Director: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 1.5/5 cans of warm beer
“A camel is a horse designed by a committee” is a suitable analogy for Universal’s Dark Universe debut, The Mummy. In the last two weeks, Universal have been parading their own cinematic universe concept, The Dark Universe, starring all of their classic monsters such as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Invisible man. Amongst the release of a logo and shot of the cast for their upcoming project, the studio seems to have forgotten the cardinal rule. Make a decent debut movie first. Familiarity and Nostalgia can only hype a film to an extent but film fans prefer not to be pandered to and be given a little more than just a series of release announcements.
The strange part of all this is that Universal has made this mistake already in recent years with Dracula: Untold. The film was supposed to kick off a Universal monster universe back in 2014, but due to poor critical ratings, the talk of a Universe dispersed despite the film being a modest box office success. As it stands right now, Dracula Untold is the more critically acclaimed film of the two.
The Mummy is a prime example of too many cooks in the kitchen. The film has six writers in total and is helmed by a pretty inconsistent writer in his own regard, Alex Kurtzman. The script is as legible as a four-year-old’s finger painting, crammed with truckloads of exposition, a clunky romance, clichés, and detestable characters. I counted five sources of exposition for this film from an opening flashback scene, Annabelle Wallis’ character, Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, Jack Johnson as a cursed spirit, and six flashbacks to the opening flashback scene which are the exact same scenes. It’s not even a fucking hard plot to follow.
The film has no voice of its own, it is content just to borrow from other better films in order to set up its universe. At least the 1999 Mummy film dropped it’s horror roots for an adventure action film with a heavy dose of humour to tell its own story. This movie manages to emulate the giant sand face from the 1999 film, the cursed friend haunting the protagonist from American Werewolf in London, almost the entirety of the Tobe Hooper film Lifeforce. Perhaps its worst crime though is ripping off one of the worst scenes from The Amazing Spiderman 2 where our protagonist is led through a room containing costumes belonging to other villains in the franchise, except here it’s somehow worse as we get jars of Vampire Skulls and the arm of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
There is no post-credits scene to tie in the universe. Instead, the film integrates it into its second half as we are introduced to Dr. Jekyll and his monster fighting organisation (similar to Monarch in the Monsterverse). Rather than focus on giving a general representation of the path the universe plans to go in, we are given more exposition. The film goes from daft to outright goofy with the introduction of Mr. Hyde who inexplicably has a cockney accent and comes across more as a football hooligan than a monster.
There are snippets of joy to be had as the Mummy herself makes for a formidable foe. Sofia Boutella does what she can with her screen time and brings a physicality to the role due to her background in dancing. It also helps that she’s an incredibly beautiful human being and could easily lead any man astray. While far too briefly explored, some of the Mummy’s powers were fun and provided more interesting moments and the odd jump scare.
Much of the blame for the failure of the film has been pointed towards Tom Cruise. Many detractors claim he’s no longer the leading man he once was. It’s an admittedly terrible role he plays in the film but the blame falls on the shoulders of the writers in this case. Tom has played to his strengths and carefully chosen his roles, The Mummy is just an uncharacteristically bad choice on his part. The Mummy is not the nail in the coffin of Cruise’s career, in fact, I believe his critic’s tunes will change with the release of Mission Impossible 6 later this year.
If the franchise is to continue it will need a tighter and clearer narrative. By the look of box office takings so far in the foreign market, the film should be a financial success. It’s vital that the next entry, Bride of Frankenstein, sets a tone for the franchise. Perhaps a return to its horror roots is a step in the right direction.
I found an odd sense of entertainment at just how manufactured the film felt. It is presented as less like a movie and more like a whiteboard in a studio executive’s conference room. It’s not quite as insulting as last year’s Gods of Egypt but it succeeds in making Dracula: Untold look like a half decent film. Maybe a return for Luke Evans should be on the cards.