“The Mummy” is truly a scary start to Universal’s “Dark Universe,” for all the wrong reasons. What could’ve rekindled the classic movie monster frights instead feels more like Brendan Fraser light.
The supposed “new world of gods and monsters” actually unearths nothing new at all. Indeed, most shocking is that director Alex Kurtzman relies not on the 1930s-era film as its source material but rather the sensational series started by Stephen Sommers in 1999.
And though the Fraser-led fantasies were also deserted of any real horror, they were at least fresh, fanciful fun.
Not this “Mummy.” It’s wrapped in clichés, belittlingly bad jokes, and passionless plot points incorporated primarily for subsequent cinematic universe building. And the tone that Universal is setting for its “Dark Universe” is evident in “The Mummy” through one person and one person alone: Not Tom Cruise. Jake Johnson.
From the outset of “The Mummy,” it’s clear that every attempt at earnestness and gravity will be balanced out—and undercut—by the TV front man’s foolishness. That starts in Iraq, where Johnson’s Chris Vail and Cruise’s Nick Morton are ignoring their military duties for archeological ones, amid the area’s continued conflict. If almost getting killed by terrorists is worthy of a few laughs, why shouldn’t a 1,000-year-old terror be?
After serendipitously discovering an ancient burial site, Morton and Vail are joined by the eyeful who’s also after antiquities, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). With some shallowly sexual innuendo to build backstory between Halsey and Morton, the mercurial movie again tries to go dark and deep with Princess Ahmanet’s (Sofia Boutella) modern-day introduction.
Ahmanet is so bad she needs a human sacrifice to rule the world, almost the same way “The Mummy” needs an audience to take over the box office. As the first female mummy, Boutella is beautiful, but boring—particularly when compared with past “Mummy” daddies.
That has nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with “The Mummy’s” inability to engender any real interest in its leads. It’s hard to root for Cruise’s character when his own character is continually called into question. Cruise, as always, runs through his performance with adeptness; it’s the script that slows him down: His dire demeanor is ruined by required quirks and fits of Fraser.
The other Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Russell Crowe) does at least transform “The Mummy” back into having some sense of intrigue, aided by the experienced Crowe’s sage-like support (keeping in mind the actor is two years younger than Cruise). Such exposition, however, is short lived so that Ahmanet can cast her special-effects spells on the streets of London, where Morton and Halsey must race to stop her and, as is the case in almost every blockbuster, save the world.
Maybe that’s because it’s the globe that will save “The Mummy” from being buried at the box office. Cruise’s star power, the story’s iconic brand, and serviceable-enough action scenes will give “The Mummy” some life worldwide. That, plus the future involvement of Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein, means the “Dark Universe” won’t be getting smaller anytime soon.
And that’s regrettable. If “The Mummy” is any indication, the “Dark Universe” will be big, crowded, lighthearted fare, when the forthcoming series could’ve been composed of haunting, intimate films in the suspenseful spirit of “The Thing,” “The Exorcist,” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula.”
Instead, “The Mummy” sacrifices sincerity and wraps itself into being yet another riskless remake.
1.5 out of 5