Ivan Nagar reviews Alex Kurtzman’s reboot of the iconic Universal monster franchise.
The Mummy marks the beginning of Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’. (Or was it ‘Dracula Untold?’ Don’t bother – it’s a rhetorical question). The Dark Universe is an effort to reboot the monster classics the studio made during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and The Mummy is planned as the first of many. The film begins with a haunting prologue that gives us a backstory for Sofia Boutella’s titular character, but the dark gloomy tone of the film is almost instantly twisted when Tom Cruise is introduced. (At no point in this review will I refer to Cruise’s character by name because he is essentially playing himself in this movie.) What follows is a numbingly loud action set piece in an Iraqi village during which we are also graced with Jake Johnson’s bland comic relief.
Although I firmly believe that Annabelle Wallis’ beauty is unparalleled, there is no denying what an absolutely talentless actress she is. From her first scene, she manages to lower the bar of acting in this film to the depths of hell (to be fair to her, it is a very low bar to begin with). At this point, I would like to commend Alex Kurtzman – for whom The Mummy is a directorial debut – who leaves no stone unturned to make sure the audience is put through as much torture as possible: voilà, bad CGI. Also, what kind of moron shoots at tiny spiders with an assault rifle?! Only the best kind. Jake Johnson, ladies and gentlemen.
A lot of the establishing shots are gorgeously photographed and extremely haunting, but alas, the film constantly wrestles with conflicting tones, and unwanted comic relief keeps pulling us back from the kind of grim and dark world this film should’ve been entirely set in. There are countless problems with this film, though some of them should be excused for their unintentional hilarity. Case in point: the mummy (Sofia Boutella) makes out with her helpless victims and turns them into zombies suffering from polio. My favourite scene in the film takes place when Annabelle Wallis’ character (who is puzzlingly convinced of Tom Cruise’s benevolence) sits down next to him to thank him for saving her life by letting her have the only parachute on a crashing plane, only to be told that he thought there was another one. Normally this scene would be your generic bit of comic relief, but Kurtzman approaches it in the strangest way, with awkward silence and an unintentional sense of deadpan comedy. It’s the completely opposite of film’s overall tone, and that is exactly what makes the scene laugh-out-loud funny.
At some point in this mess of a film, Tom Cruise joins the four-eyes club (if you’ve even seen the trailer you’ll know what I’m talking about). It’s important to make it clear how excruciatingly miscast Tom Cruise is in this movie. It’s almost as if someone randomly put a National Treasure character in a dark monster movie: you can see the confusion on his face as he runs around, expecting to be in a trademark TC action film.
Towards the end of the film, when the mummy is wrecking havoc across London, the trapped workers in an archaeology site are given this gem of advice to protect them from the mummy: “lock your doors!”. That solid recommendation is of little use, as dead crusaders buried in the site come to life and start attacking the workers. You might ask why the crusaders are fighting for the mummy? What possible allegiance could medieval European knights owe to an Egyptian princess? Yes, good questions. When the London Underground is scarier than zombie crusaders in your film, you’re doing something wrong.
In the end, The Mummy is the weirdest love triangle Tom Cruise has ever been involved in. Throughout the film it feels as if the director had no control over/was completely indifferent to the tone of the film, the screenplay feels completely tired despite the mildly talented screenwriters who worked on it (David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, from a story by Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet) and although the cinematography is surprisingly good at the start, it gets progressively worse. It is no surprise that this film has bombed at the box office, vanishing under the juggernaut of Wonder Woman (our review); with Alien: Covenant, Baywatch and the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie all similarly performing below expectations, this summer has already been something of a reminder to studios that fatigued nostalgia-based franchises are of little interest to audiences.
I would like to end this review with a quote from the titular mummy. “There are worse fates than death.” Yes, like having to watch this film.
The Mummy is out in UK cinemas now. See the final trailer below: