The first in a long line of upcoming movies which will make up Universal’s “Dark Universe” (or is it the second? It’s hard to tell if Dracula Untold actually counts or not . . .), director Alex Kurtzman’s reboot of the classic monster movie stars Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, a soldier, thief, adventurer and plunderer of ancient antiquities who, while on a mission in Iraq, finds a long lost Egyptian tomb and a sarcophagus within, inadvertently awakening the evil, mummified Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who goes on to hunt him down, having chosen him to be the host body for the dark god Set. With the assistance of specialist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and Dr. Henry (Russell Crowe), head of secret organization Prodigium, Morton must find a way to break the curse and to escape Ahmanet.
With regards to the main cast, Tom Cruise kind of phones it in here, trying hard to be this rogueish, scoundrel thief but ultimately just ends up as Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise, with a whole load of running and simply being a generic action/adventure movie protagonist. This film would probably be in the lower echelons of Cruise films as his character is a bit two-dimensional, there’s no real reason to support him and Cruise is just a bit too wooden. Also, as the head of
S.H.I.E.L.D. ARGUS Monarch Prodigium, Russell Crowe does add a bit of gravitas to proceedings but he is ultimately a bit miscast; his main function is to explain a whole heap of the plot and to go through a certain character change that requires him to go all cartoony with a dodgy London accent.
There’s also Annabelle Wallis and, while it’s hard for me to say this about a Peaky Blinders cast member, she is awful, surely the most wooden performance of the year so far as she has trouble conjuring up the most basic facial expression and is really quite bland and awkward throughout. Of course it doesn’t help that her character has no discernible personality at all; immediately introduced as Tom Cruise’s previous one night stand, she merely exists in this film to run around alongside him, to provide some expositional dialogue, to be the standard love interest/damsel in distress, to put on glasses as she studies the sarcophagus (because you NEED big glasses if you’re gonna do sciency researchy stuff!) and to spout such lines like “This isn’t a tomb (VEEEERY LOOOONG PAUUUUSE) It’s a prison!” Gee, alongside her thankless role in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it doesn’t look like she’s having a great year!
And as for The Mummy herself, Sofia Boutella, who I must admit was my main reason for seeing this film since she was totes amazeballs in Star Trek Beyond and Kingsman: The Secret Service, certainly has the ideal look and the physicality to pull it all off, clearly putting her extensive dance background into practice. She’s most definitely the ideal casting choice but, despite giving it all she’s got, she is ill served by the poor script, she doesn’t get to do anything amazing and suffers through some really dodgy CGI, most noticeably during the scene in which she’s held inside Prodigium – her face is made to look all wrong, with obvious, artificial effects going on. Plus, she’s somewhat oversexualised throughout the film, appearing semi-nude in many flashback scenes as well as doing the Enchantress-inspired “kiss the soldiers to turn them into minions” bit and engaging in some gratuitous Tom Cruise face licking!
There is a mismatch of tones in The Mummy as it gets serious a lot of the time but it also forcibly inserts some very awkward, misjudged comedy that fails to engage or to genuinely raise smiles; there’s even a certain section featuring Jake Johnson’s character which is hugely reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead! The film also gets sappy and sentimental right at the end, not helped by Brian Tyler’s by-the-numbers score. The film has none of the fun or sense of adventure that the 1999 film had (although there is one specific reference to that film included for good measure!) and overall it is perhaps too glum and dark, with a special emphasis on super serious philosophising, prophecising and world building.
The film’s biggest fault is its writing, which is quite poor and eye-roll inducing; the problem is that the characters speak cliched line after cliched line, with those awkward lines of dialogue that were clearly made for the trailer such as “We’ve never encountered anything like this before”, the aforementioned tomb/prison line and at least three variations of the line “What the Hell . . .?”. The story is very by-the-numbers, unsurprising and completely predictable, almost entirely consisting of running (well it IS A Tom Cruise film!), shooting, fighting, smashing, blowing things up and a whole load of explaining the plot.
The main focus for The Mummy is to hurriedly set up its shared universe, to get in on that oh-so-lucrative cash cow as soon as possible, but looking at both this film and the planned future instalments, I seriously doubt that this shared universe will ever truly take off and may very well be doomed to fail. If this does indeed mark the beginning of Universal’s “classic monsterverse” then it doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence and it’s a puzzle as to why this was attempted in the first place. Oh that’s right, the almighty dollar.
Oh, and there’s no post-credit scene. At least they avoided that particular temptation . . .
So overall, The Mummy is fundamentally flawed but honestly, I didn’t hate it. It’s dull, predictable and there’s really nothing positive to be found within but surprisingly, it’s not completely awful – just a crazy handful of nothin’.