Review: The Mummy

While the box office numbers may indicate otherwise, yes, a movie other than Wonder Woman is in theatres…and with The Mummy, the Summer 2017 action fest rolls on.

It’s a story you’re pretty much familiar with even if you’ve never seen the original Universal classic: an ancient evil, a lost love, a modern world not ready to face said ancient evil. But this time around, we get to watch Tom Cruise Mission Impossible his way through the horror for most of the film.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, a soldier (or something, whatever) who moonlights as a black market scavenger. In a nutshell, he’s Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games. And to be honest, it works pretty well. Guided by a mysterious map he acquired and joined by his often unwilling accomplice, Chris Vail (New Girl’s Jake Johnson), Nick arrives at an insurgent-occupied town he believes to be filled with hella treasure. After they buddy cop their way through what’s basically the tutorial level of every Call of Duty game ever, an emergency airstrike reveals the the treasure they were after…but with a major complication.

That mysterious map? Yeah, Nick stole it from the super pissed-off Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), whom he boinked – with less than spectacular results, as she recounts for us – just a few nights prior. Somehow (again, whatever) she tracks Nick through the desert to this small warzone and is super psyched at the chance to slutshame him in front of his commanding officer, Col. Greenway (Courtney B. Vance), who apparently learned how to fight a war by watching Hogan’s Heroes reruns.

So, yeah, now the two protagonists are together on screen. Storytelling!

If you’ve seen the trailers – which were awesome, in my opinion – then you know what happens next (and the entire rest of the movie for that matter). They realize it’s not a tomb, but a prison meant to keep this super duper evil entity under wraps. (GET IT?!)

Before long, we’re on the C-130 Hercules headed back to London (of course) so that the sarcophagus (the mummy box, dumb-dumb) can be studied. Jenny reads the hieroglyphics on the mummy box (better?) and reveals – in suspiciously intricate detail considering it’s just a bunch of tiny drawings – the story of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella)…you know, the ancient evil we were talking about earlier.

Again, if you’ve seen the trailers, you know the rest of the movie. And that’s fine.

Here’s the thing: The Mummy is not going to reinvent modern cinema. I don’t think it’s going to be shown in film schools 50 years from now. That’s cool. It was never meant to be “one of those movies.”

All in all, The Mummy is a fun summer action/adventure/quasi-horror flick. There are some funny moments. The action sequences are engaging. And the jump scares work pretty well, too. In other words, though it wasn’t a great movie, there wasn’t anything glaringly bad about it, either. At least nothing that can’t be forgiven.

Besides, if you’re like me, you don’t care so much about The Mummy as a standalone movie – rather, you want it to be a solid foundation for the much-touted Dark Universe umbrella Universal has opened up… You know, the one led by the maniac who gave us the lessons in fruitless universe-building that were The Amazing Spider-Man movies.

Cool ideas (sorta). But ultimately, all foam and no beer. That’s kinda what’s going on here, too…

The inexplicably portly Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll (yeah, that Dr. Jekyll). On paper, he’s the “Nick Fury” of this “Dark Universe” they’re building. The problem, despite what the opening credits try to tell you with its heavy-handed logo, is that there is no “Dark Universe.” Not to the viewer, anyway. And though we get some cool easter eggs in Dr. Jekyll’s office (where he runs the Dark Universe equivalent of S.H.I.E.L.D.), including one that sorta-kinda links these movies to the beloved Brendan Fraser-verse (but not really?), it’s not enough to build a universe.

My other big problem is that…

**SPOILER ALERT**

The brutally awful Kung-Fu encounter between undead Nick and Mr. Hyde is incredibly forced. It tries to establish, I’m guessing, what will be the main underlying conflict of the forthcoming (if they’re still coming, that is) Dark Universe films: Despite Dr. Jekyll’s best efforts, Mr. Hyde’s “love of chaos” will ultimately empower the evil Jekyll seeks to contain.    

Or maybe not. After the head scratchingly weird ending of The Mummy – wherein Nick is now some sort of cursed Darkman-type cat doomed to wander the sands of Egypt with his undead mummy-buddy, Chris – who knows what’s next.

Again, The Mummy is a lot of fun. It’s a popcorn movie. Truth be told, it’s a lot like Fraser’s Mummy. Critics didn’t like it because it wasn’t the classic. But, though cheesy, it has its own cool identity (and is on cable like all the goddamn time). This Mummy is obviously more modernized, but it’s definitely a kindred spirit.

I’ll leave you with this…

Though everyone is still talking about Wonder Woman (and making horrendous mummy puns – I’M TALKING TO YOU, FAILING NEW YORK TIMES! SAD!), there’s something The Mummy and the Dark Universe at large can learn from it. (And no, not just that pandering to feminists will make you rich.)

Part of the reason Wonder Woman worked so well is that, though a cornerstone of the DCEU, they didn’t force the universe on the movie. So, though we got a very little bit of universe-building in the form of a letter from Bruce Wayne, the movie let Diana stand on her own two feet. They took the time to develop the character and give her the movie she deserved.

The Mummy, on the other hand, took the Batman v. Superman approach and tried to cram everything into one jumping off point. Not the best strategy. But, if Wonder Woman showed us one thing (other than that girls rule and boys drool, AMIRIGHT LADIES?!), it’s that this course can be corrected.

I can’t say for sure what the future holds for The Dark Universe. But while The Mummy may not have been the picture-perfect start they were looking for to this metaphorical race, I’d like to see them at least reach the finish line.

 

 

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