Thursday, June 15, 2017
THE MUMMY (Alex Kurtzman, 2017)
In THE MUMMY Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are soldiers of fortune traversing Iraq while also looking for antiquities they can resell on the side. They get into a firefight with some insurgents and are bailed out with an airstrike by the military. Those bombs also reveal a long-hidden tomb for the Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was buried alive far away from her homeland because of the evil she sought to bring into the world. Nick and Chris would be happy to grab what they can from the site, but archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) notes the importance of this find and persuades them to remove Ahmanet’s sarcophagus for further examination.
Supernatural forces under Ahmanet’s control crash the plane transporting them all back to London. Although Nick appears shockingly unharmed after plummeting from the sky, it’s determined that the revived Ahmanet has cursed him and intends to give physical form to the ancient god Set through him. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who leads a monster hunting squad named Prodigium, considers Nick the bait for destroying Ahmanet.
THE MUMMY is intended to launch the studio’s Dark Universe film series that will unite Universal Pictures’ classic monsters in a manner similar to the Marvel Connected Universe and DC Extended Universe. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is in the works, and films featuring The Wolfman, Dracula, and The Invisible Man will all presumably follow, not to mention MUMMY sequels if this one performs well enough. While this makes sense in terms of asset and brand management, the creative benefits are questionable, particularly in this first entry. THE MUMMY struggles to assert its own necessity beyond being the foundation for several other movies.
THE MUMMY credits three people for screen story and three others for screenplay, which suggests the script was worked over quite a bit. The film itself confirms as much. THE MUMMY often feels like it is trying to cobble together several ideas with different origins and purposes. The film lacks consistency as it attempts to do right by the franchise, the monster, and the star. It is not the unqualified financial success the studio would want for Dark Universe’s introductory offering, but worldwide returns suggest that THE MUMMY has done well enough to justify more chapters. Creative missteps can always be fixed with retconning. The mummy could refer to Boutella’s character or someone else in the film who encounters the supernatural. Regardless of who you consider to be the monster, the mummy gets shortchanged as an attention-demanding presence. THE MUMMY shows signs of being tailored for Cruise, but all that does is make even more of a hash of the story. It’s no secret that commercial films are products; THE MUMMY just seems more engineered for getting to market without a distinguishing quality.
Like the version of THE MUMMY with Brendan Fraser, this one is doing an Indiana Jones imitation of sorts. Cruise’s character, like everyone else, is poorly defined, which makes his self-centered rogue come off as unlikable or dull despite the actor’s efforts to turn up the charm. The grim Dark Universe name does not extend to THE MUMMY’s tone. Director Alex Kurtzman plays up the goofy and lighthearted nature of the material, particularly as Cruise gets tossed around like a rag doll. Films like this should be fun. Although THE MUMMY isn’t good, its lack of self-seriousness helps this compromised film play better.