“The Mummy” (2017)
Running Time: 107 minutes
Written by: Ben David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Featuring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, and Russell Crowe
Jenny Halsey: You are a good man.
Nick Morton: You don’t know that.
Jenny Halsey: Yes, I do. There’s good man inside of you fighting to come out. You saved my life. You gave me the only parachute without thinking.
Nick Morton: [taken aback] I thought there was another one!
This week sees the release of another recent Summer movie that was set up as an opener to a larger ‘monsters universe’, but this movie did not meet expectations at the US box office, although it did do better at the international one so more of these movies might be on the way. Once again we see a movie that was savaged by critics as well as rumours of Tom Cruise taking over behind the scenes. What is neglected in those stories is the fact that the director, Alex Kurtzman was out of his depth as a novice director so the production was having issues with a tight deadline for Cruise who had to go and make the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ movie – so him as a senior player had that right i believe.
On with the review…
Apparently shared universes are the new ‘in’ thing, they are supposed to give a studio the ability to run movies with similar themes parallel to each other without having the hang up of actual sequels – but of course not doing away with them entirely. This film is supposed to be the launch of a “Dark Universe” that links vampires, mummy’s and all sorts of other traditional Universal monsters together – you may have heard of this before, that’s because in 2014 Universal tried to launch it then with “Dracula Untold” (2014) starring Luke Evans and Charles Dance, directed by Gary Shore – it was met with not great reviews or box office so now Universal have decided that it never happened and have opted to re-launch the Universal Monster (UMU maybe?) universe with this Tom Cruise starrer “The Mummy” (2017). This first movie is something of an uneven trip, that does not always succeed, and in the end is really an enigma – it ends up being caught between genres not sure of what it wants to be, probably because it has too many masters.
The film centers on Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a somewhat soldier of fortune attempting to plunder ancient sites for timeless artifacts then selling them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
The last time the Mummy movies were remade was in 1999, when Stephen Sommers directed the similarly titled “The Mummy” (1999), that was a worldwide hit featuring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah and introduced Arnold Vosloo as the titular character. There were three films in the series and it ended up being extremely successful, if not a little uneven in places – but made out at the box handsomely. Sommers even had his own idea of linking the monsters, which he failed to launch with the Hugh Jackman starrer “Van Helsing” (2002), which was a major flop for the studio, so plans ended there – or so it seemed.
Now we have a misguided attempt from producers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman who came to fame as screenwriter’s for J.J. Abrams various film and television projects. Unfortunately for me these two are linked with one of the most over rated screenwriters working today, Damon Lindeloff. Between the three of them they came close to ruining the Star Trek, Alien and Lost franchises. It’s a wonder anyone lets them near their films, I know I wouldn’t. When it comes to the this new ‘Mummy’, they have attempted to mitigate the risks by casting Tom Cruise as a possible antagonist as well as having a special appearance by Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Even with these superstars as well as up and coming actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character, fresh of the hit “Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014), they cannot save this movie from being nothing more than a diversion. It is such a shame because Universal and their monsters have a rich vein in not only scares but also great empathetic characters. One only needs to view the the early 20th century versions to see a well of greatness – in fact one could do worse than rewatching those true classics today.
Superstar Tom Cruise is trying something new, this is the first horror film, of a kind, that he has appeared in, as well as the first new franchise he has tried to be a part of since his role as Ethan Hunt. His success lies in his ability to commit to each role he takes, here he is a victim as well as an action hero, he seems to be the only one that knows what film he is in – he lends much humor to the film which is sorely lacking from everyone else, which is a missed opportunity. They try and give him a sidekick in the form of Chris Vail played by the excellent and underused Jake Johnson, who appears without any logic or reason as a ghost, much like the Griffin Dunne character in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) – here it may have been better if he was the sidekick instead of the vapid as well as trope heavy Jenny played with vanilla essence by Annabelle Wallis. Boutella who vamps it up as the Mummy, looks like she belongs in this movie, much like Crowe who chews the scenery left, right and center round out the cast.
The film has been competently directed, but when you have the cast and crew as well as a big budget then things should really turn out more dynamic than this has. Looking at the credits, when a film has five people credited as writers something has gone wrong somewhere, so in the end this has a fairly standard plot for a mummy movie: Someone finds a sarcophagus, ships it back to blighty, the mummy escapes, curses everyone and is the finally defeated. The narrative too is fairly simple, particularly when there is a voice over explaining everything, as the plot moves forward. Somehow the people behind the camera have really managed to try and seem to make things complicated, have reigned in Cruise producing something that is a little bland – it has not committed completely to being a comedy, an action film, a horror or even a thriller so we have something that is stuck firmly in no mans land – this is something that happens more commonly these days with big budget films.
Don’t get me wrong this is not a bad movie at all, in fact I would say that it only just misses the mark for a Summer blockbuster. It is no fluke that Tom Cruise makes very good movies, with a quality that is not found with many other actors, directors or producers. Interestingly Cruise who is a producer in his own right does not have a production credit on this and I would argue that if he did it would have been a tighter more logical film without many of the plot holes. When you look at movies he has produced they are nothing if not logical as well as being extremely well thought out – look at “The Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), possibly one of the best Sci Fi films of recent years as well as being hellishly original (to a point) – maybe they would have been better off ditching some of the many writers and producers and getting Cruise involved behnd the camera as well.
Regardless of all that if you like a supernatural action film with some laughs then this could be for you. It is a good film for the family; with no real frights just a lot of action, and you may be pleasantly surprised. The next movie that will be appearing will be “The Bride of Frankenstein” in 2019, featuring Javier Bardem as the monster, that’s if this one has any life in it.
“The Mummy” is out on DVD & Blu-ray on 13th September 2017.