Review: The Mummy (2017)

Since every movie franchise now has to be a cinematic universe, Universal decided to dig up up all their old movie monsters and fling them into new, flashier films.

And their most recent dead-on-arrival attempt to revive their shared universe was “The Mummy,” a remake/reboot-but-not-really of previous films about an undead horror rising from the tomb… except they pretty much abandoned any actual material from those movies except “there’s a mummy, and a giant screamy face.” Instead, they present a mass of action cliches without a hint of irony, dressing it up with a “sexy” mummy and a crammed-in starting point for the Dark Universe.

During an airstrike, soldier-of-fortune/looter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) accidentally uncovers an Egyptian tomb buried under a town… in Iraq. Even the movie is aware of how strange that is. They just happen to have an archaeologist (Annabelle Wallis) on hand, who discovers this was the tomb of Ahmonet, an Egyptian princess whose lust for power caused her to sell her soul to Set, murder her family, and be mummified alive for her crimes. Never mind that the process of mummification would kill you.

But things immediately start going wrong — the plane carrying her sarcophagus crashes, Nick temporarily dies, and then he is haunted by visions of a bandaged woman stalking him through the mist. He’s been cursed by her, and she wants to use him as the vessel for Set. And even when Ahmonet is captured by a Super-Sekrit Organization (like S.H.I.E.L.D., but less competent), Nick finds that he may have no hope of escaping her grasp.

“The Mummy” is very much a MOAR action movie. Moar mummies. Moar crashes. Moar fistfights. Moar ‘splosions. Moar attractive women. Moar boogity-boo scares. Moar moar moar. This movie feels almost like a parody of a Hollywood action-horror movie, ticking off all the cliches and never bothering to do anything that we haven’t seen before… but without a sense of humor or self-awareness that everything in its story has been done before.

Instead, we’re pelted with so many cliches that it feels like the studio raided TV Tropes. And as a result, its massive, bombastic nature seems like a storm conjured up to try to hide the fact that the plot is as thin as papyrus — and it’s definitely not scary, or as funny as it thinks it is (haha, Nick is naked!). There are a few spooky moments here and there, mostly when we see Ahmanet scuttling around in her undead state, looking like an arthritic Gollum. But more often we just careen from place to place, following Nick and Boring Blonde as they lurch from one crisis to another, building up zero momentum as they go.

And as if to show the lack of care that went into it, there are also blatant fails at Egyptian mythology (Set as the god of death), ancient Egyptian culture, etymology (Jekyll claims “Satan” is an alternate name for Set) and history (what would the Crusaders have been doing in what is now Iraq? Being horribly lost?).

Tom Cruise is… Tom Cruise. Despite playing a looter, liar and thief, we’re clearly meant to be charmed by his roguish one-liners and occasional moments of not-totally-self-centered-ness. But when you boil him down, there isn’t really anything about the character to like or be interested in, which makes Wallis’ Boring Blonde’s transition from contempt to love seem even more ridiculously artificial. And Russell Crowe plays a woefully unimposing Dr. Jekyll, who predictably transitions into a ludicrously unscary, scenery-chewing Mr. Hyde.

Sofia Boutella does an excellent job with what little material she has; she seems to have been hired mostly because she can scuttle, scamper and bend a lot. Unfortunately, she’s simply not frightening here — her version of a mummy is too wriggly, weak and ALIVE to ever be a properly undead fright. She looks and acts more like a gymnast in a mummy-themed unitard.

“The Mummy” has a few good spots that haven’t been totally dried out, but the withered hulk is just a standard Hollywood blockbuster — lots of sound and fury, signifying that the Dark Universe was dead on arrival.

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