In a world where sequels, remakes and special effects have dominated Hollywood films, “The Mummy” is one of the most blatant examples of a studio being more interested in money than the actual production of a quality film. The film was pitched as the hopeful start of the “Dark Universe,” a cinematic universe filled with monster focused storylines and a Marvel-esque crossover of characters between films. Tom Cruise (“Top Gun”) plays Nick Morton, an army sargeant who, along with painfully unfunny sidekick Cpl. Chris Vail (Jake Johnson, “New Girl”), scours the deserts of Iraq looking for treasure and gets cursed by Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella, “Star Trek Beyond”), an awakened ancient Egyptian princess.
Although the film starts with a semi-promising scene depicting the history of Ahmanet narrated by Russell Crowe ("The Nice Guys"), the tone of the movie is set right after this as we join Nick Morton and Chris Vail on their quest. The first sequence of dialogue between these two characters is painfully staged and cheesy. The following scene is just as cheesy and involves Morton and Vail being missed by hundreds of bullets. They’re saved by their superior Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance, “Terminator Genisys”), his troops and archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis, “Annabelle”). Jenny slaps Morton upon seeing him, and a ridiculous banter between the two begins; it's made evident they know each other. For a movie that was marketed as an action-horror flick, I began to become very confused as to what kind of movie I was watching.
The limited amount of horror within the movie never feels earned. A few jump scares and creepy moments are sandwiched between moronic dialogue and CGI-filled action. What makes most horror films exciting to watch is the building of tension, and how fast or slow the director chooses to move this tension. With “The Mummy” there is no build. When it comes to director Alex Kurtzman’s (“Star Trek”) decision on when to scare his audience, he picks random moments that always feel out of place. If he wanted the film to be an action-comedy then that’s what he should have done. Why involve a horror element at all?
In general, the film does a terrible job of explaining itself. A lot of this seems to stem from Universal depending on future films of the “Dark Universe” to explain their characters. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe, “Gladiator”) plays the Nick Fury-type role in the film and wants to bring strong individuals together to fight monsters. Jekyll has to inject chemicals into his body to keep from transforming into a monster himself. What kind of monster? We’re never informed, nor are we informed on how Crowe’s character got where he was or why he hates monsters so much.
The romantic relationship between Morton and Halsey is one of the central components of the plot, yet it feels incredibly forced. From the very beginning of their interactions (the aforementioned slap), their romantic history and overall relationship is confusing. It’s alluded to that they had only spent one night together the night before, yet the rest of their interactions make it seem as though they have known each other for years. It’s as if the writers couldn’t decide what their relationship was. Morton’s relationship with Ahmanet is just as confusing. After she curses him, he is said to be “her chosen,” and Morton has visions of her caressing his face. Yet it’s never clear how Morton feels about these visions.
This brings attention to the real villains of “The Mummy” — the scriptwriters. With screenplay credits including the likes of film veterans Chistopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”), it’s surprising how horrid the dialogue and pacing is. Jake Johnson’s role as comedic relief is overused, Tom Cruise talks like he’s always confused and the rest of the supporting cast has no depth. I’d expect more from a writer who brought to life the character of “Keyser Söze.”
Even the ending feels like a cheesier version of a better film. It’s ending sequence is eerily similar to that of “The Dark Knight,” and the words of Russell Crowe’s closing monologue prove that they’re not even trying to hide it.
The film doesn’t even satisfy that of a simple action packed crowd-pleaser — it’s too stupid for that. I’d much rather go see a new Marvel or DCEU film if that’s the kind of movie I’m looking to watch. Searching for redeeming qualities feels like a lost cause. The CGI looked great, but even that was misused as monsters would appear seemingly out of thin air just so Tom Cruise would have something to keep fighting. The “Dark Universe” is not off to an ideal start, and I’d be more intrigued by the concept if “The Mummy” disappeared from my memory.