By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Now that Marvel Studios and WB/DC have established their movie universes with either great or moderate success, Universal Studios hopes to join in the fun and makes some bank of their own with their “Dark Universe.” One might ask, what is exactly the “Dark Universe?” The Dark Universe is Universal’s attempt at establishing a shared movie universe, but made up of their classic roster of monsters. These include Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, and of course, The Mummy which the studio has chosen as its launching movie. Starring Tom Cruise, The Mummy (2017) is a sometimes entertaining, other times bewildering, mess of a movie that clumsily makes for a rough start to this universe of “Gods and Monsters.”
Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a soldier of fortune seeking buried treasures in Iraq. After barely surviving an airstrike, Nick and his buddy Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) discover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a long-gone Egyptian princess who was mummified alive as punishment for the murders of her Pharoah father, his wife and their newborn son. Before her crime and capture, the princess makes a pact with the god Set to bring him into corporeal form in exchange for her soul and the souls of her family and for the opportunity to take her place at the throne of Egypt. In the present day, Nick, Chris, and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) explore the tomb, but unwittingly release the powerful spirit of Ahmanent and release a curse that takes a hold of Nick and Chris. Now that her spirit is free, Ahmanent plans to complete her mission and bring the power of Set to the world.
Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaitts, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, and directed by Kurtzman, the 2017 version of The Mummy lacks focus and perhaps purpose, other than to kick start a new movie universe franchise. However, the filmmakers behind this movie should have paid closer attention to what the successful Marvel Studios did with their movie franchise. They built a solid foundation for their cinematic universe with one great movie–Iron Man. Iron Man, on its own, is a fantastic film and the filmmakers behind it focused on making it a movie that can stand alone just fine. However, once they told their story and did it well, then they could focus on expanding into other connected stories. This movie (much like DC’s Batman v. Superman) attempts to do too much with one film, instead of remaining dedicated to telling one great story. The movie is all over the place with too much redundant story telling, some unnecessary exposition and of course, the world, or rather, universe building to set the stage for future installments.
The tone is also all over the place with some wicked and dark moments, macabre humor, and other goofy attempts at comedy. It seems as though the filmmakers were going for something much darker and more frightening than the previous Mummy franchise which had a more adventurous and campy tone. The problem is, this movie fails badly at delivering frights and is riddled with loads upon loads of horror cliches. The awkward attempts at humor also feel out of place and are usually poorly timed. The look of the movie is mostly dark and bleak with several action sequences set at night. These moments look terrible in 3D. I could at least praise these action showcases, but I couldn’t even tell what was happening in them. The only visible action sequence that succeeded in thrilling me was a daytime-set plane crash.
The main characters lack proper development as well. Nick Morton really isn’t all that interesting as a lead character, though he has a little bit of charm to his personality. Still, it is difficult to root for a hero/antihero that is pretty dull. Cruise probably does his best with the role, but the character is simply devoid of interest. The villain Ahmanent is a stock seductive spirit hungry for power, but even her quest is greedy and empty. At least in the previous Mummy movies (both in 1932 and 1999) the mummy’s motivation was love which is much more relatable. Sofia Boutella commits to the role with much zeal and passion, but the writing does her a great disservice.
The movie does have some fine performances by Annabelle Wallis who portrays the most likable character of the movie, Jenny Halsey, and Jake Johnson whose comic chops are sorely wasted on a cliche of a comic foil. The movie also features a great performance by Russell Crowe who portrays a character that just doesn’t belong in this movie. I won’t reveal who he portrays in the film because it is intended as a juicy spoiler. But, like I stated, I did rather enjoy Crowe’s performance, but it would have been better saved for his own film.
And that’s exactly what went really wrong with this Mummy movie and first entry into Universal’s Dark Universe. They failed to give The Mummy her own great movie and instead, tried to make it into a dark horror/action comedy/Tom Cruise star vehicle with a disposable villain. In the original Universal monster movies, the monsters are the most bewitching and enchanting characters of those stories. This mummy is anything but that. With Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe thrown in the mix with all of its foundation laying for future movies, it all amounts to a big shambles of a movie. Should Universal make enough money off of this movie to make another film, I hope they learn from this mistakes of this movie and do better. The awesome Universal monsters deserve it. Either that, or completely scrap the idea and promote the original classic films for younger generations.