“There are fates worse than death.”
Ever since Marvel figured out how to rake in mountains of cash with their cinematic universe, other studios have been scrambling to emulate that success, with lackluster results. Universal Pictures is the latest group to try to get in on this action, and they’re actually in the unique position of having spawned one of the first cinematic universes starting all the way back in the 1930s with their Universal Monsters franchise. Universal is re-launching their horror staples, which makes some sense because unlike other IP’s, they already own the rights.
A cinematic horror universe could be a great idea, but Universal has no interest in that — they want to turn these into big, dumb action films, and for their first outing, they’ve gone as big and as dumb as possible. The Mummy, helmed by Alex Kurtzman, is a flat, soulless exercise is brand filmmaking — every single moment of this film exists simply to set up a cinematic universe, and it all fails spectacularly. I’m not even sure you can call The Mummy a movie; it’s more like a series of set-pieces that fizzle, wrapped around some of the worst editing you’ll see in a big studio picture.
Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise (I don’t care what the character’s name is and neither will you), a tomb raider who uses his gig as a military recon man to rip off ancient artifacts and sell them on the black market. But Cruise’s latest find turns out to be more than he bargained for when he stumbles upon the secret tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess erased from the history books because she was so darn evil.
Ahmanet rises from the dead, starts sucking the life out of people, and mass destruction follows. There’s a hokey, confusing plot about how she wants to use Cruise as the vessel for undying evil or some such bullshit. None of it matters. Literally nothing in this movie matters, at all. It’s not even fun on a dumb, mindless level. None of the characters are interesting — not Cruise, not Annabelle Wallis as Woman Who Looks Confused All The Time, not Jake Johnson as a joking zombie. Boutella, who is incredibly charismatic, does her best to make Ahmanet menacing, but the script does he absolutely no favors and she spends a large chunk of the movie chained up in a lab getting mercury shot into her bloodstream (don’t ask, it’s stupid, like everything else here).
The only person having a modicum of fun is Russell Crowe, playing Dr. Henry Jekyll (yes, as in Jekyll and Hyde). Jekyll is supposed to be the Nick Fury of this cinematic universe, I guess. But just what the hell his plan is is a mystery. I doubt Crowe has any idea himself, but he gets to sink his teeth into some over-the-top goodness when he briefly turns into a cockney-accented Mr. Hyde. But just why the hell is Mr. Hyde in a Mummy movie?
The Mummy could’ve been one of three things: an exciting modern-day Indiana Jones adventure; a spooky horror film; or a dumb, but fun, action flick. It’s none of those things. And worse, it doesn’t even try to be those things — it just rushes to its conclusion with no sense of pacing or style. The film simply wants to exist as an excuse for Universal Pictures to launch their own MCU and rake in the dough, and it shows in every soulless bit of celluloid. It’s a travesty.
The 1999 Mummy reboot with Brendan Fraser in the lead may not be high art, but at least you can tell people actually thought about what the hell they were doing while making it. That film is a masterpiece in comparison to this, and frankly, everyone involved with this lifeless Mummy should be embarrassed. Dark Universe is supposedly spawning a whole slew of movies to follow, but I have no idea if they’ll ever happen based on how low the box office fro The Mummy is tracking. If they do end up making more films in this franchise, they’d be wise to actually stop and think about what kind of stories they want to tell before they actually tell them. Otherwise, it’s time to banish these monsters back to the grave.