Director: Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Russell Crowe
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Sometimes the stink of a genuinely bad movie can be sniffed out early on by audiences before it arrives. The Mummy is such a case where the level of absolute contempt and disinterest given by the filmmakers could be sensed from as early on as its announcement of production. Supposedly the beginning of yet another cinematic universe (the Dark Universe) by rebooting the original Universal Monsters brand from the early 20th century, the utter wrong-headedness in approach has to be dissected in order to be fully understood.
First off, the film as it stands is an utter bore; a needless, generic and by-the-numbers action-adventure that nearly completely disregards the gothic horror origins of the original character. Director Alex Kurtzman’s approach comprises of a collection of set-pieces and borrowed aesthetics from better filmmakers strung together with only the building blocks of characters and storytelling devices (in many ways much like his previously disastrous screenwriting efforts). There is no flavour or identity to the film beyond a mild intensity to one or two of its action sequences, all of which are rendered null void by the core presence of our allocated protagonist Nick Morton, played by Tom Cruise.
Cruise’s casting is bewildering to say the last. Not only has he clearly been selected to front the film based entirely on his name’s ability to draw crowds into multiplexes, but he stumbles around the film lacking any direction or motivation beyond being asked to stand within the frame. He has no discernible character, barely any interesting conflict beyond what the narrative lumps him with as an apparent mystery, and alternately plays it over the top reactionary or dull and straight. Though his star has somewhat waned in recent years due to his very public personal life and beliefs, he’s still a box-office draw for his established franchises, and the marketing decision to cast him as the lead is as naked and lazy as it appeared.
Which is worse because it wastes a genuinely good performance from Sofia Boutella as the Mummy of the title, here gender-flipped as Princess Ahmanet. She’s giving it her all physically and emotionally, but the film would rather sideline her for the exploits of Cruise, and her motivation remains unclear and confusing at all times due to the plot and the film’s dismembered editing structure. Other roles such as Annabelle Wallis’s archaeologist heroine are shafted spectacularly under dialogue and beats that reduce her to little more than an exposition-spouting onlooker who is continuously in need of rescuing. While Jake Johnson’s obnoxious buddy to Nick keeps cropping up throughout the film as the comic relief in a storyline lifted from An American Werewolf in London.
But right at the heart of all this tedious mess and its formulaic foundations intended to target the international market, is Universal’s brain-dead attempt to launch its Dark Universe right in the middle of the unfolding storyline with the introduction of Prodigium; a secret organisation dedicated to fighting mythical and supernatural evils headed by Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll. These scenes are dropped right into the middle of the second act and take up way too much time as the seeds are deliberately laid for further unproduced films with shout-outs to Dracula and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Crowe is just terrible in these scenes, both boring as Jekyll and horribly silly as Hyde without a middle ground, and the only reason they go on for so long is that you get the impression there really wasn’t anything else worth filling the time.
The Mummy isn't just abysmal on its own terms, it’s an embarrassment for the desperate Universal and their mindless cash grab for whatever audiences will pay for at the moment. There’s nothing to recommend on any level conceptually or viscerally because it’s very clear that the only discussion the studio wants is speculation on where this franchise might be going. The truth is there doesn’t really seem to be a goal beyond selling tickets and sorting out the specifics later, and the only debates to be had will be of when Universal will cancel this monster.