Better off dead and buried
The Mummy is a reboot of the long-running Mummy franchise and is the first installment in Universal's Dark Universe. The film stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, and Russell Crowe, and is directed by Alex Kurtzman.
I must apologize about something before I get to the review part of the review. When I made my most anticipated films of 2017 list, I, for God knows what reason, decided to include The Mummy as one such film that I was supposedly anticipating during the year. I completely neglected to include Dunkirk, a film that I actually am highly anticipating, and one that I should have included in place of The Mummy. My expectations for this film were not overtly high, mainly because the trailers don't suggest anything fresh. It hasn't even been twenty years since the last time we got a film entitled The Mummy. Hell, it hasn't even been ten years since the latest installment in this so-called Mummy franchise. Now this Mummy character gets its ugly head turned to now serve as one of several horror-based supernatural monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula in what Universal is calling its Dark Universe.
Say what one will about how the DCEU stumbled out of the gate, but whatever host of problems that DC has had with starting their own universe as well as competing with the likes of Marvel, they all look like easy fixes compared to the daunting tasks that the Dark Universe already has in front of itself. It's attempting to be relevant in a crowded world of cinematic universes/franchises, and it's trying to convince millions of people to give a damn about its legion of monsters that simply don't have the massive entertainment appeal that the likes of superheroes and Godzilla do. The Mummy is just one film, but it's a disappointing film that is too insipid to inspire confidence about the Dark Universe becoming a legitimate thing. It lacks the ebullient fun of the Brendan Fraser Mummy installments, and it might be an indication that the Dark Universe is decaying before it even gets started. It also goes for the Batman v Superman approach in which it attempts to be such a world-building movie that it forgets to center the focus on its titular character(s) and be a good movie on its own (just to clarify, I did find Batman v Superman to be a good film despite some obvious flaws).
The plot concerns soldier-treasure hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), who accidentally stumbles upon the buried tomb of ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Bertoulli). Ahmanet had been denied access to the throne many thousands of years ago when her father bore a son. She makes a deal with the devil by selling her soul to the god Set, proceeding to kill her family and attempt to sacrifice her lover. Why? Because ancient Egyptian ritual stuff. Anyway, Ahmanet is caught and mummified, and is buried alive somewhere far away. Morton, his partner, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), attempt to take Ahmanet's discovered sarcophagus on a plane back to England. Vail becomes possessed by Ahmanet after he is bitten by a camel spider, and he attempts to open the sarcophagus. The plane is attacked by a murder of crows, causing it to crash land. Morton and Jenny survive the crash, but Ahmanet awakens from the sarcophagus. She hopes to find Nick (she calls him "My Chosen") and use him as a vessel for Set.
I could harp on all day about the bland and uninspired screenplay of The Mummy which is where a lot of the problems stem, but I am also astonished to say that I actually find The Mummy to be boring. The film leans heavily towards being a pure action-adventure, and the only things that would qualify as "horror" are the few discount jump scares here and there. There are plenty of action-filled scenes, and yet none of them evoke serious excitement or a sense of campy fun that Stephen Sommers' could magically do so easily back in 1999. Where is the fun? Why is a movie that has guns, fist fights, and killer mummy zombies boring? Where is the sense of adventure, as Nick Morton implies early on in the film to Vail? Actually, the correct question to ask is why reboot a franchise and use it as the springboard to a larger universe that seems to be getting rushed into the cinematic universe-building game? You don't need to lay the groundwork for your whole world in just one measly film. You also don't need to hide the glaring advertising for future installments within sand hills of lethargic action and non-passionate writing.
- It pains me when I fail to find anything within a film to consider as a high point. There aren't even any candidates for possible high points in The Mummy. Nothing from the acting, writing, nor action stand out in any way for me to compliment and give praise to, and that's why a small part of me wishes that at least some of it all was hilariously bad. At least then I could derive some sadistic satisfaction out of mocking the film for its laugh-inducing shortcomings, but, no, it's all bad in a way that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and even a little depressed inside. It isn't epic, disaster-level bad, thankfully.
- The Mummy follows a weary bi-pattern of exposition, then action, then exposition, and then action again. There is not a single moment to describe as clear-cut character development or emotional stimulation because the film keeps coming at you with endless waves of blah action and info dumping. The action cannot get going until we have the exposition necessary for the action to make at least a small fraction of sense. Alex Kurtzman seems to neglect the fact that hollow characters do nothing to make the action worthwhile, which then leads to putting blame on the bad writing. It's all a connected network that doesn't work.
You can go for the more cynical approach and ask, "Why did The Mummy get made and why did the filmmakers think it was a good idea?" The best way to answer such a question is The Mummy was made as a way for another studio to develop their own version of cinema's most popular business model: create a world that features similar beings/monsters that will begin with individual character films, and then have it followed up by various big-budget sequels that involve cross-overs between the star characters. Continue building until you can build no more. The trouble is that movies themselves are being reduced to mere advertisements, and this prevents the film from being a pleasant viewing. The Mummy isn't focused on making a good film around its Mummy villainous; it's focused on setting the table for what is yet to come, while the poor Mummy is reduced to being the courteous front door greeter. It is quite unfortunate to have a disappointing summer tentpole like The Mummy inspire dark and depressing thoughts about the future of the Dark Universe.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: