THE MUMMY – Review
With a property like THE MUMMY, you could take it in a couple of different directions. You have the horror route: Universal and Hammer Studios both went this route in the 1930s and 50s, proving that the schlocky idea of a looming curse can be presented in a sophisticated and chilling manner. You have the adventure route: The 1999 MUMMY remake gave us a fun, Indiana Jones character in a pulpy page-turning excursion. As Universal begins its journey to create their own cinematic universe like Marvel – currently titled Dark Universe – an attempt is made to go in both directions at that same time, without successfully capturing either experience very well.
When Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) aren’t slinging jokes (bad ones, at that) during missions for the Army, the duo like to steal antiquities to sell on the Black Market. A treasure map leads the pair to a town overrun by enemy fire, but thankfully, their old day job comes in handy and a team of soldiers rescues them. In doing so, they discover a hidden burial temple beneath the town. Cut to Nick and Chris now partnering with archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) to investigate the tomb of Ahmanet. After killing her family centuries ago and attempting to partner with the dark Egyptian god Set, Ahmanet was buried alive for her sins. Now, as the trio excavate her tomb to bring her back to London, Nick begins to have weird visions and a special connection to this undead bachelorette.
THE MUMMY (2017) feels like a Hollywood product instead of a cinematic escape into a Dark Universe. You have the current blockbuster color palette of juxtaposing blue and orange throughout, as well as the old “villain getting caught and put in prison” trick, which leads to a dramatic monologue (think films like SKYFALL and THE DARK KNIGHT). What’s most egregious though is the over explanation in the script and the overuse of flashbacks to make sure that the audience understands everything along the way. It treats the audience like they’re stupid, constantly reminding us of what happened in the mummy’s past and harping on the fact that this dot connects to this dot – yes, we know that the red stone has to go with the knife and that they need to be rejoined.
The person that seems the most confused by all of the action is Tom Cruise. In what might be his most miscast role yet, Cruise struggles to find the direction of where to take the character (again, like the film itself). One minute he is a smart aleck thief, the next he’s a standard hero saving the girl, and then he even has to serve as the cursed and confused victim. Because the script and story is attributed six people, the push and pull of the narrative has made Cruise feel as if he’s just coasting through this one.
Yet, for all the bad elements incorporated into it, at least a few elements come across as fresh and not dusted-off ideas. The role reversal of the man being the one that’s possessed by the Mummy and not the woman is different enough to warrant some merit. Not to mention, having Jenny be the smarter and stronger leader that superstar Tom Cruise is equally as refreshing. Annabelle Wallis seems up to the task, even if her performance feels a little too dry.
What works the best in the film is the occasionally fun horror aesthetics. There’s an EC Comics flair going on at times with musty tombs, English graveyards, and the undead rising from their tombs. Watching Tom Cruise punch and kick his way through an undead Knights Templar army just makes for fun Sam Raimi-esque horror.
Aside from some haunted house visuals and a few nods to other horror classics – though some inclusions like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and LIFEFORCE feel more like borrowed elements than homages – THE MUMMY doesn’t serve as a satisfying horror film. The dead air from unfunny jokes and forced one-liners also means that it doesn’t act a satisfying comedy or buddy film either. Finally, the action scenes fall far short of anywhere near the word thrilling, so it fails as an adventure film as well. As much as I love the idea of these Universal Monsters coming together again on the big screen, these classic tragic creatures deserve an entrance that feels more classic than contrived.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5
THE MUMMY opens in theaters on June 9th