THE MUMMY (2017)
2017, PG-13, 120 mins.
Tom Cruise as Nick Morton / Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet / The Mummy / Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey / Jake Johnson as Sgt. Vail / Courtney B. Vance as Colonel Gideon Forster / Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyell /
Directed by Alex Kurtzman / Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman
Tom Cruise hardly needs defending.
He's one of the
most dependably and consistently bankable movie stars on the planet and,
as far as his peers are concerned, is one of the pre-eminent cinematic showman of his
generation. He puts his body
and life on the limb for his art in incalculably crazy ways that has to be
commended. At a ripe, yet
super humanly youthful looking 54-years old, Cruise has demonstrated a
feverous performance commitment to even the most outlandish of films.
If you exclude his personal off-camera politics and beliefs, the
man deserves respect.
Yet, no amount of
stalwart performance dedication and good will from the Cruise-ian one can
help save THE MUMMY, a sluggishly paced, tonally bizarre, and mostly
scares-free supernatural horror thriller based on the iconic Universal
Studios monster film property. Neither
a remake of the pre-Code 1932 Boris Karloff starring vehicle of the same
name nor a sequel (for obvious reasons) to the delectably guilty pleasured
1999 Brendan Fraser vehicle, this latest iteration is more of a modern day
set re-imagining of the franchise in hopes of being a franchise starter to
the "Dark Universe", a new Universal produced series of
films featuring a connective mythology with multiple monsters.
My main issue with this latest MUMMY is that it never drums up
the ominous creepiness of the black and white original or the Indiana
Jones adventure serial thrills of the '99 installment.
Mournfully, this Cruise led MUMMY can't ultimately decide on what
it wants to be, which has the negative whiplash side effect on viewers.
In actuality, the
only similarity between this Alex Kurtzman helmed effort (making his
directorial debut after penning scripts for THE
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and STAR
TREK: INTO DARKNESS) and the previous two well known MUMMY films is
that they all, yes, deal with reanimated corpses of the ancient dead.
The $125 million film begins with multiple flashbacks, the first
being in 1127 England regarding a group of crusaders returning to London
after a holy war in Egypt. The
second flashback goes way, way back to ancient Egypt and introduces us the
titular character, Princess Ahmanet (the exotically gorgeous Sofia
Boutella) as she plots and murders her way to the throne, but is then
captured, incarcerated, and then mummified and buried in a
sarcophagus alive as punishment for her multiple crimes.
All in all, it's a really lousy way to go.
epilogue is narrated with unintentionally humorous solemnity by Dr. Henry
Jekyell (yes...that one...played by a semi-hammy Russell Crowe), who
informs us that Ahmanet has been buried for centuries, only waiting to
find a way of resurrecting herself to unleash her supernatural powers and
revenge on the world (she's also waiting for, of course, a "chosen
one" mate that will assist her on her bloody plan of ultimate
comeuppance). This leads us
to modern day Iraq as we're introduced to Cruise's character, a military man
and "liberator of precious antiquities" (or thief), Nick, who
journeys to hostile war zones with his partner Chris (resident comic
relief sidekick Jake Johnson) in hopes of making huge scores and then
selling the artifacts on the black market.
The would-be funny banter between Nick and Chris during one
particularly violent standoff with Iraqi rebels strongly hints that the
script (the product of three writers) barely went past the rough first
radioed in air strike on their position inadvertently opens up a - wouldn't
ya know it - burial site that contains Ahmanet's tomb.
Rushing in to ensure that Nick doesn't claim all the glory of this
centuries-old Egyptian discovery is archaeologist Jenny (the fetching Annabelle Wallis),
a scorned ex-lover of Nick's that makes matters between them all the more
Nick becomes possessed by the spirit of Ahmanet and is plagued by
haunting visions, which culminates in the former Egyptian princess returning
to semi-human form to command an army of undead soldiers.
Desperate for answers and a means of defending the world from her
unstoppable might, Nick and Jenny seek out Dr. Jekyell, whom is revealed to
have a few of his own dark secrets.
One thing that
THE MUMMY has going for it is the nifty gender role reversal of the
mummy herself. Typically
played by male actors, it's a swift and welcome change of pace to have a
woman play the omnipotently powerful creature, and Sophia Boutella's dual
irised, tattoo adorned, and sinewy beast makes for some impactful visuals.
The role doesn't particularly require much from the actress, but
she brings a sinister and intimidating physicality to the role that works (even though that
she has perhaps become cursed into playing role
after role that requires ample practical and CGI makeup to cover up her
luminous face, as was previously the case with STAR TREK:
For as striking of a presence as she is in the film, Boutella's
character - which should be front and center in the plot - feels strangely
underwritten and marginalized in her own film, playing second fiddle to
Nick and the better known star that plays him.
Cruise, for the first time in any of his recent films he serves as a weird
distraction here, even though he does reliably give 110 per cent in the
film and immerses himself in some of the film's audaciously crafted and
exciting sequences with the reckless throw-caution-to-the-wind bravado
that he has become known for (like, for instance, the most thrilling moment in the film that involves a
jumbo plane freefalling to the ground
with Cruise and company being knocked around the cargo bay walls in zero
gravity). Cruise brings a
veteran authority to the film, but he's unfortunately saddled with a
character that's (a) not very likeable and (b) isn't really worthy of our
rooting interest. Remember
how genuinely amiable Fraser's rascally rogue was in the 1999 MUMMY flick?
He had matinee idol charm and flare.
Cruise's Nick, on the other hand, is such a intellectually vacant
and conceited d-bag that it makes it extremely hard to care about his fate as
the film races towards an overcooked climax where his life hangs in the
balance. THE MUMMY proves
that you can have a seasoned pro like Cruise and still squander his skill
set as a performer with a flimsily written character.
shares very little, if any, tangible chemistry with his co-stars,
especially Wallis' Jenny, whose character seems like it was written with
the misogynistic gender profiling Hollywood norms of centuries ago (she's
a limitlessly intelligent archaeologist, but idiotically allows herself to
be placed in dire predicaments that requires the male hero to swoop in
and save her). That, and
these characters are essentially wooden action figure-like props trapped
in a film without a cohesive tone throughout.
Within the first 15 or so minutes of THE MUMMY I couldn't tell
whether Kurtzman wanted his film to be a frightening horror thriller or
light hearted adventure romp or a buddy action comedy or a combination
of all three. There are so many disparaging elements thrown into the
chaotic cocktail that is this film's script that they struggle to coalesce
smoothly with each other throughout, which leads to THE MUMMY feeling
disorganized and messy.
One last thing: THE MUMMY commits the unpardonable recent movie sin of disappointingly wasting its running time on establishing the expositional particulars of more films to come. It feels so rushed out of the gate to lay the groundwork for a cinematic universe that it forgets to simply be a good solo movie with a definitive beginning, middle, and end that hints at more entries in the Dark Universe. Kutzman's film doesn't so much have a conclusion with reasonable closure; it just abruptly...stops. All in all, THE MUMMY fails to deliver on the hopes of its monster-movie premise; it's not scary, nor exciting, nor does it convince me that I want to see more from this re-tooled universe. It's not Cruise's worst film - as many have pained to tell you - but it's certainly his dullest. And in terms of being a vast cinematic universe franchise launcher, THE MUMMY is better left re-sealed in a tomb and buried away from consumption.
MY CTV REVIEW: