Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Courtney Vance, Jake Johnson
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
This is a load of horse patootie, ludicrous by even Mike Tyson standards. And more movies like this are threatened to come our way over the next few years.
The Mummy is from Universal Pictures, which owns the right to a vault full of classic creepy-crawly creature features such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man and The Mummy.
Lucrative vehicles, to be sure, if dusted off and remounted to scare a new generation of moviegoers. Instead, after what could have been some marathon crack-smoking sessions, the Universal execs apparently reasoned, hey, there’s Disney’s Marvel Universe movies, which are doing fantastic, and the Warner Bros. DC Universe of movies, which is gaining traction – we have our own cast of otherworldly beings; let’s create our own universe of dark forces that will…you guessed it, fight for justice.
So now we have Universal’s Dark Universe of superhero monster-mashers, which debuts with The Mummy, to be followed by Bride of Frankenstein, and soon Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, and quirky Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster.
Oh, that they be more entertaining films than The Mummy, which may be one of the worst movies of the year. It makes The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen look positively Shakespearian. It runs slightly less than two hours, but it seems like slightly more than two days.
Even though it aims to be an action spectacular, it’s a full 40 minutes in before anything of interest begins to happen. And then the movie labors under an illogical, incoherent, convoluted narrative that’s all over the map.
The basic premise of any movie version of The Mummy is of an ancient Egyptian being, usually a high priest, now dead and mummified, who comes back to life somehow in current times and searches for a lost love from back when, who presumably will be re-incarnated into a modern person.
In this version, it’s an ancient princess who is awakened from her crypt beneath the dessert by Cruise and his buddy Jake Johnson, who find her burial chamber. They are American military guys fighting in the Persian Gulf, who are decent enough, but have a side hustle of robbing ancient artifacts.
A hoot of an idea tossed out in the movie is that this is terribly significant that the tomb of an Egyptian is found in Persia, but that thread just lies there after that. What it means is that the setting could just as easily have been in Egypt, as in all the other versions of the movie, but then Cruise would have had to be an archaeologist or something and not a man-of-action soldier, since no American troops are fighting in Egypt.
The mummy’s crypt, Cruise and the rest of the cast – including a love interest Cruise has no chemistry with – end up in London, where another ancient burial chamber has coincidentally been found beneath a construction site.
That excavation project is being run by Dr. Jekyll – yes, that Dr. Jekyll. He also turns out to be head of a SHIELD – as in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – like organization that will be the base from which all the future monster-superheroes in the Dark Universe operate.
Tom Cruise is a major problem here. He never finds the right tone and doesn’t seem to care. But damn if in this role the actor isn’t the personification of the 2015 episode of Family Guy, “Papa Has A Rollin’ Son,” in which a manic, animated Tom Cruise starts hanging out with Stewie and ends up stalking him. It’s the same performance.
There are inadvertent laughs throughout, including Dr. Jekyll’s need to consistently inject his apparently bad hand with a substance to keep his Mr. Hyde persona from taking over. It’s a great reminder of Dr. Strangelove and police inspector Kenneth Mars from Young Frankenstein, who couldn’t control his prosthetic…ah, the old dead-arm gag never gets old, even when it’s unintentional.
The biggest laughs of all come at the end when Cruise, who may or may not have been invaded by an ancient spirit, does a Phantom of the Opera hiding in the shadows bit, so that his true love cannot see his visage. And then Dr. Jekyll does a serious voiceover wondering what will become of Cruise and whether the potential evil inside of him will allow him to fight for the forces of good.
This movie is unentertaining, unenjoyable, and uninteresting. At least there was suspense in the 1932 original, when Boris Karloff’s mummy – one arm extended, one foot dragging behind – still managed to kill everyone in sight while moving at two miles an hour. And Brendon Fraser’s 1999 version was unpretentious and a joy to watch, with some decent acting and great special effects.
This 2017 version is just a bunch of hooey schlock, a hot mess. The venerable movies and characters that Universal is targeting for the Dark Universe deserve much better. If you want to see a great superhero movie, go watch Wonder Woman.