Do you remember that game we played when we were young? The one where someone would start writing a paragraph of a story and pass it on to the next person to continue, but only letting them see the last line from that paragraph? After the last person finishes, the final tale that unfolds will almost always be nonsensical, but amusing.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the $125 million version of that game – The Mummy. And it’s not anywhere near as funny.
Sometimes there is such a thing as too many credentials. The team of writers have a solid track record. David Koepp. Christopher McQuarrie. Dylan Kussman. Jon Spaihts. Jenny Lumet. Alex Kurtzman. With The Mummy, Universal launches into the first chapter of their Dark Universe franchise to challenge the other studios. Remember these six names well. If they stick with this team, then run like you’ve just seen a real monster.
Tom Cruise is the raffish Nick Morton, a wise-cracking grave robber who procures trinkets to sell in the black market. He gets hunted down by a very blonde and British Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) because he stole her map and she hauls his newest find of an unrecorded sarcophagus back to London. The truth is that she works for Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) who plays him as narrator and observer for the rest of the events, as Ahmanet from that sarcophagus comes alive, seeking to finish her apocalyptic ritual.
The writing for the film really feels more checklist than script. It’s so disjointed and patchy that I’m guessing director Kurtzman couldn’t wrangle the egos in. It seems like everybody wanted a piece of their vision in the script. I believe the group mantra was – let’s copy my successful formula, add it to yours, and make it bigger and better.
Trust me, it never does. With all the references, The Mummy’s aspiration to be “all of the above” checks “none of the above” instead.
It hijacks Indiana Jones for the cast dynamics, but fizzles on chemistry. Sidekick Chris (Jake Johnson) disappears early in the script, only to appear late in the film again with knowledge of how to procure their precious gem – except that the pretty Wallis already knows that.
It opts for some X-Men realness, championing Dr. Jekyll as the Dark Universe’s Charles Xavier, but his version is more cliche than classy. He believes that monsters are just misunderstood (awww) and can be used to fight the evil that created them. Sir, this is 2017.
There’s even some original 1999 The Mummy goodness with the whole face-in-the-sandstorm, sudden masses of critters scenes – just not as impressive or scary. There’s a Titanic moment with Morton and Wallis trapped and whispering intimate confessions in a water chamber but comes across more perfunctory than passionate. There’s also underwater skeletons swimming and chasing the leads, not unlike something from Pirates of the Caribbean, except the skeletons disappear within five minutes.
The worst case of Kurtzman’s indecision has to be the pivotal scene when Ahmanet breaks free. The lovely Sofia Boutella is perfect in her role, but her release is edited together with a struggle between Mr. Hyde and Morten, and on the side, Wallis with a security guard. There’s so much superfluous action and plot devices that go nowhere here that they should have trapped the Egyptian princess there instead.
If anything haunts this story, it’s the B-grade vibes that somehow permeates the production. From acting to script, from effects to props, everything lacks polish and punch.
Guys at Universal, the resurrection failed. As a latecomer to the franchise formula, don’t even try to do a takeover. Your efforts here show you up really badly. Know your piece of the pie and eat it. It’s enough.
Incoherent plot developments and devices fall flat, along with tired character profiles and theories. The focus is off and the dark universe future stays murky.
First published: www.movieXclusive.com