Some talented writers worked on THE MUMMY (2017).
David Koepp who co-wrote the Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise version of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) and years ago co-wrote JURASSIC PARK (1993), and Christopher McQuarrie who co-wrote EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) and JACK REACHER (2012), two rare instances of Tom Cruise movies that I really liked, both worked on the screenplay to THE MUMMY, as well as Dylan Kussman.
Which just goes to show you that talent alone isn’t enough to save a concept that is flat-out dumb.
With THE MUMMY, Universal has launched their “Dark Universe” series, an attempt to reimagine their monster movies of yesteryear as a sort of Marvel superhero spinoff.
This is a huge mistake. Someone needs to shut this concept down yesterday.
The idea of re-booting these classic Universal monster movies as superhero action flicks is an insult to the original films. If you are going to remake them, they need to be remade as horror movies, plain and simple.
THE MUMMY (2017) is a disaster from start to finish. I can only hope that this becomes a lost film.
THE MUMMY opens— no, not in Egypt— but in England in 1127 at the burial site of a bunch of crusader knights, who among other things, brought back with them Egyptian artifacts. Jump ahead to present day and a construction crew building a new subway system under the streets of London happens upon the burial site.
The operation is shut down when Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) shows up with his top secret team of agents, the Dark Universe’s answer to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., to confiscate a key artifact, a dagger, which ties into an Egyptian Mummy named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) whose back story we learn about through flashbacks and a voice over narration by Dr. Jekyll.
And then we finally get to the opening credits. Talk about a rambling disjointed way to open a movie.
Next up we finally meet our dashing hero, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) who along with his buddy Chris (Jake Johnson) are working for Dr. Henry Jekyll in search of Egyptian treasure in— no, not in Egypt— that would make too much sense, setting a movie about an Egyptian Mummy in Egypt– but in Iraq because Ahmanet was so dangerous that she had to be buried miles away from her homeland.
Nick is joined by the beautiful Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) who also works for Dr. Jekyll, and the two of them lead the way— when they’re not playfully bickering and bantering— in returning the mummified Ahaanet back to England.
But you can’t keep a good mummy down. Ahmanet comes back to life, and the rest of the movie it’s Tom Cruise vs. a mummy in an action-packed tale that is about as believable and compelling as a Pokemon cartoon.
There is so much wrong with THE MUMMY I don’t know where to begin.
The biggest issue of course is this whole concept of the Dark Universe, the idea that the Universal monster movies should be rebooted as a superhero franchise. This idea is a disaster, just like this movie.
For starters, the concept itself is flawed. Monsters are monsters, they’re not comic book superheroes. So, even before the films come out, the powers that be are fighting an uphill battle, trying to tell a story that isn’t naturally there. Let’s re-imagine THE MUMMY as an action movie. No, it’s a horror movie.
Secondly, this style is clearly borrowed from the Marvel movies, and as such, comes off as derivative and unoriginal, a bad combination, to be sure.
A lot of people never accepted the Brendan Fraser re-boot of THE MUMMY (1999) but I’ve always enjoyed that one, as I thought its script was a good one, even if it played more like an INDIANA JONES movie than a horror movie. That being said, the 1999 MUMMY wasn’t devoid of horror elements, and the mummy in that film played by Arnold Vosloo had some screen presence. Anyway, whatever you feel about the 1999 MUMMY, I liked that one better than this movie.
And it’s interesting to note that even though Tom Cruise is playing a character described in the movie as a “young man,” he’s six years older than Brendan Fraser who played the young dashing hero in the 1999 film.
Also of note, this whole idea of a MUMMY film being more of a dashing adventure than a horror film is not without historical precedent. The second Universal MUMMY movie, THE MUMMY’S HAND (1940) which introduced Kharis the Mummy (played by Tom Tyler here and in subsequent movies by Lon Chaney Jr.) to movie audiences, had a quick-witted script which featured two American archeologists Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) who traded barbs and one-liners throughout. The script, when not featuring the Mummy, was light and fun. But it wasn’t an action movie, nor even a comedy. It was a horror movie.
Even more out-of-place in THE MUMMY than the concept of turning a horror movie into an action movie is Tom Cruise. With the exception of a handful of films, I am not a fan of Cruise’s movies. I’ve been tired of his shtick of playing himself for years now, going all the way back to the 1980s. Cruise’s presence here doesn’t do the movie any favors. Not that it would have saved this movie, but a younger more dynamic actor would have made things a bit better.
I did enjoy Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey. In fact, hers was probably the only performance in the movie that I felt was worth watching, but the role itself was not that exciting.
Russell Crowe is forced to utter the worst lines in the movie as Dr. Jekyll. His voice-over narration at the end of the film is so bad it sounds like an off-the-cuff ad lib about good vs. evil. He gets to say such nonsense as “which side will win— we just don’t know. He might be a hero. He might be evil.” This might be a real script.
And as the Mummy, Ahmanet, Sofia Boutella just isn’t given enough to do to have any relevant impact. Compared to the original mummy in THE MUMMY (1932), Im-Ho-Tep, played by Boris Karloff, who had to endure mummification, resurrection, and ultimately rejection all in an effort to reclaim his one true love, Ahmanet is a villain who seems only to be obsessed with power, but even that interpretation is a stretch since her character simply isn’t developed. Boutella was much more memorable as Jaylah in STAR TREK BEYOND (2016).
Jake Johnson is supposed to be providing comic relief as Cruise’s buddy Chris, but his character’s plight is an in-your-face rip-off of Griffin Dunne’s character from AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981). Dunne’s role was hilarious and original. Johnson’s character here is neither.
Director Alex Kurtzman works hard on the action scenes, but they’re not enough to save this movie.
The screenplay doesn’t work either, and at the end of the day, THE MUMMY fails because the idea behind it is so very flawed.
Here’s hoping it’s lights out for the Dark Universe.
Books by Michael Arruda:
TIME FRAME, science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.
IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.