The Mummy, Universal’s answer to the new wave of cinematic movie universes – this one blatantly entitled the “Dark Universe” within the studio’s opening logo – is an anemic opening chapter that bids ill will for its planned follow-ups. One half action movie that never thrills, one half horror movie that only achieves yawns instead of screams (despite numerous torpid attempts at jump scares), The Mummy commits the worst sin against both genres – it’s flat-out boring.
After an opening flashback to 1100’s England of all places, we pick up in present-day where a pair of self-avowed “liberators of precious antiquities,” Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), discover a hidden tomb in the heart of Iraq. Reluctantly teaming up Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), an archaeologist working for a secret society headed by the dubious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), they accidentally release Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient mummy who quickly curses Nick as her potential human portal for the return of Set, the Egyptian god of death. Now on the run from the mummy and her growing army of undead zombies, the team scrambles for a way to defeat the evil threat.
Without an ounce of the eerie atmosphere of the original 1932 version or the Indiana Jones-inspired frivolity of the Brendan Fraser-led 1999 film, The Mummy feels dead on arrival. Those hoping that Tom Cruise would inject the same life to mummies as he did for vampires in Interview with the Vampire will be severely disappointed. Director Alex Kurtzman misdirects and perverts Cruise’s effortless screen charisma in the worst way. Neither charming or magnetically roguish, Cruise’s Nick Morton comes across as a moronic ass, spewing out irritating one-liners and wailing about sexual inadequacy. His most capable quality is that he’s quite adept at haplessly rolling around the inside of crashing vehicles – something that happens no less than three times in the picture via a plunging plane, truck, and city bus!
The remainder of the cast doesn’t fare better, with Annabelle Wallis playing the one-note, cold damsel in distress and Jake Johnson as the so-called “comedy relief.” Johnson’s character is the screen-definition of expired Parmesan cheese – moldy, grating, and cheesy. Russell Crowe, on the surface an impeccable choice for Dr. Jekyll, is shoe-horned in clumsily for the sole purpose of franchise set-up. The only stand out is Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) as the titular monster lending unexpected shades of passion, vulnerability, and sex appeal to an otherwise underused, forgettable character.
Visually, the film lives up to its Dark Universe tag – muted, underlit, and bland. It doesn’t help that for a film steeped in Egyptian mythos and legend, most of the action takes place in the overcast hills, streets, and underground tunnels of England. Akin to a Dracula film switching out Transylvania for the backwoods of Kentucky or Hercules taking place in New York rather than Greece…
…this is a transgression that trades in the natural, wondrous setting of the story for something mundane in return. The only half-decent payoff is a brief supernatural sandstorm in the streets of London but the scene is marred by poor visual effects that afflict the rest of the film. If anything, The Mummy seems more interested in trying to resurrect Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with dashes of An American Werewolf in London in lieu of creatively bringing to life its own source material.
In an episode of Default Assault, I posited that the accidental release of a Mummy trailer with bungled sound and Tom Cruise howling frantically at the top of his lungs would be more entertaining than the film as a whole – a supposition that now firmly holds true. The finished film shows little respect to its audience; rather, it’s an overly-calculated confection serving as an assembly line prototype for other packaged wallet wasters. This, above all else, is the true curse of The Mummy.