Adam and Rob both got an advance look at Universal’s The Mummy remake, so let’s see what they each have to say about it.
Adam’s Review: Reviews for Universal’s rebooted The Mummy are starting to roll in, and the consensus seems to be “not good.” I’m going to be that guy who says “not bad,” while admitting up front that it is most definitely a mandatory studio genre film which is attempting to hit every checkbox in the movie-by-committee playbook. The end result is a packaged product which is comparable to a popular food blogger’s recent description of Subway sandwiches as “adequate.” Going in, you know that what you’re getting isn’t good and that there are far better products out there–but dammit, this is what’s in front of you, and at least it’s consumable.
There’s not a lot of point rehashing the plot, because the trailers have more than adequately told you what the decaying meat of this movie is: Tom Cruise, unearths an ancient curse, reawakened, wreaks havoc in modern times, yadda yadda. And there’s a lot of Tom Cruise chest. Good heavens, there is so much Tom Cruise chest in this movie. In fact, the ratio of Cruise chest to actual Mummy in this film is very disproportionately off-kilter. That’s the first problem with this film: despite being billed as THE MUMMY, Sofia Boutella’s titular villainness is underrepresented in both character development and presence. She’s there, and she’s evil, but remarkably, there’s not much more to her than that. If nothing else, the film’s ending makes this clear–there’s wiggle room for Boutella’s character to return, but this really is a setup for a lot more Tom Cruise.
This is problematic in a world-building movie for the “Dark Universe” which is essentially rebuilding the iconic Universal monsters from scratch. “The Mummy” has, frankly, always been more of a concept than a distinct lore, with Karloff’s 1932 film having very little to do with Arnold Vasloo’s portrayal in 1999, and Boutella’s version having even less in common beyond borrowing a few visual cues. It’s a remarkable contrast to last weekend’s Wonder Woman–a movie which had several well-developed female characters. The Mummy comes down to a power-hungry girl who just wants power and sex. Whatever opportunity for depth there was is blown here.
No, this is a pure Tom Cruise movie…oh yeah, and there’s some side presences by, in diminishing order of importance, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, and Jake Johnson as the wacky undead sidekick who’s funny but doesn’t do a whole lot. Now, Cruise does what Cruise does best, which is to leap his way through multiple over-the-top action sequences, and also show off his chest a lot. That’s fine, although it diminishes any presence of truth-in-advertising: this movie is really Tom Cruise is Chased by a Sexy Mummy in the same way that Batman vs. Superman was actually Batman vs. Superman and By the Way Here’s Wonder Woman and the Flash. Annabelle Wallis at least maintains a sizeable, competent presence as the number two lead…which still puts the Mummy herself in a diminished spot.
But speaking of stealth franchise films, The Mummy had a choice in introducing the “Dark Universe”: it could have gone the Marvel route of “centralized story with connective tissue to other movies” the way Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were all standalone films with a common thread. It also could have gone the DC route of holy shit, let’s just start throwing more superheroes into this thing. In the ironic words of Indiana Jones’ Templar Knight (which, incidentally, is nodded to here): they chose poorly–that is, the DC route. That is, what is more-or-less a standalone movie for the first half gets thrown fully into the expansiveness of a franchise right in the middle.
I’m reluctant to spoil much here, although this news may be hard to avoid after the film’s release. Suffice it to say that Russell Crowe’s character is a substantial part of the “connective tissue” of the Dark Universe and forcibly inserts yet another major monster into the story. Granted, the insertion serves the purpose of disrupting plans to stop the Mummy along with setting up the franchise’s equivalent of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you want franchising, then this is fine, even if it’s overtly silly. The monster-hunters’ headquarters at least has a delightful number of Easter eggs which will demand a frame-by-frame review with a DVD player.
Finally, The Mummy suffers from some tonal inconsistency. As I complained with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies last year, this is a movie that can’t make up its mind if it’s a horror story, an action film, or a comedy, as it rapidly changes from one beat to the next, literally within seconds. Tense horror sequences are immediately followed by a punchline, and while audiences will laugh, this doesn’t make for the best filmmaking. At its heart, this is essentially a superhero film, but it really wants to be the other stuff all at once.
Despite all that, The Mummy is not the botched franchise launch the critics are making it out to be. The flaws keep The Mummy from being a great film, and yes, the 1999 Brendan Fraiser one is better. But it at least entertains. It has an action hero, a girl, some crazy stunt scenes, and some callbacks to iconic supernatural pop culture lore. If you want a mindless action movie, then yes, this is that. There are better films out there, and Universal has lessons to learn from this one, but as a summer matinee distraction, this is, in the words of my favorite blogger, “adequate.”
Rating: Two and a half canopic jars out of five.
Rob’s Review: Welcome to the Dark Universe. With The Mummy hitting theaters this weekend, we have the start of what Universal is calling their “shared universe” in the vein of Marvel and DC.
The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis, follows Nick Morton (Cruise) as he tracks down what at the time he believes is buried treasure in Iraq only to find out that it is a prison/tomb for the Mummy (Sofia Boutella). Enter Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), whose job it is to protect antiquities, but with insurgents on the way to the dig site, they decide that they need to move the Mummy to a safe location and that is when the action starts. Freeing the Mummy from her prison starts her revival and her trying to regain her full power .
The Mummy is nothing more than another Hollywood popcorn blockbuster movie that, instead of delivering us a universe with a great story, gives us an action movie. Audiences who want horror, suspense, and the dread of an undead monster coming for them instead get a thrill ride. The film does pepper scenes with Easter eggs throughout and I would just go back and watch this movie to find those Easter eggs that I missed because I know I didn’t catch them all. For instance, there’s a (very) quick scene with the Book of Life, which nods back to the Brendan Frasier version of the film.
The airplane crash scene from the trailers was produced excellently, with spellbinding dramatics that keep the audience involved. However, there were other action scenes that should have been more intense. I would hope that Hollywood would provide the viewer with great action throughout the film without resorting to giving it in bits and pieces.
Russell Crowe does a superb job with his character in this movie, and makes me want to see a stand-alone movie as soon as possible. When he is on screen, you know he is not a man to take lightly, and that he knows what is happening around him. One criticism is the fact that he knows he has to do something on a regular basis, and always seems to come down to the wire. I don’t know if this is going to be explained later on in his stand-alone movie, but I hope so.
Annabelle Wallis does a decent job, though instead of being a strong female costar, she is really the damsel in distress that Tom Cruise has to save. It would have been great to see her be that equal to Tom Cruise who pulls his butt out of the fire. Speaking of Tom Cruise himself, this is the same Cruise that we have seen in really any of his past action films, which isn’t a bad thing. My only complaint comes with his story arc: I wish they would have given us more insight into his character.
Oh yeah, and there’s a Mummy in this film: Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Overall, I was not impressed with the Mummy, but I don’t blame it on Sofia. She did a good enough job with what she was given, but at no time was I scared when she was on screen. I don’t need a Freddy or Jason type monster, but instead of being a true horror or suspense movie, this is an action movie. While the big action scenes are fun to watch, in a monster movie, I want to have that feeling of dread or suspense.
I also saw this movie in 3-D and have to say that the extra price isn’t worth it: some scenes used 3-D to great effect, but they just didn’t leap off the screen. Also there is no end credit scene, which I find surprising. I would have loved to seen a hint of what was to come in Universal’s Dark Universe.
Overall, The Mummy is an enjoyable popcorn movie with some good action scenes but little substance. So, if you’re looking to turn off your brain for two hours, then this is for you. But with Wonder Woman out just last weekend, I don’t think it is going to take down the Amazon.
3.5 mummies out of 5.
Thanks to Allied for the screening passes.