The first in what is supposed to be a long line of Dark Universe bigscreen extravaganzas featuring Universal Studio’s iconic monster line-up, was tailor-made for a fella like me. Along with Michael Caine and Denzel Washington, Mummy star Tom Cruise is my favorite Movie Star working today, and the original Universal Monster World remains, well above any other, my all-time fave film franchise. And so I laid down my money, put on those 3D glasses, busted open the Mike & Ike’s, and hoped for the best.
For about 40 minutes my hope appeared as though it might, maybe, could, possibly, almost pay off. The Mummy was not awful. You could sense that everyone was trying really hard, most especially Cruise. And then it went all to hell in a sea of uninspired CGI mixed with that tediously obnoxious mythology required to make money with more and More and MORE movies. After a while the exposition becomes a Chinese water torture of gibberish.
Tom Cruise basically plays (and this is a good thing) who he always does, a charming, physically adept, morally scrupulous treasure hunter, the guy we all thought Indiana Jones was until he showed up in that classroom. It is no secret (if you know the title of the movie) that he uncovers more than he bargained for in the form of a sexy mummy (Sofia Boutella) and a deadly curse.
The movie is unquestionably ambitious in its desire to entertain, to deliver scares, laughs, atmosphere, a spirit of Gunga Din-style adventure, and a sense of wonder at the many secrets buried within our own world. Cruise gives it everything he has, summons all 35 years of his movie stardom to in some way salvage what he is savvy enough to know was a brewing catastrophe. Unfortunately, nothing can overcome an overcooked script, the utter lack of inspiration in a world that should generate only that, and a Dark Universe that is oftentimes literally dark, too dark to make anything out in. I mean, you can’t see. You do not know what is going on. Annoying.
Our resident Nick Fury is also a mistake. A noticeably overweight Russell Crowe is Dr. Henry Jekyl (as in and Mr. Hyde) the head of a secret SHIELD-like organization that protects the world from monsters and curses and things that go bump in the night. The Mr. Hyde scene, obviously concocted to give Crowe something actorly to do — is so contrived I almost walked out.
Except Dr. Jekyl is really Dr. Exposition, which would be fine, but in a direct rip-off of An American Werewolf In London (1981), so is Cruise’s glib pal, a grotesque ghost who pops up occasionally to crack wise and endlessly explain The Curse.
Naturally, everything leads to a furiously dull conclusion filled with computer effects and Cruise doing a lot of that Cruise-ian running… No joke, I dozed off.
The Mummy‘s biggest mistake, though, is a quick nod to its predecessor, Brendan Fraser’s 1999 entry, a still criminally under-appreciated gem that almost perfectly hit all the marks Cruise and Company could not.
Universal’s plan is to follow this up with Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s monster, etc. … The worldwide box office might financially save this first chapter, but it cannot make anyone eager to see the next chapter and that includes, sadly, a superfan like myself.