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The Mummy Review

June 9, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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The Mummy Review  

Directed By: Alex Kurtzman
Written By: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet
Runtime: 107 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity

Tom Cruise – Nick Morton
Sofia Boutella – Princess Ahmanet/The Mummy
Annabelle Wallis – Jenny Halsey
Russell Crowe – Dr. Henry Jekyll
Jake Johnson – Chris Vail
Courtney B. Vance – Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari – Malik
Selva Rasalingam – King Menehptre

Universal Pictures’ 2017 reboot of The Mummy comes off like the height of Hollywood hubris and arrogance. Since Marvel Entertainment’s shared cinematic universe is all the rage these days, other studios want to follow suit and try their own hands at shared cinematic universes with whatever properties they have available. Of course, Warner Bros./Time Warner already owns DC Comics outright and had for years, so they could easily make that happen. That’s despite the fact both DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. were firmly in the camp of not making any type of shared universe with their properties until after 2012’s The Avengers made over $1.5 billion worldwide. Now, every game in town wants piece of the shared universe pie, even when it seems like an equivalent process of fitting a square peg into a round hole. The Mummy is essentially the start of what Universal is calling its “Dark Universe” showcasing horror and monster icons of fiction. However, if you believe the reports, 2014’s Dracula Untold was actually meant to be the start of this shared Universal Monster-verse franchise, but that didn’t work out so well. Going by this latest cinematic reboot of The Mummy, it doesn’t work out very well here either.

Through the means of a rather convoluted prologue, The Mummy introduces the Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Boutella), the daughter of the Pharaoh and heir to his kingdom. However, the Pharaoh remarried and sired a new son, who threatens Ahmanet’s claim to the throne. So Ahmanet betrays her family and pledges her life to the Egyptian god of death, Set. She then sets about murdering her father and his infant son in cold blood. However, Ahmanet is subdued by the Pharaoh’s guards before she can finish a type of sexual ritual to bring Set to life in her chosen male vessel via a sacrifice with a magic dagger. For her crimes, Ahmanet was mummified alive and buried far away from Egypt, underneath what is a remote and abandoned village in present-day Iraq. This ushers in the unscrupulous treasure hunter and thief, Nick Morton. Imagine Nate Drake infiltrating the US military in order to find his treasure scores and you get the idea. Nick managed to purloin some secret instructions that lead to an abandoned village that’s likely on top of an ancient gold mine of relics and antiquities. Unfortunately, the village is full of insurgents, and Nick coerces his reluctant partner-in-crime, Chris Vail (Johnson), to go along for the ride to ride straight into enemy territory in search of treasure. After an air strike rids the city of the insurgents, the missiles also unwittingly reveal the location of Ahmanet’s tomb, much to the chagrin of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Wallis); the woman Nick stole the map and instructions from. Nick and Vail’s commanding officer, Greenway (Vance), appears to be well aware of their activities by masquerading in long range reconnaissance in order to steal rare antiquities. So as punishment…he forces the would-be soldiers to escort Wallis into the ancient tomb. You know, rather than an arrest or a dishonorable discharge, he opts to punish them by making them help out an archeologist with an impromptu dig.

In the tomb, the trio discovers the sarcophagus that holds Ahmanet’s mummified corpse. And thanks to the powers she was granted by Set, Ahmanet is still quite powerful. Unfortunately for Nick, she’s chosen him as her new mate to be the sacrificial vessel for Set, so she can finish what she started and get revenge on the world. After Ahmanet’s dark powers possess Chris Vail into becoming a zombie minion, she uses dark powers to bring down the plane carrying her sarcophagus over London. Jenny and Nick are the only survivors, but Nick manages to survive after going down in the crashing plane. Nick has now been cursed by Ahmanet, and he and Jenny have to race against the clock to find a way to break it and defeat Ahmanet; possibly with assistance from Jenny’s associate: a one Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe). So basically, The Mummy sort of flips the script slightly with these monster films. The monster, or mummy in this case, is now a female who wants to sacrifice a male, who is still the hero of the story, in order to make him her mummy lover so they can take over the world and such.

While The Mummy reboot is undoubtedly a bad movie, it’s still not without its charms in some respects. The film isn’t too long and drawn out. It has fairly brisk pacing. The production values are decent, and director Alex Kurtzman in his sophomore directorial effort does manage to frame some nice visuals and sequences that at least look decent. The early battle scene in Baghdad is admittedly fun, but basically because it felt like seeing a version of an Uncharted level in live action. The film has quite a bit of humor, and some of the humor does land. However, it gets awkward with the weird fixation on Tom Cruise’s virility. Considering the implications of Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll and that character’s alter-ego, getting to see Crowe cut loose in the role and beat up Tom Cruise is undeniably quite fun. Unfortunately, this is not the Jekyll & Hyde show starring Russell Crowe. It’s The Mummy starring Tom Cruise.

One thing the movie definitely is not is scary. The Mummy attempts to play for cheap jump scares and horror more than the 1999 movie, which basically opted for a straight throwback action-adventure style akin to Indiana Jones. However, the movie never truly feels horrific. After it’s clear that Nick has become cursed, there’s never this dark foreboding sense of dread that washes over horror movies. There’s really no dread at all. Where Kurtzman and five other credited writers have failed here is that they still ultimately want this to be some popcorn adventure thrill ride, and it doesn’t service what little story is at work here. As a result, The Mummy suffers from being tonally unbalanced, and it can’t really rectify this new genre mash-up style.

Not to mention, having so many writers on board one film has created an experience that feels like a messy hodgepodge of a story that tries to be so many things that it essentially fails at all of them. Again, the film lacks any sense of dread. There isn’t an ominous sense of foreboding for Nick and what’s happening to him. And whenever the film does try to build some dramatic tension, it’s promptly undercut by some sort of cheap joke or gag. It definitely seems like Universal and Kurtzman are desperately attempting to mimic the Marvel Method of filmmaking here without understanding why it truly works at all.

Another problem with having so many writers is that the plot is way overwritten. For starters, take the prologue. It begins with the Knights Templar burying an unknown man in a crypt in the middle ages. This crypt is then unearthed in present-day London before going into this fictional realism style of newsreels and talking heads showing that England is sitting on top of the graves of ancient history that are centuries old. Dr. Jekyll and his minions take over this archeological find of a dead Crusader who was laid to rest, which apparently has some significance. From there, the plot moves to yet another prologue, this one going back further to ancient Egypt and Ahmanet’s story, as narrated by Dr. Jekyll. It’s a convoluted way to start the movie with two seemingly disparate, unrelated prologues before the story has even really begun. The movie does not handle its exposition dumps well, of which there are quite a few. This results in a movie that has a lot of convoluted expository setups in service of starting a shared universe film series, but The Mummy very little actual movie and story to go along with it.

Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise. What is meant by that is that sometimes Tom Cruise with the right script and director can work really well as certain characters. For recent examples, see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the first Jack Reacher movie, or even Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Here, Kurtzman fails to do a good job of reining him in, and it creates numerous scenes that are a touch too goofy and awkward. Cruise tends to react to certain things in this weird, spastic fashion, and he does it in multiple scenes. Even in a movie like The Mummy and for Cruise’s character, it fails to be believable.

Additionally, there’s been a fairly obvious implication for The Mummy and Cruise’s involvement with the whole Dark Universe franchise that’s rather problematic. This involves the ultimate fate of Cruise’s character and Universal’s obvious franchise hopes. To put it simply, it’s ridiculous. For those who believe making Boutella the film’s central monster was some grand mark of cinematic progression; they are going to ultimately be disappointed. Boutella might very well be a talented performer. She did well in the role she was given in a film like Kingsman: The Secret Service. She was a frequent show-stealer in Star Trek Beyond, which was also a heavy makeup role. However, to put things in simple terms, she’s not the main star of this film. Ahmanet is barely even a character here. Her biggest expression of power is ripped right out of the 1999 Stephen Sommers movie. Boutella’s Ahmanet is basically reduced to being treated as this sexy, exotic, deadly seductress. The setup for the Dark Universe essentially belies her casting as the new Mummy. In case you don’t get the hint, she’s not the only Mummy in this flick, and Boutella isn’t the big marquee star.

If The Mummy is indicative of what Universal has in store for other entries in the “Dark Universe,” it’s hard to see a successful future for this planned film series. The 2017 version of The Mummy is a picture-perfect example of putting the cart before the proverbial horse. Or, “hey, let’s make our own shared universe franchise of horror movie monsters without even making a horror movie and make them like the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead.” Putting together a room of 20 writers in a room and even hiring some A-list talent is not going to turn lead into cinematic gold.

The final score: review Bad
The 411
If The Mummy is the new start to a Dark Universe meant to cross over horror movie icons, it's not off to a very good start. The Mummy is a poorly written and messy story that tries to be so many things, but fails to really produce any thrills and chills. This isn't really a pure horror movie, but even as an adventure movie, it falls incredibly short. The movie is a quick watch, and there is quite a bit of action, plus a semi-fun performance with Russell Crowe where he gets to beat up a big movie star onscreen. Unfortunately, it's not really enough to justify the future of more of these movies where it seems they want the titular monsters to be a team of Avenger-like superheroes to fight...what exactly? Maybe someone at Universal should check up on what parts of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos are in public domain. So, Mummy, Dracula, Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster can all come together to fight Cthulhu, who will be the Thanos of this franchise. Before anyone takes that idea seriously: It was meant to be a joke.

article topics :

The Mummy, Tom Cruise, Jeffrey Harris