|Film Review In the age of remakes and sequels and remakes of remakes, it should come as little surprise that Universal would revisit their hit franchise, The Mummy. 1999 saw the first major remake of the 1932 original and it became a surprise mega hit at the box office. The Indiana Jones-style action/adventure film lead by Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz was by no means perfect, but it was enough to win over fans of various movie genres. Sadly, two abysmal, forced sequels later, and The Mummy franchise was back in the ground. Now, in the spirit of Hollywood’s growing trend of “cinematic universes” – where a series of standalone movies are interconnected – Universal Studios has birthed “Dark Universe,” uniting the classic Universal Pictures monsters for the first time. And, to kick it off, The Mummy leads the way, with action superstar Tom Cruise carrying the torch.
With the promise of a scarier mummy this time around, Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep has been replaced with a female monster this time, and with the story set in present day. Cruise plays Nick Morton, a treasure hunting soldier who has the unfortunate luck of stumbling upon and raising Ahmanet from her tomb. Lately, Cruise has been pretty good at making really entertaining films, so it seems like an intriguing match to have him star in a role like this. (His last real “monster” style movie was probably War of the Worlds, which was also a remake–and not a very good one.) Nick is far from an Ethan Hunt (Mission: Impossible), or even Fraser’s Rick O’Connell, but he plays the character with just enough charm to remain likable. Still, they give Nick and the film’s female lead, Jenny (played by Annabelle Wallis), a rocky backstory right away, and it unnecessarily paints Nick as a bit of a jerk. In the ’99 film, O’Connell was really rough around the edges, but he had a serious heroic quality that made him endearing as well as charming. Here, Nick is far less heroic, but he does change before the film’s finale; it just feels a bit too late.
Ahmanet as a mummy is decent, but I did miss Vosloo’s menacing presence. Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) plays the titular villain here, and she plays the part well, but she just isn’t nearly as scary or intimidating as she should be. Then again, Vosloo wasn’t all that scary outside of his half-decomposed state, which makes one wonder… perhaps “the mummy” is only as scary as its creepy, rotten state. Also, the film struggles to find the right tone from start to finish. At first, it takes itself super seriously, then it gets sillier when Nick and his buddy Chris (Jake Johnson) come into frame. Then, from there, it sort of bounces back and forth between silly and creepy, but it never ever works as well as the odd mixture did in the 1999 remake. (It was also a bizarrely satisfying tonal mash-up that no mummy film has been able to replicate since.) Also missing is Jerry Goldsmith’s booming score that beautifully captured the tone of the ’99 film, augmenting the adventure and heroism of the film one minute and switching to a darker, terrifying sound the next. Brian Tyler, who’s probably most recognizable for his work with the Guardians of the Galaxy films (and a few of the other Marvel movies) just doesn’t give this new film anything memorable. Goldsmith’s score took The Mummy to the next level in a big way, where Tyler just can’t do much to help this new one.
The monster movie cinematic universe is a neat idea, and I’m mildly excited to see where it can go from here, but this first chapter just doesn’t live up to its own potential. Director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us) tries his best, with Cruise’s help, at mixing the action, adventure, and horror together, all while trying to lay the foundation for a series of movies that will connect. Russell Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll–and Mr. Hyde–and doubles as the leader for an organization, called Prodigium, that investigates and tries to contain (or if needed, destroy) monsters. Of course, Cruise inevitably has a tussle with Jekyll, but, as fun as the idea is, it admittedly feels shoehorned into this story. I am intrigued, however, to see if Crowe and Cruise reunite for future movies in this blossoming series. There’s certainly a lot of promise here.
The content for the movie is roughly the same as the previous Mummy films. We see Ahmanet’s flashback story which shows her nude at times (mostly in shadows, but brief side views of her nudity is also shown), as well as some knife-related violence off screen that shows blood splattering onto the murderess. To regain her powers, she (like Imhotep) sucks her victims dry, but this time, she turns them into zombie-like mummies to serve as her minions. The resulting violence is a lot like the first film, which often takes place in dark settings. In fact, most of this movie is just super dark, taking viewers to one really dimly lit place after another. It’s somewhat excessive, feeling more heavy-handed in the attempt to steer the tension or horror. There isn’t a lot of blood, but there’s plenty of action violence. In addition to some of Ahmanet’s shadowed nudity, Cruise’s Nick wakes up naked in a body bag and ends up stumbling around naked, concealing himself just enough behind a table. Finally, there’s some language, but not a whole lot, including 1 “S” word and most of the rest being uses of “h*ll” or “oh my G-d.”
The Mummy reboot is a mixed bag, being saved from ruin by Cruise’s charisma and a good cast around him, but there really isn’t much here that elevate it above average. And after seeing Wonder Woman, which is a far better film, it’s tough to overlook the flaws here. There are a few thrills, maybe a couple chills, a bunch of chuckles, and a whole lot of computer animated effects, all adding up to an entertaining film, but not one that lives up to its full potential. (Note: for any fans of the 1999 version of The Mummy, keep an eye out for a scene where Jenny hits another character with a book and then drops it; it’s actually the “Book of the Dead” prop from that film!)
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/11/17)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content Sex/Nudity: Ahmanet is shown in revealing clothing through most of the flashbacks, including a few scenes that show her bare back and the top part of her bare butt with shadows covering anything explicit. At one point, when she’s leaning forward during a ritual, we see a long shot of a side view of her bare chest; another scene shows her straddling a man and dragging her knife across his chest (not cutting though). In a later vision, we see this same scene with Nick in the same position; Jenny complains about Nick sleeping with her only to have stolen from her, and quips that he feigned intimacy for 15 seconds. Later, Nick brings it up again and insists it was not 15 seconds and that she seemed to enjoy it.