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The Mummy (2017)

Say, did you guys know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a lot of money? Like, a lot? Enough to make other production companies turn their heads, lick their lips and start planning ridiculous ideas for their own cash dispensers Cinematic Universes? The only issue is that… well… most of the ideas being flung around are kind of terrible. Seriously, a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe? A Robin Hood Cinematic Universe? And need any of us forget Sony’s ill-advised attempts to create their own Cinematic Universe solely around Spiderman? (I believe this summer’s Sony/Marvel co-production shows how quickly that idea crashed).

But out of all these half-hearted cash grab ideas, there’s one that doesn’t really seem that ridiculous. The Universal Monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc.

After all, Universal Monsters did the cinematic universe idea in the mid-20th century, long before Marvel came along. So it’s no surprise that Universal would try to revise the concept with The Mummy, the first movie in their new ‘Dark Universe’. And, with such a heavy burden resting on said film’s shoulders, you have to imagine that The Mummy must really be something great, right? Something to justify all the hopes and dreams and faith that has been placed upon it?

Well, it’s entertainingly bad, I’ll give it that.

Yes, unfortunately, The Mummy is not a very good movie. In fact it’s actively quite awful. It’s a patchwork of other popular blockbuster franchises, poorly blended together and disrupted by the sort of ham-fisted universe building that makes Iron Man 2 and Batman v Superman look outright subtle. As a blockbuster it’s irritating, as a horror movie it’s laughable and as the foundation for an entire cinematic universe, it’s really not something that will get you anticipating what comes next.

Quite frankly, one of my biggest issues with this movie is that it really doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It starts off as a Transformers movie, with constant explosions and noise and screaming and army stereotypes yelling at each other. Then it makes an attempt at being a horror movie (key word being ‘attempt’) which begins with lazy jump scares and eventually morphs into full-on Army of Darkness level slapstick. (Point of order, if my reaction to your scary zombie horror scene is uproarious laughter, then you may have done something badly wrong.) After that it makes a hard turn into an Avengers movie, albeit an Avengers movie if you took out any of the charm, humour, charisma or competence and replaced it all with boring shared universe exposition. By the time it gets to the unintentionally rapey conclusion (at least I hope it was unintentional), you’ve pretty much lost any ability to care about these people.

Speaking of the cast, Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a ‘lovable’ soldier/thief who discovers the tomb of the titular Mummy Ahmanet and unwittingly unleashes her curse. Creating a sort of ‘lovable scumbag’ character like Han Solo or Starlord is rather a difficult tightrope to walk, as you have to keep a balance between charisma and unlikability. And unfortunately, Cruise’s character pretty much jumps off said tightrope on entirely the wrong side. Regardless of his out-of-universe personal life, I do think Tom Cruise is a very charismatic actor, especially when given chance to properly shine. But his character in this movie is just plain terrible, constantly wavering between bland and annoying. I never really ended up caring about what happened to him.

Princess Ahmanet, on the other hand, played by Sofia Boutelle, is fairly meh as a villain. Not because of any poor performance from Boutelle but more in large part because the movie itself doesn’t really feel that interested in her a lot of the time. Heck, they reveal almost everything about her character, including her backstory, motives and evil plot in a 5 minute prologue at the beginning. Therefore, from almost the very beginning, there’s pretty much zero sense of mystery about her. Nothing about her is a secret and, as a result, there’s almost no tension in the build-up towards her reveal, despite the movie’s attempts to try and provide otherwise.

Speaking of, let’s talk about the direction. Did you know that the film’s director, Alex Kurtzman, was one of the writers for the Transformers movies? Well, this movie will leave you wishing he had Michael Bay’s level of restraint. The film is nothing but constant, exhausting noise, be it explosions, military craft or just the constant background thrum of the score. It never takes a moment to just be quiet or give you a chance to breathe or slow down, as if the movie was frightened that we’d switch off if it didn’t jangle keys in our faces 24/7. That’s a fairly irritating policy for an action movie. For a horror movie, which relies on building tension and atmosphere, it’s downright fatal. Even Michael Bay slowed down once in a while when his movies needed it. As for the action itself, it ranges from unmemorable to unintentionally hilarious.

But enough about the movie. Let’s talk about the cinematic universe building. It’s impossible to miss because the movie grounds to a dead halt when it turns up halfway through the movie. I’m serious, it kills the narrative momentum stone dead. The movie before that, while far from great, at least felt like it had some structure and story. But when Russell Crowe turns up as the head of Prodigem (aka SHIELD with the fingerprints filed off), it feels like a sharp turn into a completely different script and movie, filled with boring exposition and ham-handed ‘teases’ for a wider universe shoved straight into your face. It’s distracting, irritating and subtracts from the movie as a whole.

A good cinematic universe movie should have its worldbuilding in the background, not have it actively hijack the movie. People liked the teases in Iron Man because they were small and unobtrusive and, most importantly of all, we like Tony Stark and wanted to see more of him. In fact, I’d place a large part of Marvel’s success not on their shared universe, but on their strong character building for their protagonists. I could barely remember the name of Tom Cruise’s character, let alone cared to see more of him. And that’s ultimately the big problem here. Universal were so desperate to construct a cinematic universe that they failed to construct an actual proper movie or characters first.

So, in conclusion, is The Mummy worth your time? Not really, no. You can find better action movies, better horror movies and better shared universe movies. The only thing it’s really worth is the occasional unintentionally hilarious action scene, and you can watch that at home. I’m not going to claim it completely kills my interest in the Dark Universe and they could always make a good comeback. (Heck, DC gave us Wonder Woman after three disastrously bad movies.) But it certainly hasn’t helped either.

If you want to see a fantastic shared universe movie with a female star, just go watch Wonder Woman again.

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Rating: 5.8/10 (6 votes cast)
The Mummy (2017), 5.8 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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