Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance. Directed by Alex Kurtzman.
There’s a lot of good will to the early ’00s Stephen Sommers directed romps The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, they’re campy, over the top and surprisingly racially fair. So in redoing the myth of The Mummy, why would Universal decide that for their first attempt at a shared universe (as long as we don’t include Dracula Untold), they would start with such an uneven movie?
Taking the shared Dark Universe idea out of it, because that’s a subject for a whole different article, this Mummy takes us on an adventure in Iraq, where fifty something Tom Cruise pretends he’s thirty something Tom Cruise along with Jake Johnson, discovering a Mummy tomb. This tomb holds the body of Sophia Boutella’s Ahmanet, and with her comes a world of horrors.
Firstly, it’s no surprise that the film is getting the sand kicked out of it by the critics, because it is a turgid mess. That being said, there are things to be enjoyed along the way. On the plus side, Sophia Boutella is great as the titular evil mystical monster, the actor’s background in dancing means she moves with grace and menace, and having come from great work in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, she is becoming a real rising star. Both sinister and sexy, Boutella manages to create a villain worth rooting for with minimal dialogue and even less screen time, and if she’s coming back for future films then good for them, because she makes it work.
Also good are some of the action sequences; the plane crash that ends the first act is duck and cover stuff, the zero gravity work is brilliant, and the whole sequence is filled with intensity and excitement. Meanwhile, a chase from a Church in an ambulance through An American Werewolf in London style woods while undead zombies attack the vehicle is fun, slightly scary stuff and is where the film is at its most enjoyable. There are quips, there are scary bits, it’s an actual proper movie.
Sadly, the rest of the film is a let down to those two sequences, and to Boutella’s good work. First off, Tom Cruise is getting too old for this shit, seriously. Whether or not Mission: Impossible is still fuelling his bank balance, Cruise needs to come to terms with the fact that he’s pushing sixty, and should go back to playing slightly unlikeable people in dramas. Cruise is a weird enigma, his personal life not withstanding; he is an utterly charming interviewee, and has charisma to spare, but his best professional work is the darker stuff. A Few Good Men, Magnolia and Born on the Fourth of July, in fact even Spielberg sees the unlikable in him, as Minority Report and War of the Worlds really have him play cowards who hide behind vices to cover up a lack of moral compass. In these films he soars, but here he looks tired.
The scenes of him trading sexy banter with the unremarkable Annabelle Wallis (no, I don’t buy her as doctor either) seem creepy. Cruise is 54 and Wallis 32, and while it’s true people with age gaps can fall in love, Cruise constantly making out with women so young is becoming somewhat creepy. Why couldn’t the role of Jenny Halsey have gone to Julianne Moore? She’s Cruise’s age, funny, smart and gorgeous and can do this sort of crap in her sleep.
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Then there’s Russell Crowe in his much publicised role as Dr Henry Jekyll, introducing the enigmatic organisation Prodigium. Crowe is unspeakably bad in this role, which is unfortunate because we at No Majesty actually liked his performance in A Good Year and Les Miserables, but here he is truly awful. His Jekyll is much too beefy to be considered a nerd, no matter how silly the glasses. Not to mention his accent which wavers between Aussie and upper class Brit. Then comes the lowest point of the film, a completely boring fight scene between Crowe as Edward Hyde and Cruise’s Nick Morton. Crowe plays Hyde as a cockney, but apart from being grey in the face seems to be no different. The whole section that basically stops to explain the shared universe is so clunky and awful it could be cut out of the film and wouldn’t make a lick of difference.
The criminal waste of Courtney B Vance is so unforgivable that had the film be better, you’d hope him to return in the sequel, of course one hopes there won’t be one of those.
In the end, as a film hampered by being part of a franchise, and much like the worst of the shared universe excuses it can’t stand on it’s own. It’s a great showcase for Boutella, but as far as the Shared Universe of Monsters goes, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman couldn’t do it, and even original Mummy director Stephen Sommers tried to mash them up with Van Helsing which failed.
Bogged down by a bad screenplay, occasionally exciting direction, a sensational central villain, and an awkward love story the new Mummy is hardly the blockbuster matriarch you’d hope for, but there are elements that show hope, even if they are ripped off from other films.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.