THE STORY – Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
THE CAST – Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson & Courtney B. Vance
THE TEAM – Alex Kurtzman (Director), David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie & Dylan Kussman (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
By Kristen L.
In the mad desire to expand franchises beyond the confines of sequels Hollywood has embraced the “extended universe.” The extended universe works in some mediums — like the comic universes created by Marvel and DC — and others don’t, like Universal’s “Dark Universe.” The first of this new “Dark Universe” is a remake of “The Mummy,” already remade in 1999 from the 1932 feature. The potential to bring “The Mummy” into a landscape where the Middle East is front and center sounds appealing. However, this incarnation of the wrapped figure is a dusty combination of “Fatal Attraction” and “Mission: Impossible,” making for one of the year’s worst films.
American looter Nick Morton (Cruise) unleashes the evil mummy Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is intent on using Morton to bring about the end of the world.
There is so much that’s bad, stupid and just head-scratchingly confounding about this new iteration of “The Mummy” that listing it all would take more time than it’s worth. Several of its problems can be found in another franchise fatigued title – “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Like that blubbery mess “The Mummy” takes a compelling figure — the actual Mummy — and throws her over to follow a boring, presumably perfect specimen of man; each film is desperate to continue and thus sets up several threads that probably won’t pay off for several years, or if the franchise goes bust; and there’s no proper explanation for why we even need this. The one thing I’ll say in “The Mummy’s” favor is that the runtime isn’t as bloated as Pirates and moves far quicker.
But, also like Pirates, much of that rapid-fire pacing comes from just throwing moving parts on the screen. The script, credited to six different writers, is a hodgepodge of ideas all the cooks assumed would taste good together. “Let’s make the mummy a woman!” “Don’t forget to throw in Doctor Jekyll!” “Tom Cruise is great in bed, don’t forget to specify that!” All these gimmicks come at the expense of characterization and story.
Who is Nick Morton, short of embodying everything we’ve come to know about Tom Cruise as a person? Oh, and that he’s really good in the sack? He’s introduced as a looter who prefers the term “liberator.” Is he stealing treasure or bringing democracy to a Middle Eastern nation? His best friend is a man named Vail played by Jake Johnson. (Johnson’s character is essentially Griffin Dunne from “American Werewolf in London.” Either someone didn’t rewatch “The Mummy” in time or they’re trying to warn us into watching something better.) Other than that there’s no reason to root for this character short of “isn’t Tom Cruise awesome?”. The other characters are just as reliant on tropes and persona. Russell Crowe as Henry Jekyll is big and imposing…like the Hyde figure, so again someone mixed something up. And the actual Hyde transformation seems directly lifted from the Ludendorff scenes in “Wonder Woman.” Again, better movie!
After blindly stabbing around for a character the movie settles into actual storytelling. Ahmanet was a female almost-Pharaoh whose power was usurped by a privileged boy baby. (And the film’s gleeful destruction of London really doesn’t sit well this week.) Upon being mummified and returned to life Ahmanet wants to imbue her “chosen” with the power of the Egyptian God, Set, and thus she makes eyes and chooses Cruise’s Nick. Sofia Boutella’s performance is negligible since it’s predominately motion capture omnipotence and making googly-eyes in the desert at Cruise. Once Morton becomes her chosen the film turns into an Egyptian take on “Fatal Attraction,” complete with a cat-fight between Ahmanet and Morton’s one night stand/maybe girlfriend Jenny (Annabelle Wallis).
The grander implications of Universal’s “Dark Universe” remain ill-defined. Jekyll and the Mummy are present, but there’s no grander means of uniting them all. Factoring in how things end, the actual mummy of this movie is nothing more than a grandstanding figure that audiences probably won’t want to follow into the store, let alone the desert. Couple that with Russell Crowe’s hammy acting and there’s little in this universe worth exploring, which is a shame. “The Mummy” is a nonsensical bit of fluff burdened by pleasing the needs of its lead, who does little to actually charm audiences. The film is brisk, but it’s hot air with nothing to show. Universal’s “Dark Universe” starts out as D.O.A.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – The running time is generously kept under two hours.