“The Mummy” (2017)  Movie Review


     Universal’s “Dark Universe”, a concoction of their prized classic monster properties that includes the Mummy, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and more, is the latest attempt to duplicate the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and launch a new and profitable franchise with age old characters.  The first entry in the budding series, director Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy”, may have been a curious choice to begin such an endeavor, considering the character was the subject of a well received reboot of the same name courtesy of director Stephen Sommers in 1999, as well as two sequels, “The Mummy Returns” in 2001 and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” in 2008.  With franchise fatigue already a huge problem in Hollywood, one has to question why another reboot was deemed necessary, and the resulting film speaks volumes as to how much the filmmakers must’ve struggled creatively.  This new version of “The Mummy” is one of the year’s worst films.

     The story is, at times, all over the place.  Two Army Recon soldiers stationed in Iraq, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chis Vail (Jake Johnson) moonlight as treasure hunters, looking for antiquities to sell on the black market.  By accident, they discover a tomb beneath the ground of a small town, and decide to investigate.  Accompanied by a civilian, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), who claims to be on an assignment to preserve these types of things found within the war zone, the trio find the tomb of Ahmanet, the daughter of a Pharaoh of whom we are told via a lengthy flashback was mummified alive as punishment for killing her father, step mother, and baby half brother in order to preserve her right to the throne.  By simply tugging on a lever here or cutting a rope there, Nick unleashes Ahmanet, freeing her after 5000 years and in the process finding himself cursed as well.

     A screenwriting team that includes frequent Cruise collaborators David Koepp (“Mission: Impossible”) and Christopher McQuarrie (“Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation”), as well as four other credited writers, can’t seem to muster anything remotely original for a story that seems as though it has borrowed not only from its predecessors, but also from a number of other classic horror and science fiction films.  Whether the villain herself, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is seen slurping the blood out of live victims in order to help her regain her full human form in very much the same way Frank did in “Hellraiser”, or perhaps Ahmanet’s use of a bug who enters the head via the ear canal and forces the victim to do her bidding just as Khan’s similar skilled insect was able to do in “Star Trek 2”, and even the constant appearance of Nick’s buddy Jake in ghostly form harks back to the annoying apparitions haunting Michael J. Fox in “The Frighteners” , “The Mummy” manages to rip off everything in sight and that’s not even considering the fact it all feels very familiar anyway since the plotting is along the same lines as the 1999 film, which itself was an iteration of the “Indiana Jones” films.

     And after the massive heights of girl power reached with “Wonder Woman”, “The Mummy” introduces a present day female lead character, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who plays as nothing more than a traditional damsel in distress, looking to Cruise’s Nick Morton to constantly save her from what is perhaps the most un-intimidating monster ever committed to the screen. I lost count at how many times she is conveniently walking around alone somewhere in the dark whispering “Nick”, since she proves incapable of handling herself without her previous one night stand at her side. So much for cinematic progress. Throw in gobs of hammy dialogue ( in one scene Jenny tells Nick to “kick her ass” during one of his many confrontations with Ahmanet) that results in several lame attempts at tone killing humor, as well as absolutely no startles or scares during the entire film, and what you have is a bland made for the masses hack job with absolutely no substance at all.  As for Ahmanet herself, she spends the majority of the film being held captive anyway, so we never really understand what exactly she is capable of or what her end game actually is.  In no way does she achieve the sheer menace or effectiveness of Arnold Vosloo’s version of the character seen in 1999’s “The Mummy” and the subsequent sequel, “The Mummy Returns”.

     And of course, the only remotely interesting character, Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, is used primarily as a convenient plot device and ultimately as the “glue guy” for the upcoming Dark Universe films we presume Universal will still make even after this mess.  Crowe has some fun with the role, but the entire thing is overshadowed by Cruise’s character, who is reduced to a continuous barrage of one liners rather than anything one would consider actual acting.  No where to be found in Cruise’s performance is the brash confidence of Lt. Daniel Kaffee or the analytical smarts of Ethan Hunt.  Instead we get a character who looks like Tom Cruise, but doesn't deliver what we have typically come to expect from one of the best actors of his generation.  Even the third act, which doesn't even attempt to be clever, is a total head scratcher, leaving the audience to believe something has been held back for future installments.  Problem is, I don't think anyone will be asking for them.  GRADE: D