Review: ‘The Mummy’ Should Have Stayed Buried

Do you remember that moment in Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise is on the phone pretending he’s his star client and soon-to-be No. 1 NFL draft pick Frank “Cush” Cushman, only to hear his ex-friend, super-agent Bob Sugar on the other end of the line? The I’ve been both punched in the gut and stabbed in the back expression Cruise emotes is pretty much my feeling about The Mummy, the inaugural installment of Universal’s “Dark Universe” cinematic universe (or DUCU as I’m calling it). It’s not that I had weighty expectations going in but at least with Cruise’s involvement this Dark Universe would jump out of the gate fast at a full gallop. After all, it wouldn’t be a Tom Cruise film without him running from something.

Cruise is still an A-list star by all accounts and one of the few remaining actors that can open a film on a global scale. At fifty-four his hit-to-miss ratio is better than Ted Williams’ .400 batting average. For three decades, Cruise had an impeccable streak of films grossing more than $100 million US – back when hitting that mark used to be the glass ceiling for films in theatrical release – the actor is seemingly in cruise control in terms of projects. He has his Mission: Impossible franchise, which will have its sixth installment in 2018, and his sci-fi minded projects like Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow, both of which received lukewarm reviews, though the latter has gained a greater following on home video when Warner Bros. stamped the words Live. Die. Repeat. on the artwork.

Now we have The Mummy, a feature that doesn’t even feel like Tom Cruise should be in from the start. Then again, this is the same actor that looked to personify an imposing six-foot-five ex-military cop in Jack Reacher. But even if you removed Cruise from the picture and replaced him with another actor I’m not sure Universal’s remake/reboot/relaunch of the classic monster would have done better. This movie is such a disaster.

Cruise is Nick Morton, a long-range reconnaissance officer with the U.S. military. He’s scouting enemy insurgents in Iraq along with his partner Chris (The New Girl’s Jake Johnson) but what he’s really after is treasure. A couple of fortune and glory seekers only without a crackling whip, a fear of snakes, or a glint of humor. There’s no depths Nick won’t sink to to get what he wants. A coordinated airstrike to save their asses and push out insurgents reveals a sinkhole (how appropriate) beneath the sand. Inside is a sarcophagus that is a long way from Egypt. Cue Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). She’ll be our resident blonde archaeologist and semi-romantic interest for the rest of the duration.

A short retrieval window and Nick’s itchy trigger finger culminate in freeing Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella from Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond) who looks to finish the ritual she started more than a thousand years ago to transform her chosen one into a human vessel for Set, the god of death. And of course the new chosen one is Cruise because he set her free. Oops. Before the ritual can happen we must first plague London with zombies and a sandstorm because, you know, sand in the desert is so predictable. A sandstorm in England’s capital, however, will be more impressive, right?

It’s in jolly old London where we meet Russell Crowe who introduces himself as Dr. Jeykll. Yep, that Dr. Jekyll. His purpose is to give the audience far more expository dialogue than is required, his character apparently a late addition in the screenplay and there to prod us along as if we are sightseers and in need of a tour guide. His research lair is for Prodigium, a monster-finding organization that works to contain the supernatural evils that want to plague the world. Yet Dr. Jekyll’s own creature manifestation is generally accepted by employees. Prodigium must have great medical benefits.

Universal Studios has had two attempts to try its DUCU, if you want to consider 2010’s The Wolf Man starring Benicio Del Toro, or the more recent Dracula: Untold (2014). Neither had much traction or studio marketing to exclaim to theatergoers We’re giving this cinematic universe a go with monsters! Come join our Dark Universe! Now with Tom Cruise’s involvement Universal is moving full steam ahead in making an interconnected movie universe of its classic monsters. Whereas Marvel had its individual heroes team up in a superteam movie (The Avengers) are audiences expecting a monster convention where The Mummy, Frankenstein and his bride, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, and Dracula team-up and topple an even greater threat? It’s going to take more than monsters to stop Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy.

The Mummy does get off to a promising start with Jake Johnson cracking jokes and Tom Cruise’s cavalier attitude as they make a beeline into an insurgent stronghold undetected before bullets fly. Once the sarcophagus is unearthed, though, the film goes through numerous tonal shifts. Sometimes it wants to be an action movie, other times a comedy and horror – and not in an Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy kind of way. Alex Kurtzman may have helped shape the relaunch of Star Trek on the big screen but as a director his previous effort was the 2012 drama People Like Us. He’ll shoulder most of the blame for this scattershot movie, I’m sure, but coming aboard when the likes of Len Wiseman (Underworld) abandoned ship years ago best is what I’d call bad inheritance.

Not much help is Tom Cruise as our hero. The way his character acts and reacts is so not like the Cruise of old. Kurtzman must have been thinking about future Hollywood gigs as to not upset the man who is ostensibly fearless, and reneged to tell him to do multiple takes showing more trepidation. At no point do we fully latch on to Nick. He kickstarts an apocalypse and is a shameless opportunist. Sadly, this tomb raider should have left the treasure where he found it.

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Writers: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, and Jake Johnson
Rating: PG-13 (for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity)
Running Time: 110 minutes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *