The Mummy Tries To Do A Lot But Can’t Do Much As A Result

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Marwan Kenzari and Russell Crowe
Studio: Universal Pictures
Rated: 14A
Running Time: 1 Hr, 50 Mins

When I was compiling the list of summer movies I was anticipating the most this year, I found myself seriously debating the tenth and final spot. There were a number of candidates in the running, but it came down to the fifth Transformers installment and The Mummy remake. I really enjoyed the 1999 Brendan Fraser flick (the sequels on the other hand, were a different matter) and the more I saw of the new Tom Cruise version, the more it started to grow on me. In the end, the Robots in Disguise narrowly won out but I kept wondering if I should have gone with Universal’s first step in their fledgling cinematic monster universe (dubbed The Dark Universe).

After seeing The Mummy, I stand by my decision.

Video Universal Studios

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are American soldiers with a lucrative (though dangerous) side gig in treasure hunting. While almost getting killed chasing ill-gotten gains in Iraq, they uncover an ancient Egyptian tomb that holds sinister secrets erased from history. Joined by the archaeologist Nick seduced to steal the map from (Annabelle Wallis), they soon discover that the tomb is actually a prison holding a nightmarish curse.

As a result, Nick finds himself the object of the resurrected and awakened Princess Ahmanet’s (Sofia Boutella) deadly obsession as she prepares to complete the apocalyptic ritual she began three thousand years ago. While the she brings the modern world to its knees, Nick is joined by a mysterious force that could either hold the key to his salvation or could prove just as dangerous as the evil pursuing his soul.

Universal wants a piece of the cinematic shared universe pie that is all the rage in Hollywood these days, using contemporary takes on classic monsters, and The Mummy is the first chapter in their new “Dark Universe” (they had planned to make 2014’s Dracula Untold the first step but its underwhelming box office performance sent them back to the drawing board). They recently added the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame to a roster of monsters that already included Count Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Bride of Frankenstein and the Invisible Man (all bound together by Dr. Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe). There’s plenty of ambition to go around.

And that ambition is The Mummy’s undoing. This movie has enough problems standing on its own or living up to the 1999 version let alone delivering the expectations of trying to launch an entire movie universe.

The special effects are strong and there are some nice visuals here, particularly of Boutella as the titular Mummy. The visual aesthetic often borders on slick and the producers spared no expense on the set designs. But while The Mummy often looks great, it is a lot of style with little substance.

Alex Kurtzman fails to inject the action with any gravity or weight. While there are some decent(the plane scene will set anyone afraid of flying an edge) the pace of the movie is all action but little adrenaline. The formulaic plot is reminiscent of the Fraser movies and if you saw those, you know how this movie unfolds.

There are times Cruise looks genuinely invested and he manages to illicit a few genuine chuckles. But there are just as many times he looks bored and uninterested. There’s no real chemistry between him and obligatory love interest Annabelle Wallis (who plays Archaeologist Jenny Hallsy) and as a result the film fails to sell the romantic angle that is supposed to be its resolution. On that note, Wallis doesn’t really seem to have much to sink her teeth into. A lot of times her character feels like a pretty piece of the background and her importance to the story often comes off as mechanical at best.

Boutella is the star of the movie. Her physical presence is near pitch perfect and she delivers the menace when she needs to. She commands everyone’s attention whenever she is on screen in all her undead glory. In fact, if DC is looking to pit Wonder Woman against a female villain in her inevitable sequel, Boutella would be the perfect choice to compliment Gadot’s Princess Diana.

Russell Crowe is a strong addition as potential savior, potential monster Dr. Jekyll. He offers a nice balance of sage wisdom and dry humour and the truth is The Mummy would probably be better off if Boutella’s monster and Crowe’s Jekyll were the primary antagonists.

The Mummy’s biggest problem is its execution. A lot is expected of this movie; injecting new life into a nearly century old movie property, launching a brand new cinematic universe, living up to the fan favourite 1999 version. And make no mistake, there is potential here, but it just can’t see past itself. This is a perfect example of a film getting in its own way, and failing to achieve any of its goals as a result.

It lacks the gravitas necessary to birth a new universe (the ending is forced and contrived and there isn’t an end credits scene, the hallmark of shared universe films), it lacks the charisma and fun of the 1999 version and it’s quite possible the attempts to do several tings at once prevents it from doing anything at all.

When people walked out of the first Iron Man film back in 2008, not only were they impressed with the film itself but they were also hungry for more. Most of us came out of the theatre like kids at Christmas, drooling for the opportunity to unwrap our shiny new presents. Iron Man managed to generate a cinematic appetite that laid the foundation for the billion-dollar universe that’s running Hollywood these days.

The Mummy on the other hand is like the socks you unwrap Christmas morning. Maybe practical but odds are it’s going in the closet or junk drawer, likely forgotten.

Image Universal Studios