REVIEW: THE MUMMY Is, Well, Not Good

This wasn't a good idea.

Another summer weekend, another reboot, and another dreadful two hours you’ll never get back. The Mummy has one of the world’s biggest stars fronting it and some major Hollywood money backing it and yet the film feels C-grade at best. There are some moments of humor that work well, and there is some undead mummy-zombie action in a couple scenes that are cool. But, by and large, this dud has been explored before and adds nothing of value to make it distinct in an increasingly jam-packed and jaded marketplace.

A small-time hustler and rapscallion named Nick (Tom Cruise) finds himself chased by the unleashed titular “mummy”, the ancient evil goddess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). To find the answers he needs Nick joins up with a secret organization called Prodigium, which investigates and studies supernatural phenomenon and monsters around the globe. It's some bullshit poor man's S.H.I.E.L.D. lead by Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) and the fetching Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis); it’s clear that Prodigium is being positioned as the central hub of a series which is reportedly going to include new takes on Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolfman.

For some reason Ahmanet wants to put the spirit of Set, the God of Death, into Nick’s muscular vessel. She’s set on it being Nick, she won’t even consider anything else. But even though she’s an immortal being unleashed in modern day London she isn’t able to stir up anything menacing. She has to find a dagger and a ruby or something to pull her plan off but she’s toothless. And for a movie called The Mummy not a lot of Egypt is represented on screen for some reason. There’s a bunch of dots that don’t connect in this story.

The failures of the villain aren’t to blame on the performer bringing her to life. Boutella was a standout in both Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond recently. What she’s doing here works better than what Cara Delevingne was trying to do in what was the same role in Suicide Squad. She could be poised for greater things with the right role in the right movie.

What exactly does Ahmanet want? Like, once she’s got Set’s spirit in Nick’s body, then what? Global domination? Settling some more century-old scores? It isn’t clear what makes her threatening or a formidable foe. She’s strong and can make sandstorms happen using glass from skyscrapers, and she sucks the life out of nameless cops to make them her minions (also just like in Suicide Squad! Guys, rip from a different film.)

There’s no clarity to be found regarding the scope of Ahmanet’s powers and how much newfound strength Nick really has. It seems physics and practicalities go out the window from moment to moment based on whatever suits the spectacle, not the story. So Nick can get banged around through a brick wall and be okay, but in another scene getting a knife in the leg seems to really hurt him. So it’s just selective toughness? He gets ‘weak flashes’ or something and for a brief moment he’s super sensitive? To really think about it any more than that would be giving more thought to the movie’s consistencies than the filmmakers did.

Director Alex Kurtzman has only directed one other feature to date – 2012’s forgettable People Like Us – but his name’s been stamped on many high profile scripts over the past couple of decades including a few Transformers and Star Trek Into Darkness. So yeah, he gets the job done, but there isn’t a singular moment that really indicates any hint of a personality or voice. A production like The Mummy is put together by far too many hands for there to be much of an artistic vision to guide it, which is a shame. If Universal’s really doubling down on this whole “Dark Universe” of its cinematic monsters then maybe they should try reverse engineering the process. Instead a committee makes so many decisions that individuality gets drowned out. Why not find a person or team with a distinct creative vision and start there, building outward?

New doesn’t mean better. The Brendan Fraser Mummy series of films that spanned 1999-2008 never pretended to be anything more than the B-movie trash that they were. This 2017 iteration of The Mummy doesn’t know what the hell it wants to do. It fumbles the many balls it tries to juggle and the filmmakers seem inept at getting everything to play nice as one cohesive package. The style and tone seems to change to fit whatever purpose they were striving towards on the day but it doesn’t add up.

If you’re a fan of the talented Jake Johnson then you’ll be disappointed in the lame wisecracks he has to sling as Nick’s little buddy, Chris Vail. Being that Johnson is so associated with his character Nick Miller on TV’s New Girl it’s sort of weird to hear him saying the name so much here. He fit this role well in Jurassic World but he’s capable of so much more than he’s allowed to show here.

It’s disappointing that only a week after Wonder Woman broke the glass ceiling, we have another throwaway female part for a talented woman who deserves better. Annabelle Wallis is a fine actress, but Jenny is a flat character with no dimension to her at all. It’s hard to care when she doesn’t have a personality. The “romance” angle between her and Nick doesn’t click at all either, so really no aspect in the handling of this character works.

None of these characters seem to have a goal or a purpose to drive them. To say the characterization is flat would be a generous way of putting it. Cruise and company have little more to do than run around while looking scared and delivering lifeless dialogue. In broader terms of world building, The Mummy is not exactly giving us Tony Stark here. Who the hell is going to remember Nick Whatever in two months’ time, let alone two films into the next installments of the franchise?

Latter day Tom Cruise is becoming less and less of a sure thing at the box office, and launching an expensive new series with such audacity is a risky move. Gone are the days where anything Cruise touched hits $100 million automatically; adding Russell Crowe as the only other big name in the cast doesn’t help in any way. Hinging their upcoming “Dark Universe” iteration of The Invisible Man on Johnny Depp especially isn’t a safe bet. This is a big swing and a big miss to start things off with.

The Mummy is a yawn, a series of wasted opportunities lined up one after one. There’s not enough sand to even watch the hourglass sift by. If you’re quick to smell the bullshit before it hits the fan, it isn’t worth investing your time into something that isn’t necessarily going to turn into anything worth diving into later. One isn’t instilled with confidence that The Mummy will resurrect its future siblings’ potential out of the drab trappings of this ill-conceived false starter.

I leave you all with this tweet, which is far more entertaining than the film itself:

Dan is a lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. He currently lives in Vancouver and doesn’t get outside nearly as much as he should.