“This is not a tomb…it’s a prison.”
In the screengrab below, the wholly unlikable douche Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) resigns to a death sentence and pulls the parachute on his disapproving love interest and damsel in distress Jenny (Annabelle Wallis). The scene’s indicative of the movie’s overall tone: chaotically tongue-in-cheek, constantly under duress, impressively big but stubbornly small-minded. Out the careening fuselage she flies, and down he plummets. The choreography and the camerawork and the entire stunt itself is a showstopping and tour de force example in filming anti-gravity, yet even then the weight of this initial entry in Universal’s new Dark Universe can’t bear the load of the future to come. The picture has moments of outrageous and rapturous bliss that are eventually embalmed in a mausoleum of mindlessness. Nearly every action in The Mummy comes from seemingly unplanned impulse.
Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) wants sovereignty at any cost. After her father has a son and the baby boy becomes the new heir to the throne, Ahmanet chooses to murder her entire family and make a deal with the God of Death himself named Set. Her plot is to give Set physical form in the body of her lover, but this is thwarted and she’s mummified alive, her sarcophagus sent far away to be buried deep beneath the Earth’s crust. You can’t have a movie called The Mummy without said character being awakened, which just so happens when Nick, alongside Jenny and his partner in crime Chris (Jake Johnson), casually and recklessly causes the coffin to rise up from its imprisonment.
This peaks the interest of a certain Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), intent on allowing Set to inhabit Nick so that he can rid the universe of Set’s evil. This is where to film goes awry; so many incongruent agendas and awkwardly edited visions in Nick’s head warp the story into a separatist affair instead of taking a more linear approach. Dissecting the narrative might have read well in the script, whereas watching the movie makes these choices feel unnecessary, especially given the CG spectacle in the last third. The Mummy lands the jokes it wants and gives a few genuine thrills, but at what cost to the picture’s tone? It pays a hefty price.
I don’t get any sense of pleasure out of harshly critiquing a film I really wanted to enjoy because movies this big represent months upon months of hard work from those behind and in front of the camera. A more personal interpretation would be like telling a stranger pushing a stroller, “your baby’s so ugly!” You might think it but you never come out and say it. That being said, The Mummy is still just a movie. One that aims and misses for grim and brooding while borrowing action plucked from any number of Tom Cruise vehicles, sprinting and tumbling and flying through the air. If The Mummy had the ability to ask me if I was an organ donor, I’d brazenly shake my head and lie, knowing full well that it’d want to harvest my organs to fill itself. This one’s an empty void.
“I can’t unsee it.”
Rating: 1.5 out of 5