As of today, of all The Mummy movies ever made, only 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (the third of the Brendan Fraser movie franchise) has a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than this week’s Tom Cruise version. Considering that the 1932 original Universal film that starred Boris Karloff has a 93% rating, the silly 1999 reboot has 57% and 2017’s is a mere 21%, this doesn’t bode well for the studio’s new Dark Universe franchise which is an attempt to give the classic Universal Monsters a new revival. The new initiative aims to place all of these classic monsters in the same world allowing some crossover with each new film, a nifty idea in theory, but off to a terrible start.
Had Universal made a true remake of the original film they might have been able to accomplish this. Even though the 1932 film is only 72 minutes long, its pacing is probably too slow for today’s audiences, but like so many reboots, remakes and re-imaginings, director Alex Kurtzman, the writers and whoever else was in charge, apparently didn’t believe in the source material enough. They tried too hard to be clever and spice things up. It didn’t work.
For about the first half hour of the new Mummy movie, I was engaged. Yes, there were some lines that fell flat and Cruise didn’t look his best, but it was still fun. The new story takes place in both London, England and the Middle East. We learn the story of an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella) who was poised to rule her father’s kingdom before he had a son who spoiled all of her plans. As to be expected, the princess threw a fit and went to the dark side which caused her to be mummified alive. The magic dagger that she carried was apparently powered by a special gem. Those who buried her, hid the dagger in one location and the gem in another, far away … in London. If she was ever to come back to life, she would need them both to work her evil plan. But that wasn’t going to happen. Her tomb was buried under a pool of mercury and nobody would be stupid enough to raise it up, when the curse was written on the outside of the sarcophagus, right?
Enter soldier of fortune Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) along with his buddy Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) both with an appetite for unearthing antiquities to sell on the black market while they should be fighting for our country. The two are exploring a location in Iraq based on the information Nick received while wooing Egyptologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) sometime earlier. The two can’t stand each other, so you know that they’ll be a couple by the end of the film. Through a series of mishaps, the location of Princess Ahmanet’s burial ground is unearthed and as would be expected, Nick ignores Jenny’s warnings of the curse. Soon, all hell breaks loose.
The movie is still pretty fun at this point, but soon we meet Russell Crowe’s character (which I won’t divulge here as to spoil the surprise) who doesn’t add anything of value to the story that will soon be going off the rails. Somewhere along the line we go from a singular story about a mummy and her curse to a larger storyline where we get a sense of where Universal wants to take their monsters. It goes downhill from there to a very unsatisfying and ridiculous ending. (Hearing chuckles from the audience when the characters on screen are being serious isn’t good for the story either.)
This is just sad since this movie had a lot of potential. Adding the adventure scenes kept the story moving and it has a lot of nice touches and hints from other (albeit better) movies. One gimmick is practically stolen from the gimmick used in An American Werewolf in London. (Didn’t think we’d notice, did ya?) The comedy lines fall flat, the movie relies on loud sounds to make the audience jump instead of creating truly scary scenes and Tom Cruise spends most of the time looking bewildered. He is neither as funny nor as charming as he needs to be in order to make this thing work. Wallis’ and Crowe’s characters are too serious and Johnson’s character is too goofy. Meanwhile, Wallis Mummy is more ominous and brooding than frightening. The fact that she has super-strength makes her come off as a super-villain rather than a scary monster. After all is said and done you might find yourself asking, “I wonder what Brenden Fraser is up to these days…”
Main Image: Universal Pictures
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