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THE MUMMY Isn’t the Monster We Deserve (Review)

THE MUMMY Isn’t the Monster We Deserve (Review)

In the franchise-driven world of big-budget Hollywood movies, executives are ripping their hair out to find their own IP worth turning into a bunch of interconnected movies. Universal’s answered seemed perfect, steeped in the entire history of both the studio and Hollywood as a whole. Their monster movies from the 1930s-1950s were some of the most popular films of the era, and truly were the first cinematic universe after a fashion. So on the outset going in to Alex Kurtzman’s inaugural Dark Universe outing, The Mummy, I had a lot of excitement. Excitement that was quickly dashed.

A horror adventure movie starring Tom Cruise and featuring both a badass lady mummy seemed like it had potential to be great, and the addition of a monster-hunting government entity headed up by Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll seemed like a cool way to use Gothic monster movie lore to their advantage. The problem, however, is that the script is full of corny, obvious lines and moments, and the whole movie never strikes a consistent tone, be it fun adventure or darker haunted house. Overall, The Mummy feels like a collection of edited highlights from a movie rather than a movie.

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The story follows a military guy named Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) who goes on personal adventures to find and sell antiquaries on the black market. He’s joined in this endeavor by Vail (Jake Johnson) and the two happen upon a buried Egyptian tomb in the middle of Iraq. Pretty weird. An archaeologist named Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) joins them in the excavation and, long story short, they disrupt the tomb of the forgotten Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a woman poised to rule Egypt but forced out by a male heir. She sold her soul to Set, the god of the dead, and bad stuff happened, causing her to be mummified.

Nick isn’t the best guy in the world and is cursed upon disrupting the tomb to be the human embodiment for Set’s return. But there’s a clandestine organization called Prodigium in London that attempts to find, observe, and stop the activity of monsters. It’s run by the kindly (and weird) Dr. Jekyll (Crowe) who may or may not also have evil in him (you don’t say). Ahmanet wants to win, everybody else is rather against this, fighting, etc.

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Even just in ┬áthinking about what plot elements to put into the spoiler-free synopsis, I reached a point where I said “Well, that’s really all there is to it unless I want to start describing individual scenes.” You know exactly from the first images of the film what the ultimate endpoint will be and it was almost totally devoid of surprises. We’d seen just about every scene in the film in trailers and marketing material and it all just felt in service of setting up the franchise rather than telling a compelling Mummy story.

And that’s a shame because the Mummy elements are easily the movie’s strongest parts. The backstory of Ahmanet is compelling and Boutella delivers a performance that’s at once terrifying and tragic, something which is integral to the Universal monsters–they’re never straight-up villains. And the scariest parts within this are of the newly awakened Ahmanet, in her rickety living dead guise, sucking the life out of hapless police officers, thus turning them into emaciated slaves intent on fulfilling their mistress’ wishes. However, even these aspects that work better than others, toward the end of the movie, they too are rushed and underdeveloped.

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The entire runtime just about had things that reminded me of other movies. Oh, there’s that from An American Werewolf in London, and that from Tombs of the Blind Dead, and ooh Prodigium reminds me a bit of Hellboy. Each time I’d say “man, I wish I was watching that movie instead.” And when your whole movie makes the audience wish they were watching the things you’re referencing rather than the movie they’re actually watching, we have a major problem. And any movie that fully wastes Courtney B. Vance and manages to make Jake Johnson unfunny and Tom Cruise uncharismatic is really not going to make any friends.

I still feel like the concept, the notion of a shared universe of monsters is a good idea and could be really exciting and a fresh, macabre take on the superhero thing. I just don’t think The Mummy is it at all, and certainly isn’t the kind of movie that will excite the fan of those old classic monsters, or even the fans of 1999 Stephen Sommers Mummy movie. I sadly just think this is an instance of putting the sarcophagus before the horse.

2 out of 5 sandy, cobwebby burritos2 burritos

Images: Universal

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and the host of the horror documentary series One Good Scare. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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