Review: If You’ve Seen One Tom Cruise Movie, You’ve Seen “The Mummy”

Art: @markinternet & Hanna-Barbera

To nobody’s surprise, The Mummy is ostensibly a Tom Cruise vehicle retrofitted with supernatural elements. Sure, it’s also a remake, a reboot, and a franchise linchpin for a franchise that doesn’t even really exist yet, but come on. The cute stunts alone (Has he not mentioned before that he can run from urban sandstorms, hold his breath underwater for a really long time, and travel in airplanes in preposterously dangerous ways?) mirror so many Missions Impossible, but the added sexual prowess boasting and Live Die Repetition makes The Mummy play like a Best of Cruise mixtape. It might as well be Jack Reacher: This One Has Monsters!

Evoking the handsome-merc-and-querulous-buddy chemistry of timeless duo Brendan Fraser and Kevin J. O’Connor, Nick Morton (Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are shooting guns, bantering, and looking for treasure in a sandswept country when they happen upon the titular creature. Thousands of years ago this Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was in line to replace her father as ruler of ancient Egypt, and reacted pretty histrionically when she was passed over. Selling her soul to Set and murdering her family, Ahmanet was eventually defeated, mummified, and imprisoned underground until a single gunshot (seriously) sets her free to do more vaguely-motivated evil with vaguely-defined powers. Like a sexier Vigo the Carpathian, Ahmanet puts the whammy on Morton, imbuing him with the ambivalent charge of either conquering or abetting her as he scampers through the next 90 minutes. (She keeps saying she Chose him, but really he was just the first guy she saw after spending millennia encased in mercury and stone.)

Because The Mummy is meant to be the first in Universal’s vaunted Dark Universe insta-franchise, there is also an exposition- and lazy dialogue-heavy chunk of this bologna devoted to world-building. As head of the B.P.R.D.-esque secret organization Prodigium, Dr. Henry Jekyll (fellow A-Lister Russell Crowe) has a keen interest in Morton and Ahmenet’s intertwining, and exactly the sort of gruesome affectation that his name would indicate. (Despite years of experience with the condition, vast security resources, and one very complex-looking syringe of preventative serum, Jekyll manages to lapse into Mr. Hyde more than once.) Even as Cruise is variously running, fighting, or shooting, this obvious play at Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is busy setting things up for the next entry in the Dark Universe. Add to this a bogus love story and a shitty An American Werewolf in London riff, and the overstuffed film approaches incomprehensibility. The visual effects, likewise, are notably disjointed—the film is so desperate to show cool things that, more often than not, sequences comes off as arbitrary (double pupils?) or contradictory (sometimes an evil spider bites to possess, sometimes it just crawls in your noggin). Like the villain’s power set, The Mummy is all over the place.

Despite ostensibly being an update to a classic horror franchise, The Mummy is never actually scary; it has greater, muddier genre ambitions than that. It has jokes, romance, and massive action set pieces—and yet, it’s never particularly funny, dramatic, nor exciting. For as many ideas as the film has, anything potentially interesting is muted to a safe mediocrity in service of its star. One can’t fault Cruise for volunteering to ably do his usual Cruise thing (run around with a pretty girl, chase cars, take off his shirt, be smug), now with creature effects from Van Helsing superimposed over his trademark smirk. The Mummy is as perfectly passable as any of the star’s recent action catalogue (save for the lately-noteworthy M:I films), and international audiences will likely reward him in similar fashion. It’s just a shame that the various intriguing elements it offers couldn’t coalesce into something more. In trying to be so many things, The Mummy barely passes as one.

Grade: C-

The Mummy
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Studio: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 107 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Russell Crowe

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