The Mummy (aka Untitled Mummy Reboot) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Oh, sure, it would be nice to have a modern Mummy movie that can better encapsulate that aspect of horror and terror that the original held, but that’s just not the world we live in anymore. If you want to dig up a property nowadays, it either has to come bundled with nostalgia or restructured into an action blockbuster. And since Universal’s mummy property is far too old for 30-somethings to gush over, it’s off to the Alex Kurtzman action factory for this monster.
To be fair, the mummy could really use a makeover. How scary can you make a bandaged and undead Egyptian? Given the right horror director, of which there are plenty nowadays, it could be accomplished, but, again, a much different world. Universal doesn’t just want a monster movie, but a monster franchise of a connected universe. And nothing says connected universe like safe, flashy and quippy action. At least the mummy will receive a gender change, a better costume and a more physical presence to be a threat. Or as much of a threat as this monster can be for an action picture.
The mummy in question is the evil Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), royalty of old Egypt that just didn’t feel powerful enough. With no more ladder to climb for a princess, she makes a deal with the supernatural forces of Set to become a monster of eternal life and great evil (or some crap like that). She goes on killing spree, but is only one stabbing away from her new powers when the guards restrain her and bury her alive. Fast forward to modern day where the roguish treasure hunter Nick (Tom Cruise) stumbles onto her tomb. Ever the seeker of fortune, it doesn’t take much for him to crack open her prison, leading to him being cursed by Ahmanet. Having now gained the ability to suck the souls out of men, the revived Ahmanet is only one stabbed Tom Cruise away from that eternal life. All she needs is her magic dagger with its magic stone and some alone time with a shirtless Cruise.
The monster of the mummy has neat aspects to her character, but they’re rarely explored. The curse she places on Nick causes him to be unexplainably drawn to her presence. All this amounts to is forcing Nick to certain scenes so the plot can keep going. Ahament seems to have control over spiders, but this is never explained past some easy outs for the monster to escape. And if the mummy can gain all her revival power from the sucking the souls out of men’s mouths, why wouldn’t the twentieth victim just cover his mouth?
There’s not much organic flow for such an adventure that presents handfuls of decent scenes that don’t connect as well. There’s a terrifying scene where a soldier turned zombie stabs his superior to death, but it’s quickly ended with a humorous double-tap of gunfire. After a thrilling practical scene where Nick bounces around the interior of a crashing plane, his revival at the morgue comes off more comical for him being naked than intriguing for, you know, surviving a crash after dying. I understand the film’s desire to balance a horror element with a high-spirited adventure, but it’s less a case of mixing chocolate with peanut butter and more of ice cream and ketchup.
The same goes for the character which are about as predictable as action movie archetypes can get. Tom Cruise is playing his most generic of action movie roles, a character so basic that his catchphrase is asking people where’s their sense of adventure. His love interest of the archeologist Jenny is the standard love-hate girl, made evident by her first scene where she smacks Nick across the face for sleeping with her and stealing her stuff. Even Ahmanet is a typical seductress of a villain, never reaching that level of an implied love triangle between Nick and Jenny. This leads to several awkward scenes, as when Jenny walks in on Nick being straddled against his will by Ahmanet, with Cruise delivering the expected line “this isn’t what it looks like.” There’s more quips than quality in this script where Kurtzman desperately tries to weave atypical blockbuster laughs; laughs that are about as artificial as the ho-hum computer graphics.
The only intriguing aspect of the movie, outside of Tom Cruise’s solid stunt work, is a secret monster containment organization led by Doctor Jekyll (Russell Crowe), intended to be a linking device for Universal’s future monster movies. This is a rather neat idea, especially when Jekyll’s Hyde persona attempts to bargain with Nick to be an evil duo. I can’t wait to see how the connected world of monsters plays out, even if it’s an obvious bank off the success of Marvel’s franchise formula. It’s just a bummer that the first foray into the series happens to be the most boring of monsters with the most uneven of adventure pictures.