Movie Review: ‘THE MUMMY’ (2017) – Time For Tom Cruise To Accept An Uncomfortable Truth
I have a penchant for movies that seem to have been critically panned. So I obviously decided to check out ‘The Mummy’. Also because I was very excited for Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’, an idea that might be completely dead on arrival after ‘The Mummy’.
Tom Cruise may finally start having to act his age after the travesty that was ‘The Mummy’.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)
‘The Mummy’ was supposed to kick start a brand new shared cinematic universe that employs the classic Universal Monsters. To lead off this new franchise, the high profile Tom Cruise was recruited, but this isn’t the first time Universal planned this. 2014’s ‘Dracula Untold’ (My Review here) was also supposed to kick off a shared universe, but poor critical reception of that film caused that idea to die out. And we’re in the exact same boat now, which is a little surprising given that Tom Cruise is no Luke Evans.
Official IMDB Synopsis of ‘The Mummy’:
An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.
The directorial debut film of one of Hollywood’s most successful writers, Alex Kurtzman, ‘The Mummy’ is a straight forward action adventure that sees an evil Mummy coming back to life to wreak havoc on the world. The film also includes an ambiguous shadow organization that makes its business dealing with similar monsters, and a protagonist that was horribly miscast, or simply written poorly. While there are many things to blame for this movie being bad, one of the most glaring of those is Tom Cruise himself. But we’ll get to him later.
‘The Mummy’ attempts to do too many things at once. It’s the classic mistake of franchise before solo movie. All the pressure of setting up events and characters that are supposed to pay off in later films, makes this movie a burgeoning mess.
The characterization of Cruise’s Nick Morton is completely out of place for the actor. Morton, along with buddy Chris (Jake Johnson) is a rogue special forces army guy, who can basically be bought by the highest bidder. His character almost feels like an updated version of the brigand played Brandon Fraser in the previous (and better) ‘The Mummy’ franchise. Morton ends up bedding and stealing a map from Jenny, (Annabelle Wallis) a historian or professor in search of ancient Egyptian artifacts. The trio stumble upon the prison of an ancient Mummy, and decide to naturally take it back to the civilized world. The Mummy escapes, causing the plane to crash and kill Morton. While Jenny is able to escape mid-air, Morton however, doesn’t die, but instead is inexplicably linked to the Mummy creature (Sophia Boutella) and a part of her nefarious plans.
‘The Mummy’ doesn’t work for a variety of reasons. The villain and titular character of the film is written poorly, and her motivations so cliche’d, that is incredibly hard to believe in the stakes set up in the film. Then you add other elements of a shadow organization known as Prodigium, run by Dr. Henry Jekyl, (Russell Crowe) and that takes away from the allure of the villain even more. The pacing of the story goes from extremely quick and interesting, but then comes screeching to a halt by the second act, as we’re treated to half-done exposition and motivations that aren’t fully explained, even by the end of the film.
Now onto Cruise. The story is supposed to give you a sense that Morton is a bad guy. Or at least a grey character. There’s all this debate between him and Jenny about how he’s not a good guy. It’s one of the plot points, as they have moments where she ‘sees good’ in him, and even the climax hinges on his own acceptance of this fact. The problem is that nothing Morton does during the course of the film, can be seen as objectively terrible.
He steals a map after a one night stand, under false pretenses. Shitty? Sure. Evil? Not really. He ignores his duty and oath to his country in order to make a quick buck. Criminal? Definitely! Evil? Not so much. So this is character arc of his ‘redemption’ by the end of the movie, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and really colors everything else Morton does throughout the story. For the protagonist of the film, Morton is resisting the premise of the story and his involvement in it, at every turn. And while this is supposed to make the ending have more impact, it prevents the audience from buying into the on-screen events themselves , when the lead character himself seems refusing to invest himself. Let’s not even talk about the fact that Cruise comes across as way too old to be playing a womanizing, badass rogue who transforms into a reluctant hero.
‘The Mummy’ is also oddly humorous at times. While this would usually be a good thing, the thrills and tension are undermined when the characters play up comedic elements during a tense scene with sit-com level of performances and subtlety. It’s awkward and made me really confused about the tone of the film. Is it a horror? Thriller? Dark comedy?
Russell Crowe is an utter disappointment. The hook of seeing him transform into the literary Mr. Hyde, is incredibly underwhelming when you realize that the ‘transformation’ is simply Crowe with creepy make up that is equivalent of home-made Halloween face paint. Johnson does nothing, and is in all of 3 scenes. Wallis is satisfactory in what she has to do, which is basically be there as a catalyst for Cruise to play off of. Cruise’s performance, while definitely not bad, is uneven and clunky. He is at times serious, at times humorous and the hustler-turned-hero thing doesn’t really work.
‘The Mummy’ lacks any form of cohesive storytelling, tone or performances to bring together way too many elements in trying to set up a franchise. The movie on its own may have some good ideas, and their intention to reinvent the story was clear. Kurtzman was going to change the entire status quo of the Universal Monsters, by turning previously thought of evil monsters, into anti-heroes, maybe fighting even worse monsters, and that’s something I definitely want to watch. But the execution in this movie was too poorly done and the end result suffered from future plans. While I am still very interested in seeing a shared universe featuring Cruise and others, I doubt we’ll ever get there due to this film dying at the box office.
No Mummy-like resurrection for this one! (I’m allowed one pun per Review.)