THE MUMMY (4 out of 10) Directed by Alex Kurtzman; Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman; Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance; Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity; Running time 110 minutes; In wide release June 9, 2017
This is an incredibly inauspicious beginning to Universal's attempts to create its own "Dark Universe" of shared films. While this film has its charms, its scares, and its good qualities, they are vastly overshadowed by a hamfisted attempt to establish this broader universe. They should have kept their eye on making a good Mummy movie first and let the other things fall by the wayside.
Because the movie about the Mummy is actually really good. It has everything you want-- a rogueish Tom Cruise as an affable soldier of fortune looking for buried treasure, an ancient mummy played to villainous creepy perfection by Sofia Boutella, and all sorts of ridiculous plagues of birds, bugs, sandstorms, exploding antiquities museums, undead zombie minions, and lots and lots of scares. She is, in fact, the best part of this movie. The decision to make the titular mummy an ancient Egyptian princess brings many extra layers and a lot of fun to this tale that has been told so many times before. It also brings some extra deliciousness to the "bond" she forms with Cruise's character-- and why she needs him around.
They also weren't kidding that this was the "Dark Universe." These plagues are scary, and the zombie attack scenes, including one underwater against undead Templar knights, are a lot of fun and have plenty of thrills. This was so scary, in fact, my son who had begged me to come along and has seen all of the Marvel movies and is obsessed with horror survival video games and Five Nights at Freddy's begged to leave the theater and spent most of the final hour of the film in the lobby. Lucky for him.
Because it's about that time when this ceases being just a cool mummy movie and tries to pack all this shared world stuff in. If you made a drinking game of every time Russell Crowe shows up to monologue and explain the plot, you would be wasted by the time the film enters its completely incomprehensible third act. (PS-- if you want to remain completely spoiler free, do not look at his imdb listing, as his character name could be considered a mild spoiler)
The further and further they tried to build this up into a new shared universe, the worse and worse it got. A shared universe needs to be earned. You need a solid foundation of at least one film before you start trying to build it out.
That's how Marvel did it, and it worked out pretty well for them.
The Marvel model was not to make Iron Man in service of eventually making The Avengers. It was made to explore what was great about its main character. And, sure, throw in some catnip for the fangirls and fanboys and tease things, but it came down to telling a single story. If The Mummy had concentrated on this, it would have succeeded.
You can't quite comprehend just how bad the setup is without discussing major climactic scene spoilers, so we won't do that here. but perhaps another time after more people have had a chance to see this.
Or perhaps not see it, as some are calling this worst movie Tom Cruise has ever made. It isn't. The Mummy (when it's busy being a mummy movie) is a really great action movie on par with much of Cruise's other recent work (Mission: Impossible, Edge of Tomorrow aka Live. Die. Repeat.) And when he's doing stunts falling out of the sky in zero gravity on a crashing airplane, it's a lot of fun. That movie is a 7/10.
Unfortunately, it's paired with this abysmal attempt to set up a shared universe -- a shared universe that sounds really cool, in concept, by the way!! But it's so poorly handled. You almost think "Wow, they really didn't know where to go with the ending, did they?" But, actually, they knew exactly what they were doing with the ending. And it was a horrible, awful, insanely stupid idea. That movie is almost a 0/10, but it gets a 1/10 because there are still a couple of cool things in it-- like despite Russell Crowe's scenery chewing, he is somehow enjoyable to watch.
Average the two of those out? You get a 4/10 film. Such a waste. These Universal Monsters really deserve a great shared universe. I want a movie with Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man all in it. But this isn't the way to do it. And especially when you bill yourself as this beginning of a shared universe and you don't even deliver a stinger after-credits scene? Yes, fair warning-- if you go to this film, there is no need to stick around through the credits.
4 out of 10