There are some spoilers here but don’t worry, this film will still suck just as badly even if you read them
Lets get one thing clear off the bat. Tom Cruise, taking the personal life issues aside, is a bona fide film star. Whether you like him or not (and I must confess I’m a fan because there’s no doubting the quality of some of his films), this guys oozes star power. Which is why he’s able to pick projects and consistently deliver commercially (and in a lot of cases critically) successful films. So I must admit, despite some so so trailers, I had relatively high hopes for The Mummy.
For anyone unfamiliar with Universal’s larger plans for this film, the quick summary is this – The Mummy was basically designed to be the first in a series of Inter-connected monster movies, the so-called Dark Universe (at least they give it a name I guess unlike DC. Although it is a pretty cheesy one). MCU, DCEU, the Dark Universe – unsurprisingly every studio wants to jump on the ‘universe’ bandwagon, and Universal is the latest.
To be fair they have made some terrific casting announcements, with the likes of Javier Bardem (for Frankenstein), Johnny Depp (for the Invisible Man), Russell Crowe and of course Tom Cruise all announced, and many other big stars sought out for future films.
For the Mummy we have the mighty Cruise, Crowe and Sofia Boutella leading a pretty talented cast, with an already proven concept (if like me you were a fan of the Brendan Fraser led remake from 1999) with audiences. With Alex Kurtzman on directing duties (amongst the writers on the JJ Abrams Star Trek but admittedly also behind the far less impressive Amazing Spider Man 2), this seemed to me like a pretty strong proposition.
Of course anyone who read the stories on the box office knows that this was not a popular film. Unfortunately this is not one of those stories where a critically lauded film fails to garner the commercial success it deserves, as it also got a roasting from critics on release.
Whilst I would like to try and be a contrarian here or at least try to find some value in this film (because I have it on good authority that making a great film is not exactly a walk in the park!), I just can’t. This film is a total mess. The plot is so full of holes you are actually left looking up theories online if you want to figure out the ending (and if you’re anything like as bored as i was you certainly wont bother to do that). None of the main characters really garnered any interest or sympathy, with poorly realised motivations and barely sketched out arcs that made no sense in the context of the plot.
Before I lay into the film too heavily I should really explain the premise. Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a soldier and treasurer hunter that basically stumbles across and awakens an ancient Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who wants to (yeah you guessed it) take over the world by the whole fire and destruction route because years ago she made a pact with ancient Egyptian god Set to do so (she was stopped in her tracks at the time ridiculously easily and imprisoned/mummified for her troubles).
The basic plot follows Morton and his scientist companion/terribly sketched out love interest Jenny Halsey (played by Annabelle Wallis) as they run from Ahmanet whilst she chases him to complete a ritual sacrifice. Along the way they encounter Dr Jekkyl (yes that one), head of Prodigium, which is basically the Dark Universe’s version of Shield.
Unfortunately what sound like passably decent concepts for a simple blockbuster are executed so poorly that I was just left with a massive sense of ‘what if’ through the entire film. The set pieces (one plane crash aside) are banal and bland, especially when I think back to the creative shenanigans of the 1999 Stephen Sommers version. Ahmanet doesn’t really have any particularly interesting powers, other than some possession abilites and the skill to literally suck the life out of people (which seemed unnecessarily forced eroticism to me). The version of Mr Hyde that they opt for here (presumably meant to be some kind of homage to practical effects) looks less convincing than Lou Ferrengo in the original Incredible Hulk TV series from the seventies – its that bad.
It also doesn’t help that the film’s big star, Tom Cruise, plays a character that just seems like a useless moron with the principles of a sewer rat. Presumably this is meant to be so that we can embrace the redemption arc they try to give him, but come the end of the movie and his ‘sacrifice’ I just didn’t buy it. It didn’t feel earned whatsoever. We are told repeatedly that Morton is a ‘good man’ by Halsey but see absolutely zero evidence of it. Cruise seems to be trying his best to make the character likable, but a combination of poor writing and direction just don’t give us any palpable reason as to why we should care what happens to Morton.
I could dissect more of the plot holes in this film (because there are many!) but it would just be belaboring what I’ve already said. The film unfortunately fails on just about every level, and as such I can’t recommend it in any way shape or form which is a real shame because this really should have been great!
As a side note looking at this film’s box office performance overseas it looks like the numbers will be just about good enough for Universal to continue with their Dark Universe. However if they hope to make a go of this long term they really need to do some major surgery behind the scenes with regards to writing and directing duties. Lets hope they get things together and give us something better for the next installment.