Main cast: Tom Cruise (Nick Morton), Annabelle Wallis (Jennifer Halsey), Sofia Boutella (Princess Ahmanet), Jake Johnson (Sergeant Chris Vail), Courtney B Vance (Colonel Greenway), and Russell Crowe (Dr Henry Jekyll)
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Now, I am a fan of horror movies, as people who read my movie reviews will notice – I tend to watch too many things from that genre, some people may say, and I won’t disagree. So I actually want to see this Dark Universe franchise from Universal take off. Unfortunately, instead of getting genuine horror flicks or, at the very least, some atmospheric pseudo-horror thing, I get lots of bad-looking CGI vomited over half baked scripts. Dracula Untold didn’t do too well, so while it was planned to be the first entry into the Dark Universe franchise, the folks from Universal treated it like some leprous, drooling family member that has to be locked away in the attic, never to be spoken of ever. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have learned anything, as The Mummy takes what is bad in Dracula Untold, amplifies the badness by a tenfold, and for some reason casts Tom Cruise in a role that he is ill-suited for.
Oh, and this is not a reboot of the movie that starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. It has a completely different story and direction, and in fact, it is an origins story. Yes, do your eye roll, as I have already done mine when I realize what I am watching in the cinema.
Back in ancient Egypt, Princess Ahmanet was meant to be the new Pharaoh after her father passed on, as the man had no male heir. But oops, one popped out just when Ahmanet was ready to get all Genghis Khan on her people, so there would be no throne for her in the foreseeable future. Enraged, she made a deal with Set, the Egyptian god of death, and killed her father and her brother. She was also supposed to finish a ritual to allow Set to possess her boyfriend’s body and be her new BFF, but she was killed by her late father’s vengeful men before she could do anything. The rest, I’m sure, you can guess – she was mummified and entombed alive, never to be freed again, blah blah blah.
Today. Former US Military officer Nick Morton and his BFF Chris Vail are in Egypt, supposedly on a peacekeeping mission but the two of them earn extra cash by stealing and selling away whatever they can get their hands on, including treasures from old tombs and such. Nick seduces and steals a treasure map from archeologist Jennifer Halsey, but since she catches up with him easily and they along with the military all stumble upon Ahmanet’s tomb, I don’t know why we need this mention about Nick seducing Jennifer.
Oh, I know, the movie wants to set Nick up as this amoral, reckless, selfish SOB anti-hero, but this leads us to the first big problem of this movie: Tom Cruise. Mr Cruise may get away with playing the cocky jock in Top Gun when he was in his twenties, but since the last decade, he has reached a point where he is no longer able to play anything but Tom Cruise. He doesn’t take any risks in this role – it’s Tom Cruise in another movie where he once again gets involved in chases and explosions. Therefore, there is nothing believable about Nick’s character. He’s nowhere selfish and ruthless enough for the story to work; instead it’s just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise all over again.
Anyway, Nick sets Ahmanet free shortly after Jennifer deduces that the whole structure is a prison rather than a tomb, and now, she has chosen him to be the new vessel for Set. Events following Ahmanet’s awakening send Nick and Jennifer to England, where they meet Dr Henry Jekyll. Don’t get too excited. Russell Crowe is here to set up his own movie in the Dark Universe, so he’s just a walking advertisement and exposition device here. His role could have been replaced by some random generic incompetent “Leader of the Illuminati” type and none will be wiser. Anyway, Dr Jekyll leads a movement that combats pure evil, and he decides to let Ahmanet give Nick to Set so that he can destroy Set. Does this mean Nick is doomed?
The cast is pretty awful, by the way. I’ve mentioned Tom Cruise earlier, so let me add to that. The script has some of the most cringe-inducing, forced “humor” to make Nick come off like some jock that should be played by someone at least 25 years younger than the pushing-60 Mr Cruise, so those scenes with him “bantering” with his BFF Vail are so bad, it was as if the script was accidentally switched with something George Lucas wrote while he was drunk. Furthermore, Mr Cruise can no longer do humor – he is too guarded and too determined to look his best every time these days – so the delivery of his one-liners falls flat every single time. Meanwhile, Jake Johnson overacts, constantly shouting at the top of his voice as if he’s going to push Tyrese Gibson down the stairs and take over that man’s role in the Fast and Furious franchise, so him and Mr Cruise sharing the screen together is made of pure awkwardness with a generous slice of cringe.
Meanwhile, poor Annabelle Wallis has to play one of the weakest heroines I’ve come across in a while – Jennifer’s motivations never make sense and she contradicts herself half the time, and it isn’t long before she turns into those doggedly devoted heroine-in-love wretches that insist that the hero is good no matter how bad he treats them. Jennifer has two purpose in this movie: to be Nick’s blindly loyal cheerleader and to wander alone, unarmed and defenseless, right into trouble – every single time – so that she will start shrieking Nick’s name as Nick scrambles to save her. In the end, when she says that Nick is a good man because he saved her, it is all I can do not to scream at the screen, “Wretch, that’s because you’re an imbecile too stupid to stay out of trouble!” Watching her and Nick display completely zero chemistry makes me wish that Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz are in this movie even more.
As for the rest of the script, it’s a garbled mess. One moment Nick is supposed to be under the thrall of Ahmanet, the next moment he’s not – it all depends on whether the plot calls for it. When she has Nick in her grasp, Ahmanet wastes time tossing him around instead of just stabbing him with that Set-possessed dagger, which is what she goes through all the trouble to do in the first place. I don’t get why she wants to kill him half the time when we all know she needs him alive to be Set’s mortal vessel. And why would a god want to be human anyway? Won’t it be easier to conquer the world without being plagued by the need to answer the call of nature? And, of course, despite being a supposedly well-trained and well-organized entity to combat evil, Dr Jekyll’s team does every stupid thing one can imagine in any scenario and falls to Ahmanet like sheep being led to the slaughter.
The whole thing is already stupid enough, but it also doesn’t know what it wants to be. It tries to be a comedy before giving up to be another generic Tom Cruise vehicle full of chases and danger until it abruptly turns dark and serious in its last fifteen minutes or so. There is no graceful transition from one mood to another; this movie seems to be directed by someone who has no clue what he is doing at all. That will explain the blank looks of the main cast and the lethargic action scenes. The movie is also CGI puke soup; it has plenty of really fake-looking “We’re so obviously doing things before a green screen!” moments that break what little immersion effect the movie has to offer. As for horror atmosphere, just think of lazy jump scares. That’s as far as horror goes in this one.
At the end of the day, this one is a dreary, uninspired Z-grade Tom Cruise vehicle that falls flat in everything it tries to do, whether it is action, comedy, horror, or drama. The Mummy is a dud through and through.