I don’t hate The Mummy because it’s a terrible movie. I hate it because it could have, and should have, been good.
Actually, hate is a strong word. I just don’t like it. Opportunities abound for some real fun here, and they are all squandered in the end.
Tom Cruise is fully committed for a gonzo performance as Nick Morton, a soldier moonlighting as a tomb raider in Iraq. After stumbling upon the tomb of an ancient Egyptian nasty named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), he winds up on a plane with the mummy, some soldiers, and a mysterious woman named Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis).
The plane crashes, and then the weirdness begins, with Nick surviving the crash due to being possessed by Ahmanet. Post-crash Ahmanet starts sucking face with cops and dead guys, turning them into a zombie army as she marches on London. Along the way, Nick meets Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) in a subplot so freaking unnecessary it’s maddening.
Jekyll is here because he’s part of Universal’s new “Dark Universe” scheme, an attempt to Marvel-size the classic Universal monsters into some sort of connected, ongoing series. What a seriously stupid mistake this is. Nothing connects these monsters other than their original gothic origins, so trying to make them modern stand-ins for Iron Man and the Hulk is a joke. And, take it from me, Dr. Henry Jekyll is no Nick Fury.
Cruise is stuck laboring in this convoluted, yet sometimes almost entertaining, mess. The film starts with a blast as Nick and his sidekick Chris (Jake Johnson) uncover the tomb, then run into trouble on that plane. The subsequent plane crash is thrilling, scary stuff, and the attempt to turn Jake Johnson into something akin to Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf in London has potential.
Alas, the movie cheeses out, and becomes more concerned with being the start of something big rather than just being a grand achievement unto itself. Director Alex Kurtzman plays it safe with the scares—scares that have potential but reek of PG-13 confinement. Had he gone for something more in the spirit of the Evil Dead series, increasing the scares, gore, and raunchy laughs, part of the premise here could’ve been a lot of fun.
What we wind up with is a film that is afraid of itself, and so unfocused you’ll check out in the second half.
Too bad. Ahmanet makes for a compelling monster, and I prefer her mummy to the one running around in those hackneyed Brendan Fraser efforts. Wallis is equally good as the woman with a few secrets, and Johnson is funny when he’s allowed to be.
Cruise is Cruise, and if you are a fan, that’s a good thing. He holds his own for most of the flick, but the script lets him down in the end with a terrible finale. It’s as if Kurtzman and his screenwriters had something nice and bleak—hey, it’s supposed to be a horror film! Things can end badly!—and then they just had to shoot for something happier. The final moments feel tacked on.
Seriously, Universal wants this to be a Universe like Marvel and DC? Maybe the sympathetic vampires of Twilight have them thinking audiences will accept Dracula as a hero? I doubt it. First off, Dracula will always sound and be nasty, and many moviegoers frown upon bloodsuckers, even the Twilight ones.
Johnny Depp is supposed to play the Invisible Man, and Javier Bardem is signed on for Frankenstein’s Monster? What, are they going to join hands and solve crimes together? Pull the plug on this plan, now, and just make good standalone monster movies. Kurtzman has made a messy film, but he’s not totally to blame. This is a movie in service of a franchise idea, and it feels like it’s being force injected down our throats.
Abandon the Dark Universe, and, please, no more of Russell Crowe’s Jekyll and Hyde act. It’s nonsense.