‘The Mummy’ probably isn’t the jumpstart Universal was looking for

by Tim English on June 9, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

I’m 100% behind Universal’s decision to embark on a cinematic reboot of their monster classics, but surely this isn’t what they had in mind when they for whatever reason decided The Mummy would be the official kick-off to their Dark Universe.

The Mummy stars Tom Cruise, which is about all you need to know about the direction this flick is taking as it attempts to bring one of Universal’s beloved monsters back to the big screen for the first time since the ill-fated and altogether crappy final installment of their last Mummy trilogy, which starred Brenden Fraser. But unlike the previous reboot, which kicked off way back in 1999, this new incarnation really has no clue what it is supposed to be. And to be honest, Cruise feels so out of place it’s distracting. At times, it’s like he’s trying to channel his inner Chris Pratt, but his charm and humor just don’t work in this dojo.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, an Army recon officer, who has spent the majority of his tour in Iraq looting caves of antiquities. When he accidentally unearths a hidden prison tomb containing a mummified Egyptian princess, he sets of a chain of events that wakes up the enchanted mummy and starts a lot of running and screaming and ultimately never goes anywhere compelling. It’s about this time the film starts to tank. What should have been a reboot aimed at putting the horror aspect back into the Universal Monster mythology, ends up being just another Tom Cruise summer popcorn flick.

Playing the scorned Egyptian princess Ahmanet is Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek Beyond) and she’s pretty much limited to background noise. She never feels like a threat and she isn’t particularly all that interesting, as a character anyway — especially consider she is the titular character. Which is a shame because she’s proven to be a friggin’ bad ass in Kingsman (she’s the chick with sword legs!) and Star Trek. But then, her mummy is really no different from Imhotep (the mummy dude played by Arnold Vosloo in Fraser’s flicks.) Again, feels like a wasted opportunity.

The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Jake Johnson (Jurassic World) plays Nick’s sidekick and provides much of the movie’s comic relief, which at times feels mistimed and out of place. Annabelle Wallis plays the smart scientist character and you almost get the feeling that if it wasn’t for Tom Cruise, she probably would have done a lot more. Instead she’s relegated to sitting shotgun and screaming as the typical damsel in distress. (This must be in Tommy’s contract. “Put me on the poster and don’t forget I’M the HERO.)

But the most out of place character is the one who apparently is the one who is supposed to be the link between all of the movies in this Dark Universe and that’s Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, the head of Prodigium, a secret society dedicated to hunting supernatural threats. His scenes lay some ground work future movies, planting seeds and sprinkling in a few easter eggs that only raise more questions about how all of this crap is supposed to link together.

Director Alex Kurtzman, a dude I would normally give a pass to because of his work on Fringe, seems to have trouble finding a balance between the comedy, adventure and the scares, ultimately failing to deliver any of it consistently. But being this is a Tom Cruise movie, Kurtzman is clearly not the one calling the shots, even though he is one of the primary producers for Universal’s Dark Universe. Would it have been too difficult to just make a damn mummy movie about a bunch of archaeologists who get trapped in a tomb, accidentally awaken a mummy and spend the rest of the time trying to escape from the bandaged monster?

The script also comes from a couple of Tom’s homies. David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie are both chipped in on the screenplay, giving The Mummy a grand total of six writers who are given either a written by or story by credit, which probably explains why the film feels so all over the place and fails to deliver what was probably the ultimate intention: making a scary Mummy movie.

I’m in a weird position here, because I normally dig Tom’s movies. I love the Mission: Impossible movies and I think he’s one of the most dedicated, hardest working actors in show business. But this movie reeks of ego and it hurts the movie.

The Mummy is ultimately a wasted opportunity to do something fresh and original with these characters. If the idea is to build a franchise around it, they’re off to a regrettably awkward start. Hopefully Universal learns and adjusts their game plan as they determine the course for the next flick in their Dark Universe. It’s a fun idea, but success isn’t a given. Just ask DC who has struggled to launch their own shared universe with far more established characters.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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