Released June 9, 2017
Rated PG-13 (Action, Violence, Frightening Images, Suggestive Content, Partial Nudity)
Directed by Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us)
Written by David Koepp (Secret Window, War of the Worlds), Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Edge of Tomorrow), and Dylan Kussman (Burn, The Steps)
Story by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange), Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Amazing Spider-Man 2), and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married, Valley Girl)
Cinematography by Ben Seresin (Unstoppable, World War Z)
Music by Brian Tyler (The Expendables, Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Edited by Gina Hirsch (Adult World, The Shells), Paul Hirsch (Star Wars, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and Andrew Mondshein (The Sixth Sense, Analyze That)
Produced by Alex Kurtzman (Cowboys & Aliens, Now You See Me), Chris Morgan (The Vatican Tapes, The Fate of the Furious), Sean Daniel (Tombstone, The Mummy Returns), and Sarah Bradshaw (Unknown Things, Snow White & the Huntsman)
Starring Tom Cruise (Top Gun, Mission: Impossible), Annabelle Wallis (X-Men: First Class, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword), Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Star Trek: Beyond), Jake Johnson (New Girl, Let’s Be Cops), Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Master and Commander), and Courtney B. Vance (The Hunt for Red October, Terminator Genisys)
The relentless trailers and advertisements keep going and going and going. . .
Finally, they end. The Universal logo appears onscreen. For some reason, it turns into a Zack Snyder version logo, and the words “Dark Universe” appear. You’re perplexed. Your friend leans over and informs you that The Mummy is Universal’s first entry in a hopeful new cinematic universe. You look behind you and see two men, one tall and one buff. They disapprove of the talking, but you’re still confused. “Isn’t that Marvel’s and DC’s thing?” you whisper back. Your friend laughs. He’s glad he knows something about movies you don’t. “No, silly,” he says. “Universal was the first studio to ever do that.” This doesn’t help, and he can tell. “It was way back in the ’30s and ’40s or something.”
Who care’s about a cinematic universe from the ’30s and ’40s, you think, but you don’t speak it for fear of hurting your friend’s feelings, and for fear of those two guys hurting you.
The picture begins. Russell Crowe’s soothingly deep voice begins to explain stuff. Exposition, exposition, exposition. The mummy is evil, a woman, a witch. She wants to hang out with Egyptian Satan. You already knew that from the trailers, and you don’t need it spoon-fed to you now. But soon we get to the good stuff.
It’s Tom Cruise running around in some desert with Nick from New Girl, except Cruise’s name is Nick and New Girl‘s Nick is Chris. You move past it in time to see ISIS? blowing up a bunch of old crap because they hate history, and then they’re shooting at Nick and Chris because they want the same old stuff so they can get rich off the black market.
That plan gets thwarted, and Nick meets up with Emmy-award winning Courtney B. Vance and Annabelle Wallis, a Bond girl who has wandered onto The Mummy set. Except Wallis gets a lot to do, and Vance gets killed.
What a wonderful world.
You get to lay your eyes on a hidden Egyptian tomb in the middle of Iraq and a strange sarcophagus drowned in gallons of mercury. Much to your delight, things go south, with a chaotic plan crash and The Mummy herself appearing in time to keep you from falling asleep.
Is everyone else having this same experience?
It’s cool to hate The Mummy right now. It’s been getting ravaging reviews from critics and audiences members alike for good reason: it’s not an objectively good movie. But guess what, I kinda liked it.
If you haven’t stopped reading at this point, let’s dive right into my positives, starting with the length of this movie. That’s right, only two hours! That is mercifully short and focused in this current field of big-budget bloated runtimes. And the movie was never boring. Rather, the pacing, though a bit uneven, actually moves quite fast, and I never felt bored.
Another thing The Mummy does well is visual effects. The filmmakers incorporate CGI effectively with practical effects, including some nice creature designs. In addition, the filmmakers actually crafted several big, well-built sets, which helps immerse us. Also adding to the immersion, we have Tom Cruise, of course, doing many of his own stunts, and early on in the movie, we get the now-famous plane crash. Tom Cruise always seeks a way to top his last movie’s stunts, and this one is pretty dang awesome. To capture as much realism as possible, the cast and crew filmed at least most of the crash sequence inside the infamous “Vomit Comet,” where astronauts train for zero gravity environments and Apollo 13 and The Martian captured their zero gravity shots. Reportedly, everyone involved had to go on sixteen parabolic arcs in the “Vomit Comet” to get the necessary footage. There’s also a creatively realized sequence later on involving The Mummy conjuring a massive sand-storm in the middle of London.
Now, this is not a horror movie, per se, but it does maintain some horror elements, which are filmed in a way that tributes the old, campy, Hollywood horror films from the ’30s through the ’50s. Whenever something wicked this way comes, we hear pulses of orchestral music, strange sounds, camera focus on the victims, dramatic lighting, and terrific creature effects that include swarms of spiders and rats, dilapidated zombies, and movements from the monster just unnatural enough creep us out. And they do a good job making Sofia Boutella’s mummy-witch strike a fine balance between scary and seductive. Her smoothly harsh performance also helps pull this off. She was weird, but I liked it.
The other primary actors do decently too. As always, Tom Cruise is likable, because he’s freaking Tom Cruise, and he brought the same energy and commitment to this movie that he always does as a star. Russell Crowe, as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, always has a commanding presence. Though an actor of his caliber seems a bit out of place in The Mummy‘s world, and he is overacting a little too much, I enjoyed him and the way his character works in this universe. It’s also good to see Jake Johnson get a bigger Hollywood movie role. He does alright with what he has, and I also liked the different direction they took his character. Annabelle Wallis’s character wasn’t quite as disposable as I was afraid she would be. She also did as well as she could.
Beyond those things, I did chuckle frequently throughout the runtime at some of the humor, and this Dark Universe world is undeniably intriguing.
All positives aside, though, I think the two other Mummy firsts before this one are the better movies. 1932’s The Mummy is a horror classic, and the 1999 one is a super fun action-adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones. I would lump this Mummy in the pile of other Universal monster movies from the last 20 years that are watchable and entertaining but not much more. Movies like Van Helsing, The Wolfman, Dracula Untold (Universal’s last attempt at a new monsterverse), and the 1999-2008 Mummy series after the first one. This is due to many of the negatives I hinted at earlier.
For instance, the whole plot is messy, and portions of The Mummy’s plan don’t make much sense. The movie also contains a juxtaposition of tones that contributes to the mess. At times, it wants to be a Marvel-like, world-building, fun, team-up serial. At other times, it wants to be a Tom Cruise-hero actioner. And it wants to be a comedy. And it wants to be a PG-13 horror film. And it wants to an action-adventure. With each of these things, I had fun. But all mashed together, they make a clutter. They should have picked one tone and stuck with it. Of course, this is a complaint with many other movies of late that have tried to rush their cinematic universes. We need look no further than Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Batman v Superman, though I will say, of the three films, this one is the most fun. Unfortunately, though, I’m not done with my negatives.
One thing that stands out like a sore thumb from the opening of this movie is the exposition. It’s far too frequent and almost always unnecessary, heavy-handed, and poorly executed. The movie also has too-frequent flashback sequences, going back to the same event constantly and never really with any new perspective. On top of that, the character development is on the level of a Saturday morning cartoon. Poor editing choices add to the unpolished plot structure. The dialogue is inconsistent and often sub par. The score is forgettable and generic, as are all the actors except our main five. Cruise, too, is honestly miscast here. The role seems to aim for the lovable rogue, the a-hole with a heart of gold, but it’s buried very deep inside him. A Chris Pratt type would have played it better.
I think many of the issues here can be traced back to the continuation of that current Hollywood trend (surely financially motivated) where a big studio plucks a good, small-time director out of indie obscurity to direct their big-budget blockbuster. Sometimes this works (James Gunn, going from Super and Slither to Guardians of the Galaxy; or Patty Jenkins, going from Monster to Wonder Woman). Yet it often results in an uneven, self-doubting, diffident film (Josh Trank, from Chronicle to Fantastic Four; Jordan Vogt-Roberts, from Kings of Summer to Kong: Skull Island) like this one.
So, yeah, The Mummy does look like a shaky start to Universal’s Dark Universe. Still, I am interested in further Dark Universe installments, as they have some potentially intriguing leads to follow. The thing could still turn out, if it can produce better movies.
Yet this entry did entertain me. You can just sit back and enjoy it if you’re in the mood and willing to turn off that critical part of your brain, which I was and did. It won’t make my top of the year list, and if it weren’t for the whole Dark Universe thing, I’d probably forget it in a few weeks. However, the enjoyable parts did outweigh the terrible parts.
I’m going to give The Mummy a 68%.
What do you all think of The Mummy? Love it? Like it? Loathe it? Sound off in the comment section below!
P.S.: The Fraser Mummy series is canon in the Dark Universe.