Review by Paul Preston
The Mummy solidifies that this summer is thin on great movies. Most are big, loud and stupid. The Fate of the Furious, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch, all big, all loud, all stupid. Add The Mummy to the list. The most depressing part is that when Tom Cruise was attached to this movie, I thought he might lift the whole unnecessary project, but just the opposite happened, the whole unnecessary project dragged him down.
Cruise is miscast as Nick Morton, a soldier-of-fortune who stumbles across the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Mummy who creeps back to life to continue her quest to bring the evil god Set into the world. She chooses to do it by housing him in Nick’s body. Nick is a bit of a goof, word-sparring with his digging partner Chris (Jake Johnson), but what the movie fails to see is how that’s not the Tom Cruise we love. Tom Cruise is the best – the best fighter pilot, the best bartender, the best stock car driver, the best pool player, etc. The only time he wasn’t the best and it worked was Edge of Tomorrow, where he played a war-evading weasel who was reborn so many times that by the end of the film, he was the best! It’s safe to say The Mummy is no Edge of Tomorrow.
About halfway through this movie, I was thinking of the dead vegetable-o-meter that culls reviews and gives them a percentage rating based on the number of positive reviews. The Mummy was chiming in around 18% and Dead Men Tell No Tales was coming in around 29%. At this halfway point in The Mummy, the film wasn’t dreadful yet (it wasn’t captivating, but it wasn’t dreadful). Halfway through the Pirates movie, you knew it was a mess.
I began to see a flaw in the Rotten Tomatoes matrix. What if 82% of critics thought The Mummy was kinda bad? That would warrant an 18%, but you’d never be able to gauge the LEVELS of badness the movie achieved. Because 71% of critics could claim Pirates 5 was the worst movie made in the history of cinema and it still rates higher than The Mummy. Interesting thought, sadly less relevant as The Mummy went on to fail in every direction.
First direction – establishing Universal’s “Dark Universe”. Universal has decided to be the latest studio to rip off Marvel in the tradition of DC, Legendary and Lucasfilm by creating a franchise of interrelated films, this time using the classic Universal monsters. The Mummy introduces Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll as an evil-fighter, rooting out, studying and, if necessary, vanquishing monsters that make their way into our world. The Mummy is the first, supposedly to be followed by The Invisible Man, Frankenstein’s monster, etc.
At the top of The Mummy, the Universal logo spins around to reveal the Dark Universe logo for the first time, so I fully expected the finale of the film to include a post-credits stinger to give more hints as to what to expect from this film series. But there wasn’t any stinger, as if the filmmakers were all excited about the Dark Universe at the beginning of the movie, but The Mummy was so bad, even they gave up on exploring it any further by the time the film ended.
The Mummy is another example of the on-going trend of over-writing in Hollywood. The characters are constantly explaining what they’re doing. Not revealing important plot details to one another, but talking their way through action and repeating what they’re doing when we already know. It’s as if the writers think we need details reinforced (we don’t, we’re smart viewers) or maybe the writers thought they were making a play. You’d think director Alex Kurtzman would cut a lot of that dialogue once he gets into the more visual aspects of the movie. This has plagued the new Star Wars films, Kong: Skull Island and Independence Day: Resurgence. I’d say I’m surprised to see Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp writing in this annoying style on The Mummy, but then again, he wrote Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but the fact that The Usual Suspects’ Christopher McQuarrie is underperforming on this script is the real disappointment.
Crowe brings predictable gravitas as Jekyll, but the character is pointless. Annabelle Wallis is impossibly beautiful, but her relationship with Cruise is underdeveloped and handled ham-fistedly. Jake Johnson’s character is one of the worst parts of the film. Early on, he’s cursed and appears throughout the movie sort of as Griffin Dunne did in An American Werewolf in London, talking to Cruise all funny and it just doesn’t work. It’s almost as if the movie thought too late that they should be campy like the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies but left themselves no time to develop the idea.
But warning to anyone who still decides to see this: The last half hour doesn’t make any sense. None. It makes no sense. You think a requirement of a movie would be to make SOME sense. This makes none. The filmmakers establish rules and carelessly break them to get the characters out of jams (nonsensically), they jump locations and blame it on hallucination WAY too often and the fate of Cruise’s character is introduced, then contradicted in the NEXT SCENE. And in the final scene, another character comes back and jokes about how everything’s great, even though he was killed earlier. It’s astonishing how little care is given the ending, after thousands of filmmakers and $125 million.
This is two duds in a row for the usually consistent Cruise (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was a letdown, too). But the run of Knight and Day, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was a pretty sweet one. If you haven’t checked out any of these films, they represent the best Cruise period since the ‘90s. And don’t get too down on America’s last movie star, because the trailer for American Made, reuniting him with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman, looks fantastic!
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Run Time: 110 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios