The Mummy is a film that underserves everyone and everything it gets its bandaged, desiccated hands on. It’s confusing, it’s boring, and it has the loosest grasp on what story and comedy are while clearly and unfortunately bowing to the grander Dark Universe. Not even its charismatic set of leads can bring life back to this franchise.
For those of you that don’t recall, this particular The Mummy is a reboot of a 1999-born series of The Mummy films led by director Stephen Sommers. That was also itself a reboot of a decade of Hammer Film Productions in the 1960s, and that was a reboot of the original Universal Studios set of classic films starting in 1932.
That was also the second phase of Universal’s Universal Monsters, one of the first cinematic universes ever, which makes its Dark Universe initiative not all that bitter of a pill to swallow after the floundering existence of the DC Extended Universe—minus Wonder Woman—that painfully hobbles after the flourishing Marvel Cinematic Universe. (And let’s not forget the burgeoning MonsterVerse from Legendary with Kong: Skull Island.)
You might be asking yourself why this history lesson is important, and it’s a fair question. The reason why is this: it is the foundation for this greatest failing for this cinematic travesty. This doesn’t have the character development as Iron Man with the MCU or the genre dedication as Godzilla with the MonsterVerse. It is instead held down by 107 minutes of kowtowing to people in suits lustfully leering at buckets of cinematic universe money, achieving exactly nothing but aiming for everything.
Here we have Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) working as long range reconnaissance for the US Army in Iraq, taking their laterality as an opportunity pilfer rare antiquities to sell on the black market. After an accidental and explosive encounter with insurgents, they further stumble into uncovering the long hidden tomb of Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a woman so hell-bent on taking over the throne, she sells her soul to Set, the Egyptian god of evil.
Then enters Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), an archeologist who works with the Army (but also with a secret society dedicated to stopping evil things). And any of this could have been a good starting point for this movie. Instead, it undertakes all of these things. Any one of the many scenes in the first 60 minutes could have been a great first act, but this is a story satisfied with itself being several first acts butted up against a strung out third act.
It so desperately wants you to not be lost in this tale as it attempts to set up the broader and largely implicated Dark Universe that it commits perhaps the only cardinal sin of storytelling: giving the audience information it already knows or has figured out. Imagine The Sixth Sense opening with its twist and then you still having to sit through the whole thing. That’s The Mummy, grinding its gears and burning through its clutch as it tries to get going.
And despite that, it still manages to be confusing. No character has any clearly defined motivation except for following the script, so when stuff starts happening, it feels like any given scene is just a YouTube-quality compilation of reactions. (Nick is especially horrendous as he doesn’t even exhibit the barebones desire to survive.) It makes the inevitable and predictable climax somehow baffling as no one seems happy despite everyone getting what they want.
This fettered existence to the Dark Universe does, however, deliver us Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, which operates as the DU’s Nick Fury. More specifically, actually, is his Mr. Edward Hyde side, which brings an intrigue and blood-pumping excitement that usurps everything that follows, including the limp climax. If nothing else, this is an excellent short film from the Dark Universe that somehow got spliced Fight Club style into some other and abysmal movie.
Outside of that, it struggles to be something it’s not. It wants so desperately to be funny. Cruise is capable of being in on jokes (and it’s at least nice seeing him be a scoundrel after all these years as stoic Ethan Hunt, even if he fails to go dark enough to sell his character) and Johnson is an obvious champion of levity, but it falls completely flat on all 12 attempts at comedy. Those goofs are written so poorly that no amount of talent could save them. They might as well have cleared out the sets and just blinked an audience laugh sign for a few seconds.
There simply isn’t enough for Johnson to latch onto to propel along, a sentiment that applies to every other lead in their respective strengths. There’s not enough action to allow Cruise to run his way to audience appreciation. There’s not enough drama for Wallis to lean into and engage with viewers. And there’s definitely a tragedy in underutilizing the perfect casting of Boutella where her tremendous physicality and innate and frightful sexuality would otherwise be ideal for a top-tier warrior princess-turned-monster.
Despite having a solid source of inspiration in a storied franchise and decades of other films that involve mummies and horror and monsters and any shred of narrative heft, The Mummy simply doesn’t know how to accomplish anything it wants. There’s no campy charm à la Brendan Fraser’s stint, and it fails to put any of its prodigious talents to use. It’s as though no one involved has any apparent clue as to what a movie should do or be. Let this tomb go unraided.
Final Score: 3 out of 10
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