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Lacking the campy fun of the franchise's most recent entries and failing to deliver many monster-movie thrills, The Mummy suggests a speedy unraveling for the Dark Universe.
Lacking the campy fun of the franchise's most recent entries and failing to deliver many monster-movie thrills, The Mummy suggests a speedy unraveling for the Dark Universe.
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All Critics (283)
| Top Critics (42)
| Fresh (43)
| Rotten (240)
It feels less like a movie than a series of compromises worked out by a corporate committee.
Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy reboots a franchise I would gladly have dispensed with from the start.
As the beginning of an ongoing series, it's an utter bore, one with only the faintest grasp of what made Universal's monster pictures so iconic all those decades ago.
You only have to watch the trailer to know that Producer-Director Alex Kurtzman's reboot of Brendan Fraser's once-charming mummy movies is full of embalming fluid.
The Mummy promises a fantastical world of supernatural beings colliding and collaborating, forgetting that if no one cares about any one of these beings in particular, they're not going to be sold on seeing them together, either.
The Mummy is a mess, a movie in such a hurry to introduce more monsters under Universal's "Dark Universe" banner that it comes awkwardly wrapped in impenetrable layers of exposition.
They definitely paid homage to the original franchise while taking this new series in a more interesting monster direction.
About 99% of Cruise's role consists of making confused and exasperated faces in inappropriate close-ups that only highlight how hilariously bad his default Mr. Intensity delivery is for a performance that's all mugging and spit-takes.
A mixed bag of action, adventure, horror and comedy that feels like some of the money used on special effects should have been spent on a better screenplay.
In trying so hard to lay pipe for interconnected franchises yet to come, the studio and filmmakers forgot to make the Dark Universe's debut compelling in its own right.
If Marvel established the textbook way of how to start a cinematic universe, The Mummy should serve as the example of how not to.
A fairly generic action flick that features horror elements but fails to bring to the screen a distinct personality that will possibly coalesce into a coherent universe of monsters.
I feel I must point this out just in case, for the younger generations. This movie is not entirely based upon the oddly popular Brendan Fraser trilogy that started in 1999. Believe it or not there was in fact an original horror movie from way back in 1932 starring Boris Karloff that kick started the entire idea. But lets be honest here, this new movie takes many ideas from many classic horror movies. So much so it feels more like a long trailer of highlights from other movies redone with better effects (I still can't believe the nerve of them frankly).
So the main change in this modern reboot is the titular Mummy (Princess Ahmanet) wanting to resurrect Set, the God of war and chaos (instead of a dead lover). Initially she was inline to the throne in her native Egypt, but her fathers second wife has a baby boy which takes her place. Out of anger and frustration at losing her rightful place as Queen, Ahmanet murders her family and plans to resurrect Set using her lovers body as the vessel for the Gods spirit. She must do this using a special dagger to transfer Set's spirit. Before this can be done she is captured and of course mummified alive.
What follows is (now) pretty much your bog standard action flick all because Tom Cruise was cast. Yes that's right, probably one of [b]the[/b] worst choices ever for this type of movie. Cruise would easily be in my top ten of actors that I would [b]never[/b] consider for such a dark tale of mysticism and terror. Apparently Cruise had much of the control in the creation of this movie, and boy does it show. The opening sequence could quite easily be from any [i]Mission: Impossible[/i] movie as his character Nick Morton and sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are caught by ISIS-esque insurgents as they try to pinch ancient artifacts from a small town (which the insurgents would have destroyed anyway).
The pair are actually on reconnaissance for the US military at the time but are moonlighting as black market traders for ancient artifacts. Amidst the carnage of gunfire and airstrikes (with no apparent casualties) the tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At the same time a sexy blonde archaeologist (Jenny) appears out of nowhere who Morton was supposedly bonking and naturally becomes his love interest for the rest of the movie. Its around this very early point when you realise this movie isn't gonna be very good. Apart from Cruise merely playing the same character he's played for years now, the entrance to this tomb is ridiculously [b]vast!![/b] and they treat these priceless ancient artifacts like spare parts from Ikea.
Lets not be too negative here, there were some good points in the movie. The horror element was actually nicely done. The movie isn't scary or anything but the various CGI effects for people having their souls sucked out of them with their bodies being reduced to shriveled up zombies, was pretty cool. The undead themselves were also really well rendered using CGI and makeup; they did look pretty terrifying visually and the way they moved was well choreographed.
Its just a shame that's about all I can say on the positive side of things. The fact they basically stole the whole undead guide/corpse idea with Vail from John Landis classic 'An American Werewolf in London' is damn near unforgivable. I can't even say it was a homage because they just outright copied the entire concept! Then there are things that don't really add up; why exactly does Ahmanet need to use this specific ruby encrusted dagger? What connection does that dagger have to Set? During the movie Morton is told numerous times the curse cannot be broken, then apparently it can be broken just by destroying the ruby. In one scene the undead cannot swim (they just sink), then in another they can swim. In another sequence Morton and Jenny are escaping in an ambulance at top speed when some zombies attack outta nowhere. How did they get on the ambulance?? There were clearly no zombies on the vehicle in one shot, then they're all over it.
Then we have the secret organisation known as Prodigium headed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Or call it what it is, the very [b]very[/b] blatant and obvious attempt at copying Marvel's cinematic universe building, Universal Pictures S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent. Aside from the fact this one idea has been used a gazillion times, 'Van Helsing' for example. There is no imagination here whatsoever, its literally all about setting up future movies with small easter eggs dotted around, there is no other point for it. The fact Universal don't even really try to hide this fact, and everyone knows it, makes it worse!
Observation: So within Prodigium there are lots of little teasers as I mentioned already. One such teaser is the forearm of a creature that clearly hails from the movie 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon'. But here's the thing, there was always only one creature from the classic movie/s, but this teaser indicates there are possibly numerous creatures that have already been seen and maybe killed (unless the main creature is now missing a forearm). But seeing as its unlikely that the first new movie will have a one-handed creature (unless it grows it back?) I must assume there are more than one.
Even then they couldn't even do anything interesting with this; when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde...nothing happens! Crowe simply turns a shade of grey, his eyes seem to go yellow, he adopts a cockney accent and that's it I think. Don't get me wrong I think its good they didn't go with some huge CGI creation that we've all seen before, but the character definitely needed something else. Also Prodigium has Ahmanet all chained up for the most part, but guess what? One minute she's all chained up and helpless, the next she simply decides to break free and escape. As already pointed out, this does seem to happen a lot in this movie, things just changing on a whim. Much like Morton being taken over by Set, only to quite easily retake control of his body seconds later (so much for Set). Oh and Vail being resurrected at the end of the movie, did Morton resurrect everyone that died in the film? He could have.
I think everyone knows the problem with this movie, it stands out like a sore thumb. And that is quite simply, the movie is torn between being a proper fully fledged horror movie and a Tom Cruise action vehicle. Clearly the entire production didn't know what to do with the director being in limbo and the studio basically giving Cruise full control. The whole movie is a mess of ideas from start to finish with Cruise running around alongside his much younger female love interest, and grinning a lot (much awkward and unfunny comedy). The movie fails on such a large scale its embarrassing; they essentially tried to map stereotypical Tom Cruise action flick tropes onto this horror classic of the silver screen. There are some nice touches here and there yes, but ultimately it fails on almost every level.
There's a great airplane-going-down sequence early on in The Mummy that promises one helluva thrill ride of a movie, and indeed, there are a coupla scenes that match it. But halfway in Russell Crowe has the unfortunate task of delivering the lines: "I'm Doctor Jekyll," after which the movie, like the plane crash mentioned before, careens out of control and into more and more unbelievable territory that'll leave you shaking your head in stupidity. All this, and the first Tom Cruise movie I've seen wherein it felt as if he wasn't in control. One half good movie, and then one half schlock, interesting for just that reason.
Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy unravels into mediocrity.
Unearthing at 110 minutes, The Mummy manages to explain more than enough, while moving at a comfortable steady pace. With that said, despite the fact that the film goes down a horror suspense path, rather than a campy fun one, The Mummy fails to deliver on the scares or thrills. The surprises are few and the main plot details of the film are predictable.
The CG is hit and miss. It gets the job done without hitting anything out of the ball park. The action is stale, also leaving nothing to remember.
Tom Cruise is the life of the film, but not a show stealer. Everyone else is underutilized, like Sofia Boutella, or out of place, like Jake Johnson. Annabelle Wallis and Russell Crowe blend in with the rest of the picture.
The Mummy has its place in the dark universe; there just isn't much of an impact.
In my many years as a film critic, it's always interesting to discover when I veer from the critical herd, whether liking a movie others do not or having issues with a movie that others lionize like La La Land. After seeing an avalanche of bad reviews, I was fully prepared to dismiss Tom Cruise's The Mummy as another example of Hollywood hubris, but as the movie continued I found myself enjoying the proceedings. I left the theater completely dumbfounded why my critical brethren disliked it so vehemently. One critic even said this was Tom Cruise's worst movie of his career. I can't understand the hate for what is essentially a fun B-movie, so my review is going to be a little different. I've read through a bevy of bad reviews and lifted the major criticisms leveled at the film. I'll be addressing them one-by-one and why I disagree or think the broadsides are overblown.
Here's a quick plot synopsis for some general context. Thousands of years ago, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was next in line for the Egyptian throne, and then her pharaoh father had a son. Rather than be sidelined, Ahmanet made a deal with the god Set to kill her family with a magic knife and become an all-powerful being. She was thwarted in the middle of the human-sacrifice ritual and she's sentenced to being buried alive. She was buried thousands of miles away and the magic jewel, needed to complete the magic knife, was buried in England in a Crusader's crypt. In present-day Iraq, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his sidekick (Jake Johnson), and his love interest (Annabelle Wallis) stumble upon the tomb of Ahmanet. They're transporting her sarcophagus back to England when a cloud of crows attacks their Army plane. The plane crashes, with Nick on it, but he awakens unscathed on a morgue slab. Apparently Nick is marked by Ahmanet as her chosen vessel.
1) "Cinematic universe fatigue."
This is the number one indictment in all the critiques but it feels more like critics just used The Mummy as a jumping off point to add to a thesis statement on the dearth of originality in a franchise-obsessed Hollywood. I get it. In the wake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's unparalleled run of success, it's not just about franchises now but also about a series of inter-connected franchises forming a universe of stories. There are also DC's failed efforts to try their own universe, a possible Hasbro Universe (Transformers, G.I. Joe), the ongoing and morphing X-Men universe, and now the emergence of the Dark Universe, a studio's attempt to repackage the classic monster properties of old. When done poorly, the cinematic universes reek of nakedly obvious crass commercialism. However, just being opposed to these cinematic universes on principle alone feels misguided. It's presumptuous. It all depends on whether or not the stories can exist on their own. Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad didn't crash and burn merely because they were overextended by tie-ins to other movies. They failed because they were bad stories and were terribly executed, and yes being overextended was a component but not the only one by far. Movies still need to be good.
The Mummy only gives a sense of a larger universe through the appearances of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) the leader of Prodigium, a S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque agency tasked with monitoring the world of "gods and monsters." That's about it, a preview of a larger world of monsters with some visual Easter eggs scattered here and there. The character of Jekyll is a learned scientist that can unload a larger picture, and his institution also provides a setup for false security. He is organically placed into the narrative and Prodigium actually supplies a credible reason why they don't just smash the key crystal that Ahmanet needs for her resurrection purposes. Crowe (The Nice Guys) is one of the best parts of the movie, and when he gets to slip into Hyde mode the movie allows him to have a malicious sense of fun. I don't think the visual element of Hyde quite works but it doesn't sabotage the scenes. Not all of Crowe's exposition is necessary, especially the opening sequence finding the buried Crusaders, but he provides a stable presence, until he also presents Prodigium as a pragmatic threat. This is why I think that the most critics are condemning the idea of the Dark Universe and what it stands for in broader terms and not on the actual merits of how it set up its larger universe.
2) "Cruise is miscast as the lead."
I'm a fan of Cruise as an actor and especially as the lead in action movies. The man is a natural movie star and he gives his all with every performance. As a paying moviegoer, I respect that work ethic. Having Cruise play a rakish surveyor of antiquities seems like a good fit for his abilities. He's played charming, dangerous rogues before. Here's the thing that critics don't seem to be processing: Cruise's character is meant to be a jerk. He's self-centered and prone to making impulsive decisions, like shooting a rope keeping a sarcophagus suspended in liquid mercury. Plus if you don't like Cruise as a person or an actor he's routinely beaten up n the movie to fine comic results. His character arc is about him becoming the kind of person who's willing to think about others and a greater good. It's simple but it works. I do think The Mummy goes too far in trying to explain the signposts of his character arc. Occasionally they undercut the moment to great effect. There's a scene where Wallis (Annabelle) tries to encourage Norton that she knows there's a good man inside him. After all, he gave her the only parachute as the plane went down. He then sheepishly says, "I thought... there was another one." I laughed out loud so hard. The movie does work a little too hard to announce Nick's swaggering Lothario ways ("Me thinks the lady doth protest too much"), and there's a 25-year age gap between Wallis and Cruise, but these aren't faults invented by only this movie. Cruise was an enjoyable lead for me and his ease with comedy, action, and drama prevailed.
3) "Tone issues abound."
Critics are lambasting the film for being too many things with too many tones, but much like cinematic universes, it all comes down to execution. The Mummy has elements of action, horror, especially its zombie-mummies, dark comedy, like Johnson showing back up as zombie comic relief a la An American Werewolf in London, and even some inspired slapstick. When Nick is fighting a batch of zombie-mummies, he thrusts his fist through one skull and hangs another sideways against a wall, and both keep on fighting. The different elements added to my entertainment rather than detracting from it. I enjoyed that the movie could be suspenseful or silly depending upon the scene. The action sequences are serviceable to good, the highlight being the zero gravity plummet within the body of the plane. Alex Kurtzman (a writer responsible for Star Trek, Transformers, and other big studio pictures) makes an adequate director without any distinguishing sense of style. I feel like the more memorable aspects of the action are from Kurtzman thinking as a writer. Take for instance a scene where Nick is swimming underwater and we watch subterranean tombs open. The zombie-mummy Crusaders then starts swimming after Nick, providing a terrific visual. The action sequences vary and develop and make good use of their geography. I also appreciated that the third act does not fall into the superhero standard of CGI monster slugfest that loses perspective and scale (even Wonder Woman suffers from this). Also, apparently in the time since Stephen Sommers' campy 1999 Mummy film, everyone championing that movie seems to have forgotten that it was a mess of tones as well. The Brendan Frasier mummy movies were a fun, spirited, winking big0budget B-movie with style and personality. I don't think Cruise's Mummy film reaches those same heights but there are enough similarities.
4) "Underwritten female characters."
This is a legitimate criticism when discussing Wallis' character. She offers very little to the overall story except to verbally explain exposition or character beats. The fact that she needs rescuing is a given. It's an underwritten role and clearly just an excuse for a good-looking actress to be at Cruise's side during moments of peril and derring-do. However, this accusation overlooks Boutella's character, Princess Ahmanet. Her very back-story involves a woman striking back against a patriarchy that wouldn't value her unless it had no alternative. She's a killer but she has her reasons, but more importantly she's an interesting antagonist even if her overall goal is basic world conquering. Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) has a magnetic presence on screen and seems to enjoy stretching herself with different physicality from an alien to a mummy to a blade-legged henchwoman. She enjoys playing kickass women who lead by example, and Ahmanet is no exception. I was pleased that Ahmanet was not going to be reserved as a strictly Act Three villain. She's prominent throughout the narrative and burrowed inside her marked man's head, leading to dessert flashbacks and a general repetition of Boutella's partial nude scene. The filmmakers are getting the most out of one shadow-draped PG-13 nude scene.
Suffice to say, in my view The Mummy does not deserve its savaging by the critical community. I think too many critics are assailing larger points (Tom Cruise as a person, cinematic universes) and losing sight of the actual movie itself. The Mummy is not a perfect film by any stretch but it's a movie that has a strong sense of its identity and how to meet its goals. The Mummy is a modest B-movie with a sense of fun that offers enough surprises, suspense and action sequences, and clever visuals to entertain. If this is the start to the Dark Universe then I feel optimistic about where else the newest creature features will lead. I recommend giving this one a chance once the dust settles. You may be just as surprised.
Nate's Grade: B
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