Movie Review: “The Mummy” (PG-13)
“The Mummy” is comparable to the Brendan Fraser reboot in that both films feel like second-rate Indiana Jones knockoffs. The big difference is that this version has an A-list star in Tom Cruise whereas the 1999 version starred a goofy but charming Brendan Fraser. One thing both movies have in common, other than the title and the fact that they’re both based on an iconic Universal Pictures monster property, is that they’re completely unnecessary.
In this big-budget take on “The Mummy” from director Alex Kurtzman (“People Like Us”), Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a soldier of fortune whose run-in with an ancient supernatural force could spell certain doom for all humanity. That force comes in the form of Ahmanet (Sophia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who was sentenced to mummification thousands of years earlier for the murder of her pharaoh father. When Morton inadvertently assists in the unleashing of Ahmanet from her mummified tomb, he is quickly seduced by her power. Will artifacts expert Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Walis), smartass sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and the mysterious head of an underground organization (Russell Crowe) be enough to help Morton destroy that which he is seemingly controlled by? Hmm, good question.
“The Mummy” has been designed as a starting point for Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe, a kind of shared universe that will ultimately be populated by the studio’s most famed movie monsters. Yes, it’s basically going to be the monster equivalent of Marvel. In addition to the title character, this film also features Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but mostly, “The Mummy” plays like a Tom Cruise franchise start-up … sort of. For those of you who have seen the all-too-revealing trailers for this picture, you know that they give away a key plot element regarding Cruise’s Nick Morton, but I’ll pretend like you haven’t seen those trailers and avoid revealing what that plot element is.
While we’re on the topic of Tom Cruise, it’s true that there are many moments in this picture when the box-office superstar looks completely disinterested in what’s going on. But you can’t blame him entirely, because he isn’t really given anything all that interesting to do. On the other hand, you can blame him for agreeing to take this project on as written. There are certainly moments of charm, and whenever Maverick is asked to spring into action, he has no problem running from sandstorms and leaping from desert rooftops as fiery explosions blast directly behind him. Cruise even brings the humor a couple of times (look no further than a humorous scene when a seductive Ahmanet causes him to giggle as she runs her long sharp nails across his belly). By and large, though, this isn’t a character of any real striking depth, and even Morton’s supposed arc from selfish soldier of fortune to a man of compassion and sacrifice feels slight and unearned.
A big part of the problem is the uninspired relationship between Halsey and Morton. There’s no real chemistry or heat between Walis and Cruise, so a lot of the beats that occur in the final act of the movie fizzle rather than sizzle. Weirdly enough, the bond between Morton and Vail is more amusing than heartfelt. It has a ring to it that’s blatantly inspired by “American Werewolf in London,” but sadly, Cruise and Johnson, as fun as their banter tends to be, are no David Naughton and Griffin Dunne.
Russell Crowe hams it up as an all-knowing Dr. Jekyll. If only his Mr. Hyde were more wildly over the top. If Crowe ever gets a Jekyll/Hyde standalone movie, let’s hope he is given the opportunity to completely go off. As for Boutella, she brings a fierce sexual charge to Ahmenet, but overall, she isn’t terribly menacing. Furthermore, she doesn’t have a fraction of the personality here that she brought to last year’s entertaining “Star Trek Beyond.” Here’s hoping she’s stronger in the upcoming “Atomic Blonde.”
Kurtzman manages a few nifty set pieces (the opening sequence is pretty fun) and even a handful of decent scares (underwater zombies anyone?). But for all its quick pacing, “The Mummy” is still a bit on the dull side. Even the climactic showdown between Morton and Ahmanet is a bit of a bust. And it all culminates in a setup for a potential sequel that will most likely never come to fruition.
This take on “The Mummy” isn’t quite the train wreck some would have you believe. I’m certainly not eager to rush out and see it again, and I remain baffled that this is the fashion in which Universal would attempt to launch their Dark Universe brand. But again, it isn’t a total disaster, and it’s hardly the worst movie on Tom Cruise’s resume (that dubious honor has to go to “Mission: Impossible 2” or “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”). In fact, for my money, “The Mummy” isn’t even necessarily the worst “Indiana Jones” movie. Take that as you will.