Director Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy,” premiering today, is a prime example of a film that’s doing too much, and yet definitely not enough.
The premise is already extremely hard to believe — a looter of precious ancient goods, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), accidentally awakens a vengeful mummy called Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who then terrorizes the world in order to unleash evil. Normally, the suspension of disbelief would not be an issue — one doesn’t go to a movie like this to be convinced that mummies are ready to spring up from the earth — but the story is so scattered and inconsistent that really its only point of certainty is that the mixing of action, adventure, suspense and fantasy is far too ambitious to deliver.
“The Mummy” — which kicks off Universal’s “Dark Universe” series — borrows bits and pieces of films and scenarios we’ve seen before: it starts with an “Indiana Jones”-esque adventure, then mixes in the sinister “cursed with evil inside your head” theme characteristic of “Harry Potter,” and then, suddenly, a creepy Jekyll and Hyde character comes to join the party. The plot itself only further confuses this strange shifting mood; it’s so poorly explained that even the resolution of the film’s main conflict is met with uncertainty regarding the parameters of the “evil curse.”
The characters themselves were classically archetypal as well: “The Mummy” is simply another action adventure movie that features Tom Cruise pretending like he’s not a hero, even though it’s obvious from the start that he’s a brave, moral person. Perhaps the only pleasantly surprising character was Sgt. Vail (Jake Johnson, of “New Girl” fame), Tom Cruise’s partner in crime. Although his humorously cranky persona seemed a bit out of place at times, he did offer some warm comic relief and brought stability to a movie with a roller coaster of wildly inconsistent moods.
Outside of Vail, the other supporting characters were nothing special, and perhaps only intriguing because they didn’t make any sense. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), for example, is supposed to be a central figure of the movie — someone wise and authoritative, with a somewhat-unhinged dark side — but his presence is weirdly artificial and entirely uncalled for.
Ahmanet, the mummy herself, was shamefully reduced to an oversexualized, angry princess with daddy issues who, yes, develops the ability to unleash complete hell on earth, but still seeks out a man, a “chosen one,” to turn into a god. The only purpose this served was to allow for multiple unnecessary scenes of her naked and steamy, straddling her chosen man’s bare chest, even though it was extremely inconsistent with the rest of her character to not just make herself into a living goddess. This approach completely undermined her power by establishing a reliance on Tom Cruise — who doesn’t even want to be a god in the first place — and then allowed her to be defeated in an utterly lackluster, predictable finale.
Despite the story’s many downfalls, the film did manage to scrounge together a few good moments. While nothing new, it’s still sort of comforting to watch Tom Cruise beat up on a bunch of bad guys and survive insane plane crashes, reminiscent of his “Mission Impossible” stunts. The heightened suspense present in a few scenes, though mostly predictable, was still able to elicit quite a few gasps — and even a few alarmed yelps. You really can’t complain too much about the effects, either — while the visuals are not all entirely believable in the context of the story, they do an incredible job of mimicking the vividness of real life.
So, if you decide to buy into the character’s not-so-dynamic personas, and you don’t think about the plot too much — or maybe not at all — this movie will absolutely entertain you. But if you’re expecting the kind of exciting, heartwarming adventure that Brendan Fraser took us on in the 1999 version of “The Mummy,” you will be left sadly disappointed, and probably a little confused.