By: Muneeb Arshid
“I don’t know what I’m doing” – A line uttered by Tom Cruise in this film. Yes, that same Tom Cruise who is the star of The Mummy. It was at this point where I sat there and acknowledged that even Tom Cruise was having trouble understanding why he was in this film in the first place. That is exactly how bad this film is, with very few redeeming features.
Tom Cruise is the star in the remake of the series of the same name from about 20 years ago. This is Universal Studio’s attempt at creating their own massive universe of films (named here the “Dark Universe”), something that is not off to a great start. So, what did Universal bring to the table in this remake? Well, a seemingly star-studded cast featuring the aforementioned Tom Cruise but also the great Russell Crowe and rising star Sofia Boutella, who you may remember from Kingsman: The Secret Service. Then, you may be asking what the issue is here? Well, a little bit of everything, and yes, that includes the cast as well.
However, let’s first give a “brief”, rather “spoilery” plot synopsis of the film. The film starts in ancient Egypt where Sofia Boutella is Ahmanet, a princess who is next in line behind her pharaoh father. It seems as if the stars are lining up for her to take over power until her father feels the need of fathering a child and lo and behold he has a child, a boy no less. Feeling betrayed, Ahmanet makes the decision to turn evil and kill her family including the new heir but is eventually caught, and for her transgressions, is mummified alive and sent away 1000 miles to be buried in Mesopotamia. The film then shifts to the present day with Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and Jake Johnson‘s, who are soldiers in Iraq scoping enemy insurgents destroying historical artifacts. It is at this site that the “cursed” tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At this point, my boredom level is starting to rise as I continue to write this synopsis out. All I will say is that Ahmanet comes back as “The Mummy” and reaps destruction on the world, specifically London. The Mummy takes Morton as the Chosen One and is just slightly obsessed with him, which sounds just as ridiculous as it actually was.
The issue with the film begins right from the first character that you see on screen. There is absolutely nothing interesting about any of the characters so much so that Tom Cruise’s facial expressions give away what everyone in the theatre is thinking: what are you doing here?
What also doesn’t help is that there is no script whatsoever to aid any of the actors. Like, nothingness is a great way to describe what the plot of the film actually was. The plot keeps circling between The Mummy and Cruise with a hint of Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll thrown in, oh, and don’t forget about the narration and exposition, the most integral part of the film. Great scripts are always written with some sort of a purpose with a means to an end and a payoff that feels as though the audience is vested in the story and not just passively and idly watching as time creeps along. The Mummy has a very ordinary script, a boring and ordinary script, one that defines the problem with the remakes in this film era and why they tend to get a bad rap.
I’ll always contend and give the benefit of the doubt to the writers, especially when you have a seemingly strong cast, like you do in this film. I always believe that an experienced cast and strong direction will guide a poorly written, badly misguided film to, at the very least, be an average, popcorn flick. This film doesn’t even come close to that. It is so apparent that the cast is not having fun with the material but at the same time, you do not feel bad for them one bit. It’s not as if Cruise and Crowe are, and excuse my language, washed up actors. They still have plenty of acting chops and from the looks of it, Cruise may be back on the big screen for a drug running, Colombia cartel film later this year, which does look intriguing.
There are horror elements to the film or at least attempts at wanting to include horror elements, which makes sense considering the subject material. However, even they, as someone who loves a good scare, were very predictable. Predictability goes hand in hand with a poorly misguided script because when you have a film with lots of good scares, those scares have been put in there with a purpose. A below average script that was off-handedly written is only, at most, going to have scares that feel pedestrian and very “token-y”.
So, not a great start to Universal’s Dark Universe, which is actually mildly putting it. The issue, on the whole, is the studio’s decision to wanting to join the behemoth universes that exist like Marvel and DC and the financial reward that they’ve been reaping over the past number of years. One of the reasons that those universes work is that they’ve got a strong, multimedia following that ensures that box office numbers remain high and in the case of Marvel, they do actually try to make good films. This isn’t the market that Universal should be getting into. They had such a strong film earlier this year in Get Out, which in my kind is the type of film that they should invest in. Edgy, political, satirical and original films that people connect with are the key to success, in my opinion. Leave the big, derivative universes to the studios that are deeply entrenched and invested and focus elsewhere, because this movie did not convince me one bit.
The Mummy is a sputtering start to the “Dark Universe” and receives an F (3.8/10).