September 11, 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

When I heard that Universal was going to create a Dark Universe of movies for their stable of classic monsters, I was intrigued. The idea of a gothic shared universe where Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, and more roamed the same darkened streets of the same foreboding cities is truly something to be happy about. Granted, there is the trepidation that goes with the idea that these beloved creatures of the night being rebooted, but it’s not like they haven’t been through it before. However, word around the block is that the universe may be dead before it even gets started, as evidenced by the supposedly troubled production and the actual box office disappointment of the flagship film, The Mummy.

I guess one thing we can be thankful for is that they decided not to include 2014’s Dracula Untold in this new universe. Still, as I sat and watched the film, I could see where they put in the building blocks of the bigger world, but there was something about it that felt off. The whole production felt terribly mediocre, like they made a new Mission Impossible sequel and rammed some supernatural elements into it. This leads to what may be the biggest problem with the film, bringing in big name stars like Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe. It is not just The Mummy being afflicted with this, there are talks of Johnny Depp for The Invisible Man and Angelina Jolie as the Bride of Frankenstein. To me, this big star, big stakes direction is not the way to go with these films.

The Mummy was helmed by Alex Kurtzman, who last directed the dreadful 2012 feature People Like Us. Most of his career has been seen him writing, having worked on such films as Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Transformers, and The Island. The screenplay duties were handled by Christopher McQuarrie (Edge of Tomorrow), David Koepp (Premium Rush), and Dylan Kussman, from a story by Kurtzman, Jon Spaihts (Passengers), and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married).

Tom Cruise stars as Nick, a tomb raiding member of the American military, aided by his friend Vail (Jake Johnson, The New Girl). Along with an Egyptologist (Annabelle Wallis), they discover a sarcophagus that contains an evil demonic princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella, Atomic Blonde). She is released by Nick and he becomes her target as she seeks to give a physical body to the God of Death, Set. Along the way we meet Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who has some sort of organization that studies and finds ways to combat these evil creatures as they appear.

The movie is sprinkled liberally with action sequences, but there is not much in the way of lasting personality to it. It seems to be there to distract you from the hollowness of the affair. Frankly, the further away I get, the quicker it fades from memory. As quick as it moves, that is the same speed at which the details fade from my memory.

I think it is a mistake to populate this universe with big name leads who often demand an unnecessary level of control over the production, which is what Tom Cruise has been accused of here. With big names come big production costs, resulting in big expectations, box office wise, and with those big expectations comes shackles for the creativity side of the coin.

When it comes right down to it, this iteration of The Mummy is watchable, but terribly forgettable. I grow tired of these big star driven properties that promise big action and excitement, are loaded with CGI and fail to deliver. On top of that, the universe they are trying to build feels forced, something wedged in rather than developing more organically from the screenplay. I also want a Universal Monsters Dark Universe to actually be dark. Bring something on a smaller scale, dark and atmospheric, let it gradually radiate out through further entries in the universe and build to something more.

The Mummy, watchable? Yes. Memorable? No. If this is a sign of what to expect from the “Dark” Universe, things look dim.

Not Recommended.

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