The Mummy (2017)
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
With admirable yet ambitious hopes of returning to its glorious monster movie days of the 1920s and ’30s (think Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi), Universal Studios decided to reboot classic horror franchises and create its own monster world, a mega-franchise they’re calling Dark Universe. In 2019, director Bill Condon (“Beauty and the Beast”) will revive “Bride of Frankenstein” with Javier Bardem as the monster, 2020 will see an “Invisible Man” film starring Johnny Depp, and even “Phantom of the Opera” will make his return to the big screen at a date yet-to-be-determined. But, for some reason unknown to me, Universal decided the first foot forward in this new cinematic universe should be “The Mummy,” a reboot (of sorts) of the 1932 Karloff film of the same name. Unfortunately, “The Mummy” does a horrible job of getting anyone excited about this potentially good new venture, nor does it provide a good idea of what sort of tone this monster movies might have.
After happening upon a tomb with shadowy origins, soldiers-turned-artifact-collectors Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Veil (Jake Johnson) find themselves in a world of hurt. Archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and her mysterious boss (Russell Crowe) have motives of their own, but when the mummy—the remains of an ancient, evil princess (Sofia Boutella)—gets loose in London, she’ll have her own intentions that might spoil all their fun.
Russell Crowe is working in the shadow of his former career. Here, his absurd character is almost unbearable at times. In “Noah,” Crowe speaks almost exclusively in slow, airy one-liners of Biblical proportions. But that film had the gravity to make it work—it was called for. Here, that hooey draws you out of the movie so quickly you get whiplash. “The Mummy” doesn’t deserve good dialogue, and it doesn’t get it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jake Johnson’s character is built for comic relief, but that “relief” comes at the worst times. It’s like joking at a funeral. Somewhere a bit more forgivably in the middle, Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis trade snicker-worthy jabs in between their heightened talks about gods and monsters, curses and worldwide chaos. “The Mummy” can’t be taken seriously. It’s not exciting, it’s not funny…it’s not sure what it is, or what it wants to be.
With ambitions bigger than its ability, “The Mummy” unravels quickly. Following pitifully awful introductions to the story (told via Russell Crowe voiceover, which was even worse than it sounds) and main characters, “The Mummy” recovers briefly with a wonderful zero-gravity stunt scene (reminiscent of a Tom Cruise “Mission: Impossible” sequence) before reducing itself to that melodramatic dialogue with unforgivably looooooong pauses (not to mention the predictability of what it is they’ll say after the dramatic pause…almost every time), misguided attempts at humor (which draws from the tone of seriousness and fright), and dumbed-down explanations of what’s happening. If the other installments of the Dark Universe take anything from “The Mummy,” it won’t get very far. Unfortunately, there’s already talk that Russell Crowe might be a recurring part. But the only way this new endeavor will find success is if it takes a new trajectory entirely, defines itself, and forgets “The Mummy” ever existed. What could have been a monster mash just mashed up too many awful things. It’s bad enough to make you miss Brendan Fraser. Oy. Better luck next time.