy, (when the airplane begins to crash and we see the zero gravity stunt) we are seeing the exact opposite of that scenario from Wonder Woman: in The Mummy, the plane is the "ship of state," and the windshield you see in the image above is equivalent to the protective barrier surrounding Diana's island (we saw similar barriers in both Oz the Great and Powerful from several years ago, as well as Thor: the Dark World when the Dark Elves pierced the protective barrier of Asgard).  In the image above, the windshield doubles as the "protective barrier" for the ship of state; why? Being made of glass, the windshield symbolizes the ability to reflect, to understand and meditate about an event or situation. Because this is the front windshield, and not the rear windshield (which would symbolize reflecting on the past), this instance allows us to understand the importance of reflecting on the future; and what's there to see? Blood. There is not only a massive crack in the windshield ("destruction" of the self, in this case, the "self" is the government,and the government's inability to reflect upon what it's doing)  but the blood we see is smeared across the windshield (making it difficult to "reflect" about the coming menace of the other birds); what does the blood symbolize? In this case, civil war. How can we determine that? The birds and the plane are "similar," in that a plane is designed like a bird, with a body and wings, and meant to fly like a bird, so they are similar even while they are dis-similar. The flock of crows attacking the plane are the same ones we saw hanging dead and upside-down in the ceremony room where Ahmanet sold her soul to Set, so these birds are the "birds of death." On the other hand, the airplane is technological, it's transportation, it helps people and has become a necessity of the modern world. This is what the civil war in America is about: the agents of death (the Left) and the agents of technology and advancement (conservatives). It's my understanding that this plane is actually Nick's (he's a soldier and this plane is his squad's) so the plane being attacked by these birds of death is actually Nick (the proxy of white, heterosexual men) being attacked, just as he is attacked by rats later in the film. The crows bringing down the plane reveals the Left's attempt to bring down the economy and the government protecting it, and to destroy all those within it (remember, the "binding spells" against Donald Trump aren't just directed at him, but against all of us who support him). There is no possible way we can ignore the politics of this film, they are going to be everywhere. Even the zero gravity which turns the plane, literally, upside-down, reflects how the Left has turned this country upside-down: from gender identification (I'm neither male or female, is now an acceptable legal statement, and if gender isn't stable, then what is?) to the law of the land and people being held accountable for the crimes they have committed. Being "upside-down" is going to be important in the film because when Nick is being over-run by the rats, and Ahmanet comes to begin her possession of him, Nick sees her as being "upside-down," meaning, her very rule is upside-down (who murders their family for power? Oh, yea, Vortigern in King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword). The same kind of chaos and darkness we saw Arthur fighting against with Vortigern is set to be the enemy of Ahmanet's reign.
At some point, Nick and Jenny (the archaeologist working for Prodigium) visit an old English cemetery and encounter Crusaders there (ghosts). Why is this important? We have been given the timeline that Ahmanet has been buried for 2000 years; 2000 years ago, Christ came, and gave us a way to live, by love for God and love for neighbor; Nick hasn't done that, and neither has most Americans today. The Crusaders were the warriors of God, the men who pledged their lives to him and the code of chivalry,... how different would the world be today if there were men alive who would do this? The point is, Nick hasn't, and as such, he has no moral compass (not really, anyway) and this is going to mean that he's a man of his appetites (he allows that which he wants to guide his decisions rather than some higher ideal). This is where the battle of the two women is going to come into play.
Number one question: why does Ahmanet's pupils multiply? The eyes, as we know, are the windows of the soul, so this is the ultimate parasitic relationship, that Set feeds off Ahmanet's soul, and she lets him. She wants power, but how much power does Set have over her while he occupies her soul? All of the power. If we are not in control of our soul, we are not in control of anything. Ahmanet has sacrificed the most basic and elementary mode of existence for an existence she never even gets to experience for a moment (the power of being queen, or the power of ruling the world once she is awakened).
There are going to be binary oppositions in this film, and that's a good thing. For example, the hieroglyphs which Jenny cleans in the bottom image, are the acceptable means of writing, which also means, those are the acceptable texts which society accepts and promotes (the canon, in other words). Ahmanet rejects those and seeks out the "forbidden texts" so she can experience the "forbidden power," and that text becomes engraved upon her flesh because our soul becomes infected with the things we read: if we read works of holiness, we become infected with holiness and want to do good and holy things; if we read corrupt materials, our soul, too, becomes corrupt and we want to do corrupt things, hence the writing on her body.
There is, however, a more interesting and modern interpretation of the writing on her body: so much has been written on the female body,that the female body has ceased to be a real body and has become only a political/social issue:  is the female body still a body anymore, or just a political entity? If some woman doesn't get a promotion, it's not a matter of her qualifications, it is a matter of corporate sexism, whereas if a man doesn't get a promotion, as we all know, it's just that he isn't qualified. Feminists have regulated their bodies to nothing but their vaginas, and men's bodies to nothing but their penises in all their feminist rhetoric nobody reads. But it's had a negative effect because, as you well know, we are not only losing the ability to identify with our bodies, but losing the ability to identify with other people and their bodies. Feminism, in other words, was supposed to be helping women understanding themselves better, instead, they have become just like the clay tablet in the bottom image, a piece of paper upon which to write the latest theories and unacceptable attitudes towards the female body.
Jenny Halsley, the archaeologist for Prodigium, and Ahmanet, are two very different women and yet they have characteristics in common. Symbolically, they are both women who represent for us the passive principle of the "motherland," and what's a bit of a reverse is, we have two versions of the "motherland" (Jenny and Ahmanet) fighting for the man (Nick) who symbolizes the active principle of the country's mode of production, i.e., "the economy." Usually, it's the two modes of economy (two men) competing for rights of access to the motherland (the leading lady), so is this film feminist itself in offering a role reversal? Possible, but not probable. The two women merely reflect the reality of what is happening in America, even the world. So what are the characteristics of these two women?
There is water and there is desert, the absence of water (duh, I know, right?). Water is a baptismal symbol, even if it's just "cleansing," water is meant to impart self-reflection and conversion (even in non-spiritual matters, as we see with James Bond in Spectre).  When Bond goes to kill Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) it's in the desert, where there is no water, there is no self-reflection, there is just a sprinkler watering a lawn (because Blofeld's "self-reflection" has been manicured and cultivated to be just so). Ahmanet is buried in water; why? Nothing grows in sand, but water cleanses, and water provides the symbolic medium for meditation, in other words, by burying her in water, the Egyptian priests hoped to cleanse and purify her through her reflection on what she had done, become and her motivations; that didn't happen, because she has just grown to be even more self-righteously indignant that she was denied power, sound like a liberal? We see Jenny being dragged under the water and, even though I don't know what's going to happen, we can say that Ahmanet wants to somehow bury Jenny in her virtue, bury Jenny in her ability to reflect on herself; in other words, turn Jenny's virtue into her own death.
While nothing grows in the desert, it is a good place to be purged, because there also is no place for the demons to hide: everything is visible, and it becomes its own process of cleansing, just like the water; with water, however, growth can be fostered, meaning, that which water cleanses, is also going to grow, but that which the desert cleanses, needs to be put to death. The reason this is important, is because of the sand storm Ahmanet whips up in London and then we see Nick and Jenny in water, so this is a drastic change of "landscape" for those characters, and that's how we will know what is really going on in these scenes. 
One of the women is modern, one traditional; but which one? Jenny, as an archaeologist, looks to the past, while Ahmanet, wanting to be one of the only queens in Egyptian history, looks to the future and away from her country's past of having only male pharaohs. While we see Ahmanet go to the "margins" to get power, we see Jenny have power with the marginal organization of Prodigium for whom she works. Both characters have been filled with clues about how they see the state of the country and world, and in understanding what they want to tell us, we will experience that great artistic state known as catharsis. I am seeing The Mummy Friday afternoon (sadly, not in 3D because of the timing restraints) and I will diligently work to get the post up asap; if the film disappoints, or I think there is something you should know, I will post so you have that info (I haven't heard anything about a post-credits clip, but I always stay until the end anyway).
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner