Thought safely entombed in a crypt deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient queen whose destiny was unjustly taken from her, is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension.
From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.
Now here is an interesting entity. After attempting to launch a connected universe of films with Dracula Untold Universal Pictures went back to the drawing board. Writing off Dracula as a false start the Dark Universe finally gets its beginning with The Mummy. Boasting a vaguely impressive cast and crew it had everything working in its favour prior to the week of release.
Fairly generic marketing has been widespread enough that general audience members have been well aware of the films release for some time. Sofia Boutella continues to be hot property in Hollywood following brilliant appearances in Kingsman and Star Trek: Beyond. Of course Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe remain two of the biggest names in the acting world.
All signs pointed to an entertaining and potentially successful film. That was until the reviews were released. At the time of writing the The Mummy has a review aggregated score of 18% fresh and an audience score of 46%. But being the optimist I am I still went in to the cinema with an open mind.
The biggest problem the film has is in how it treats its audience. I left the cinema feeling almost insulted. In the opening 15-20mins of the film the characters see fit to explain not only the films entire story but also exactly who each other is. Its like reading character descriptions from a script as dialogue itself.
The opening flashback shows the burial of a British crusader in an underground tomb. Buried with a red ruby in his casket. A tomb conveniently then dug up during Crossrail construction and commandeered by Russell Crowe. This is shortly followed by a flashback to ancient Egypt where Ahmanet, hungry for power, tries to give the god of death (known as Set) a physical form using a dagger which just happens to have a red ruby in it. Of course that physical form is a man whom she has chosen.
Then there’s the shortly lived army general. After introducing us to Nick (Cruise) and companion Chris (Jake Johnson) and giving them a vague military background their commanding officer proceeds to explain to the audience that despite being long range reconnaissance officers they are secretly steal antiquities. This is followed by the introduction of Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) who tells us that she is on the hunt for rare antiquities and happened to be in the area when a scoundrel – Tom Cruise – stole her map.
It’s the beginning of what turns in to 120 minutes of pure coincidence. It became a game for us to point out every convenience and will sure to be a drinking game after the home video release. People turn up at exactly the right time, artefacts just happen to be exactly where characters are. It’s all just a little too easy. All made worse by being explained away simply as Ahmanet extorting her hold over Nick.
The screenplay boasts six credits. A screen story by Alex Kurtzman (also director), Jon Spaihts and Jenny Lumet and a screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman. Notably many of the screenplay credits are for regular Cruise collaborators whilst the screen story is not. Yet between these six people they could only muster a weak, predictable story with some truly diabolical dialogue.
It’s truly the screenplay which lets the film down. Lurching from set piece to set piece it never truly manages to strike a consistent tone. There are hints of a much greater film buried deep within but they seem to be held back by a need to introduce comedic elements.
The darker and quieter moments of the film are the more successful. Any moment that Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet is on screen minus Cruise it feels like a more cohesive picture. She plays the titular mummy with a great sensuality which is both alluring and creepy at the same time. Her casting was a stroke of genius. It’s a crying shame the film constructed around her is so poorly executed.
Tom Cruise feels the most miscast in this film. Injecting his brand of maniacal positivity and awkward humour in to a film which wants to take itself fairly seriously. Even his trademark wit is unable to save moments like his final battle with Ahmanet ending in the words ‘it’s not you it’s me’. Admittedly I am not his biggest fan but I feel even his most die-hard of supporters will struggle to enjoy this film.
It’s Russell Crowe who comes off the better of the two Hollywood A-listers. His interpretation of Dr Jekyll is the most well rounded character in the film. He has a vague backstory, a couple of monstrous moments and essentially is our gateway to the Dark Universe. He plays the character with very little camp but with a lot of weight on his shoulders. There’s great irony in an actor known for his temper being able to play the classic Jekyll and Hyde character so well.
Jake Johnson and Annabelle Wallis are both lost in The Mummy. Johnson is able to play a version of his New Girl character Nick Miller if he was suddenly caught up in a supernatural mess. He plays it well but it still jars with the more serious tone of Ahmanet’s storyline. Whilst Wallis looks dead behind the eyes for much of the film. It’s as if she was so excited to get the part, read the script and arrived on set thinking ‘what have I done?’. She plays the action scenes well and from previous works we know she can act. It’s clear she is another unfortunate victim of terrible writing.
Of course this is a summer tentpole movie so the CGI is flawless. Whilst the cinematography is generic the set pieces and CGI never let the film down once. The plane crash sequence glimpsed in trailers is perhaps the most impressive scene in the film. Whilst the underwater zombie chase also seen in trailers evoked a feeling akin to seeing Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time. The global scale of the movie is also not to be misjudged. From ancient Egypt to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and finally to London there’s definitely an epic scale to The Mummy.
Likewise the score by Brian Tyler is great. He’s becoming quite the name in film composing and we particularly enjoyed his work on Power Rangers earlier this year. His music is dynamic and really does lift the film above the doldrums. At least one of the points we’ll give this film out of ten will be down to his ability to craft a great score.
Sadly the same cannot be said for the sloppy editing. Whilst leaping across rooftops Nick and Chris appear to change rooftops between shots in the blink of an eye. Whilst in Ahmanet’s tomb Jenny is heard speaking dialogue that doesn’t match the words her mouth is saying. Most typically for an American production London seems to have a new sense of geography. Nick and Jenny are seen running from The Natural History Museum as Ahmanet creates a sandstorm. Upon exiting the museum they are instantaneously near Big Ben in Westminster. An impressive feat for any Londoner to achieve in the space of under 10 seconds.
The Mummy had great potential. A well cast villain and an idea with enough scope to start the Dark Universe. However its plagued by a poor screenplay, bad acting and a general lack of soul. Whilst not unwatchable The Mummy is a huge disappointment for Universal and for monster movie fans alike.
Checkout our playlist of trailers, clips and behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from The Mummy in the player below.
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The cast of ‘The Mummy’ includes Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Oscar winner Russell Crowe as the famous Dr Jekyll. The film is directed by Alex Kurtzman who also acted as producer alongside Chris Morgan and Sean Daniel. Jon Spaihts and Christopher McQuarrie wrote the screenplay.