Studying Stories: Characters of “The Mummy”

Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoiler for The Mummy (2017)

Image result for the mummy 2017 posterEvery story–whether it’s a movie or a book or a TV show or a graphic novel–offers the opportunity to learn. I’m terrible at taking the time to examine the stories I consume and seeing what works (or what falls flat). But it’s something I want to take the time to do more often. So what better time to start it than after seeing The Mummy in theaters?

The protagonist is Nick Morton, a soldier-slash-black-market-antiquities-dealer, is the stereotypical bad boy. He sleeps with archaeologist Jenny Halsey to steal a map, enters an insurgent-controlled town in hopes of finding treasure, and tries to lie his way out of trouble with his commanding officer when caught. He has some pretty good comedic moments, and I absolutely loved how he chooses to become the Egyptian god, Set, in order to save Jenny.

Nick isn’t a bad protagonist; he’s engaging enough. But he’s not memorable. There have been thousands–in not millions–of Nick Mortons in movies and books and TV shows.

So I’ve got to ask myself: how would I have made Nick memorable?

My Nick Morton would’ve been a woman, probably a woman of color. Then leave everything else the same: the soldier-slash-thief, the sleeping with Jenny to steal the map, and the running into an insurgent-controlled town. It’s a small change. But it’s a huge one.

The other character that stuck out was the antagonist, Ahmanet. She’s a Egyptian princess who made a deal with Set in order to become Pharaoh of Egypt. She kills her father, her stepmother, and her newborn stepbrother and nearly kills her lover (to make him a vessel for Set) before being stopped and sentenced to residing for eternity in a sarcophagus.

Now the problem that I had with Ahmanet’s backstory is that it’s cliche. She’s a power-hungry woman who’ll stop at nothing–like killing her family and summoning the god of death–to get what she wants. The viewer isn’t allowed to be sympathetic or to see the world through her eyes. And that’s a shame.

If I’d written Ahmanet, I’ve have given her a different reason for summoning Set. She’s first introduced in a flashback, and she’s sparring with a man under the watchful eye of her father, the Pharaoh. I’d have taken that warrior-princess vibe and run with it.

Ahmanet would’ve been a Princess in an Egypt full of corruption. A general looking to stage a coup killed the Pharaoh and her family, and then framed her for the murders. She summons Set in order to raise her own army of the dead and stop the coup, but the army prevents her from finishing the ritual. So when she awakens in the 21st century, her only desire is to give Set a human form before retaking Egypt.

Seeing The Mummy was fun. It was certainly well worth the price of the ticket, and I’ll definitely see the other “Dark Universe” movies when (if) they’re released. But it was also a fantastic opportunity to examine character and character motivations.

What movie have you seen recently? Are there any changes that you would’ve made to the characters?

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