The Mummy Movie Review
Review by Jason Jean (D): Xenu Warrior Princess
The Plot: While liberating an ancient Iraqi burial sight from a violent gaggle of terrorist insurgents, an antiquities thief (Tom Cruise) and his sidekick (Jake Johnson) unearth the ancient underground prison of a vicious Egyptian sorceress (Sofia Boutella). Once the sarcophagus is uprooted from the magic binding it, a diabolical evil is unleashed. The men responsible for releasing it are soon cursed to walk the world of the living and the dead being hunted by this... mummy.
The Film: No less than Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe star in this Universal Monster Movie recycle of a Universal Monster Movie recycle. Alex Kurtzman, lead writer of Star Trek 2009 and Cowboys and Aliens, has chosen that for his sophomore directing effort (following 2012's Stevia-sweet, Cameron Crowe-esque People Like Us) he'll pilfer Universal's backlog of golden age monster properties. So once again in our lifetime, The Mummy rises from its crypt.
There are twists and turns, and twisted turns in The Mummy, but the biggest of them all may be that we have a female monster in the villain role (we'll resist the urge to call her Mumms). Patched together from henna culture and 90's metal record art (very Aenima this creature), 2017's Mummy is a monster to reckon with, even if the film she's in hardly seems worth any scrutiny at all.
For tone Kurtzman has chosen to petition the dark Egyptian horror gods of his youth - namely Raimi and Landis. Abandoning most of Stephen Sommers' invocation to recreate the Indiana Jones films of his youth, Kurtzman's sights are set on the black horror comedies of the early 80's. Namely Harold Landis's An American Werewolf in London, and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films. While Sommers' Mummy movies were never great, they certainly had spirit and identity. As did last year's solid little schlock-opera, Gods of Egypt. On the other hand The Mummy 2017 is a hard PG-13 film (nudity, gore, soul-sucking) that can't seem to find an identity to call its own.
It opens well - the John Landis and Sam Raimi nods indicate a filmmaker with a clear idea of the movie he wants to create. There's some corpse raising, some ghoul punching, what is very likely to be the best plane crash sequence in anything in 2017 (not kidding here - this set piece may be the only reason to ever revisit this film in the future) and enough undead princess T&A to give a viewer hope that even though we're in Summer blockbuster season, someone with a ton of money seems vested in giving an audience a movie with some genuine edge to it.
Not the case.
It turns out that The Mummy is a remake every bit as cursed as Tom Cruise's character Nick Morton is. What was at first a screwball diversion is soon swarmed upon by the rats and maggots of franchise thinking. Russell Crowe's Dr. Henry Jekyll (yes, that Mr. Jekyll) enters the fray of David Koepp's abruptly commercialized screenplay, and things degrade appropriately from there on. Someone at corporate thought that the Universal Monsterverse might pair well with the Marvel playbook for box office dominance - they're branding this throbbing franchise dilettante "Dark Universe."
As a result the final half of The Mummy deteriorates from mildly engaging monster movie into a flurry of senseless brawling as demonically charged villains and demonically charged heroes toss each other around in passionless bouts of CG supremacy. As if films needed any other winner outside the audience paying to see them. The inevitable cliffhanger ending here is as defeating as it sounds.
Yes, they want to make more of these. Please don't let them.
The most depressing part of this endeavor is that Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise, two actors with careers of some distinction and age, feel as if they're panhandling to the franchise-this-minute crowd, and doing so with property licenses as ancient as Universal's monster catalog. In this instance it just comes off as age embezzlement. Tom and Russ are too talented and too old to be goofing around in lousy popcorn movies like this one. Let the kids have these Summer jobs. In fact, I'd argue that Sofia Boutella, still lovely under the layer of rot makeup she wears through 90% of this film, isn't nearly the mummy her two male leads come off as.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.