The Mummy (2017) FILM REVIEW
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay: David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman
Story: Jon Spaihts and Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet
Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Sofia Boutella
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity
Running Time: 1 hours 50 minutes
**1/2 out of *****
Photo: Universal Pictures
Nick Morton, treasure hunter and mercenary, soon wishes he never found THE MUMMY.
"Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters."
And welcome to the beginning of yet another cinematic expanded universe. With the latest incarnation of THE MUMMY, Universal Pictures is launching the "Dark Universe." The "Dark Universe" will bring together all the classic Universal monsters, such as Frankenstein's monster, The Bride, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Mummy, just to name a few. Basically, think THE MONSTER SQUAD and how cool that was. Whether or not the Wolfman has nards is yet to be determined. THE MUMMY (2017) serves as an introduction to this expanded universe and unfortunately it feels more like set up than a stand-alone action-adventure.
Universal had great success with the Brendan Fraser led MUMMY franchise. The first film in particular was a fun and exciting romp which truly evoked the spirit of the Indiana Jones franchise. Comparisons are unavoidable but while this is certainly better than the latter entries in the Fraser series it simply isn't as fun and entertaining as THE MUMMY or THE MUMMY RETURNS. In this iteration the emphasis is on the horror aspect of the oft-told tale and there are a few effective moments. There are some notable action set pieces, in particular the plane crash sequence which you can see in the film's trailer, but many of them have an air of familiarity which is inescapable. There are beats in the film that will have you thinking of other films and not just from Universal either. For example, the discovery of the Mummy's tomb seems lifted from Bryan Singer's X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. Ardent fans of the Fraser series will undoubtedly recognize moments from that series in this film. Basically they're retreading old material while injecting just enough to make it seem new. In addition, the moments that set up the universe seem to distract from the central story line.
Tom Cruise takes the lead in this film and as he has often shown he is game to play in the genre. He's as charming and funny as ever but there are moments where the attempts at comedy fall flat on their face. It's pretty clear he's having a blast playing the part of Nick Morton but unlike recent roles he's not 100% convincing. One of the reasons EDGE OF TOMORROW worked so well is that Cruise was so believable in the part. In THE MUMMY, at times it seems like you're watching Tom Cruise. In the end, the trajectory that Morton's story takes hinders the film overall because the payoff seems contradictory and smells of studio meddling. It didn't seem like Cruise was buying into it either. Sofia Boutella is fine as the titular villain but the character is not developed beyond what is expected. Imhotep was more compelling. Russell Crowe also stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll. Yes, the Jekyll of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Jekyll heads The Prodigium, an organization which fights evil, monsters in particular. Crowe does well in the part but the character just felt forced in there to provide connective tissue to the overall universe and when the inevitable transformation occurs it was rather anticlimactic.
The film is directed by Alex Kurtzman from a screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman. As previously mentioned there are some scenes that effectively play up the horror and a few that are solid action set pieces. The film capitalizes on Tom Cruise's star power and charm but it's not enough to really elevate the film to the level it could have been. The world building really feels forced and definitely distracts from the central story. References to the larger picture come off much like the way the other characters of the JUSTICE LEAGUE were introduced in BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. The film would have been better served if they did the introductions more subtly. For example, KONG: SKULL ISLAND doesn't make a glaring reference to GODZILLA until the post-credit scene. In the middle of the film, when Morton is taken through the halls of The Prodigium and sees allusions to other monsters it feels more like a commercial and less a tease of what's to come. Beyond the world building, the film's conclusion is a very mixed bag that proves to be less than satisfying.
THE MUMMY is a sufficient introduction to a new cinematic universe but as a stand-alone film it amounts to nothing special. For a genre film it is certainly watchable but much like other remakes you'll be sitting through the same familiar material and much of what you see may be forgotten by the time the next entry in the Dark Universe arrives. As a fan I for one am looking forward to other characters being brought back to the big screen, I just hope that in the end this whole universe aspect is worth it. The next film will be Bill Condon's THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN due out in February 2019. THE MUMMY, the first entry, is a good attempt which falls short of the mark.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal