#REVIEW: “THE MUMMY”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
People are downright shocked when I tell them Tom Cruise is my favourite actor. He may star in questionable movies, but he always delivers. He is one of the most consistent working actors and may be one of the last genuine movie stars left. So why does casting him in The Mummy feel like a completely squandered opportunity?
In ancient Egypt, evil princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is mummified and buried alive for murdering her family. Zip-forward to treasure-hunting soldier Nick Morton (Cruise) has accidentally uncovered her tomb in present day Iraq. But after extracting the tomb and flying it towards further research, Nick is cursed and Ahmanet breaks free with the intention of world destruction.
From the very first frame, The Mummy is a Film with an identity crisis. It wants to be about the titular gender-swapped villain, but it also wants to kick start Universal‘s fledgling Dark Universe monster franchise (one they already failed to begin with 2014’s mostly-forgotten Dracula Untold). Six credited writers try to rectify this problem, but none seem able to create a cohesive Film. So while we are treated to action sequences of varying greatness – including the breathless airplane free-fall sequence teased in the trailers – we also have to suffer through endless exposition and clunky world building nonsense involving a mysterious organization called The Prodigium. The whole thing ends up feeling forcibly-stitched together and more akin to a teaser for future movies.
All of these issues are compounded by the fact that Cruise looks completely out-of-place. He is the best thing about The Mummy without question, but all of the world building genuinely gets in the way of his performance. Every time he works in a character trait or flaw, the Film cuts away to some other reference or thread that may pay off two-three movies from now. He looks genuinely frustrated in multiple scenes, not just as the character, but as the actor being asked to hold back from doing what he does best.
The supporting cast does not fare much better. New Girl’s Jake Johnson has some fun, but is completely underutilized. Annabelle Wallis, Cruise’s romantic partner through all of this chaos, is never afforded any time to develop her character. Boutella is a menacing mummy, but she is completely one-dimensional in her motivations. Yet it is Russell Crowe who fares the worst of all of them. He plays the leader of The Prodigium, Dr. Henry Jekyll (as in Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) and is a glorified plot device, setting up future franchise installments and avoiding all attempts at becoming something more substantial.
Looking past the inane set-ups and tonal inconsistencies, what does work in The Mummy’s favour are the visual and make-up effects. Sure they may crib some of the movements and appearances from other Universal monster films (including their previous Mummy reboot trilogy with Brendan Fraser), but it is all exquisitely detailed and well-composed. The dual pupil effects shown on so many of the Film’s posters are used multiple times, but they look spectacular in each instance.
No matter which way I try to slice it, there’s no getting around what a disappointment The Mummy is. Cruise gives the underwritten performance everything he has, but he cannot overcome the clunky storytelling nor the multiple franchise set-ups for the Dark Universe. Hopefully the scattered hints of greatness will be better used later.
Universal Pictures Canada release THE MUMMY on Friday, June 9, 2017.