(All you who enter here, beware of spoilers!)
Maybe it’s because I’ve been studying popular culture as an academic for more than 9 years now, maybe it’s because I’m used to the yin-yang rhetoric in Japanese animation, or maybe it’s just an impression – but, watching The Mummy on Netflix (Sunday chillin’) felt like a new shift in Hollywood and its take on the old Good vs. Evil.
It’s still a blockbuster that treats you like you’re 2 and need a line of dialogue for every step of the action, and every emotion of each character, otherwise you’re too simple minded to understand such complexities. No doubt about it! I admit I didn’t have any expectations, it was just boredom + some nostalgia for the first movie that I loved as a child (although it’s not that good either), that made me watch it after 2 years since it’s launch.
Yet, it was the construction of the villain (parts of Princess Ahmanet), the presence of Dr. Jekyll (why not mix narratives?) and Nick’s choices (our hero) in the end, that got my attention and managed to surprise me. A hero that chooses to become evil and contain it? Where did I see that one before? Anime, ofc! Asian cinematography, yes! Hollywood? Not so much.
That Hollywood works with a very clear-cut agenda, we know since it’s beginning. Here’s an example related to framing war discourses and shaping American-centric world views. Of course, this is the most obvious. But we also have a lot of cultural messages that go under the radar. And this happens with all popular cultures, not just Hollywood. Academics refer to it as soft power.
Returning to our Mummy, the viewer sees the Hero not defeating evil, just making it more palatable, averting a crisis, and partially transforming into evil, an evil that he wishes to control. As Hollywood usually frames its narratives in accordance to new ideologies & politics, I wonder what this new take on values implies.
I don’t have a hypothesis yet, but it’s a question that is on my mind ever since I rewatched Thanos’ discourse on utilitarianism and evolution. Are villains and heroes becoming more human? Is the boundary shifting?
In Asian film that has always been the case, as it’s more realistic and gives depth to both plot, and characters. In Hollywood it’s still a tad superficial. Plus, it has to have a different objective. Is it a new way of implying that the means justify the end? We can sacrifice a few for the greater good? I’m still debating. What do you think?