Why ‘THE MUMMY’ trailer emphasizes action over horror – and why it shouldn’t have

Tom Cruise in THE MUMMY. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

I’m positive you’ve also noticed this, but the marketing campaign for THE MUMMY has sorta been a bit scattershot. It seems as if they are throwing everything at the proverbial wall to see if the spaghetti sticks. I get it: they have a movie to sell and want it to appeal to the broadest mass-market audience it can. The first trailer didn’t do much to shake loose a groundswell of support. The second trailer proved to be a lot better, spotlighting a different kind of action hero for superstar Cruise and bringing in the horror element within the backstory of Sofia Boutella’s titular character. This third trailer makes for a fairly expected grab for a more traditional action movie audience. And without a strong voice that’s been carried over from each of these trailers, I question if the film is maybe having an identity crisis.

Let’s compare each, shall we?

Though the first trailer blessedly doesn’t overdo it, it almost goes too subtle. It’s not terribly compelling or engaging.

Here’s the second trailer – one that achieves a far better balance between the genre elements:

And behold the third trailer, which plays to the expected beats you think it would, given the action movie superstar with box office draw:

Though I do value that the filmmakers and studio are being incredibly mindful to not overdose us on new footage, I also think marketing this as a straight-laced action film, and downplaying the horror isn’t exactly the right way to go.

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3. Where’s the homage to the original Universal Monster movies? The originals captured the light and dark elements of the genre in good balance. They could be terrifying, but also very poignant commentaries on humanity. They were not hollow action films. It seems as if the third trailer’s implication is that Russell Crowe’s character, who speaks to “gods and monsters,” will bring that tie to the past into the modern fold – and yet the images underneath all seem to connote a straight-forward action feature. It feels as if the overseas appeal for action is represented, but at a cost to another market.

2. What will be the emotional throughline – and why should preview audiences care? As I stated above, we still have yet to be shown what will be innovative about this new, rebooted story track for the franchise. Special effects wise, sure. But in terms of the narrative, the core needs to engage us. What are the character motivations? What’s the drive in them that will connect with us the preview audience? What will ultimately get us to see this movie? Is it just all hinging on Cruise’s mega-watt star-power alone?

1. Horror films make a lot of money – especially in the Summer. I don’t want to go too far into the rabbit hole of facts and figures, but its safe to say that horror movies – especially in the Summertime months – do extremely well. Universal should ask Warner Brothers about that given THE CONJURING and its ANNABELLE spin-off have all been strong Summer money makers. Universal shouldn’t be discounting that it possibly made a “family-friendly horror movie,” as this isn’t as much of an oxymoron as it sounds. It’s totally doable, at least in the right hands.

Listen, this is all not to say I don’t think something terrifically entertaining isn’t there with the finished product. I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, so I don’t know. But what I am saying is that the perfect trailer for the rebooted THE MUMMY is still out there, waiting to be cut.

THE MUMMY opens on June 9.

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