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Review: The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy (2017)

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman

Premise: A fortune hunter (Tom Cruise) and an archeologist (Annabelle Wallis) discover the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella). They accidentally awaken the princess and she begins a reign of terror.

What Works: The Mummy has two good casting choices. The first is Sophia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet, the titular mummy. Boutella has a fierce screen presence and she can be both frightening and seductive. There is also a hint of pathos appeal in her character, especially in sequences in which she has been captured and restrained. The Mummy also features Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, the classic character from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Crowe plays the part well and he adds energy and a little bit of camp appeal to the film, especially when he inevitably transforms into Mr. Hyde. This version of The Mummy exists to launch Universal’s Dark Universe franchise, which is intended to include other classic characters such as Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, and Dracula. The subplot involving Dr. Jekyll is much more interesting than the rest of the picture and it is a promising way of approaching this material and bringing the characters together. For fans of the classic Universal monster movies, The Mummy features numerous references to those pictures as well as allusions to the 1999 Mummy film and it does that in a way that is fun rather than obnoxious.

What Doesn’t: The Mummy is besieged by many problems but its most fundamental flaw is that it’s unclear what kind of movie its creators were trying to make. The film is split between being an action film and a horror flick. These different filmmaking genres are largely incompatible; the horror film and the action movie have a conflicting regard for violence and they present fundamentally different worldviews. The tension between the horror and action genres is always evident in The Mummy and it doesn’t do either of them very well. The film presents action scenes but they don’t possess the excitement or the heroism that audiences look for in that kind of movie. The Mummy fails as a horror picture because it isn’t scary. It does not give itself over to the visceral terror. The horror is always kept at arm’s length. It also lacks a scary atmosphere. Some of that is due to the action elements; horror is scary because of stillness and anticipation but the conventions of action filmmaking spoil that every time with The Mummy’s frantic editing style. The film also incorporates the outsized set pieces and the exaggerated stunts of a superhero film, all of which keep The Mummy from achieving the intimacy required for scares. The Mummy also fails as a horror picture because of technical incompetence. The filmmakers confuse moodiness with murkiness and a lot of The Mummy is shot in a dark grey color scheme that makes everything incomprehensible. Adding to the discordant tone is the miscasting of Tom Cruise. The actor has played basically the same character in all of his action movies of the past decade and Cruise’s action hero shtick is determinately mismatched with the rest of this movie. Cruise’s movie star presence also overshadows the title character of The Mummy. Sophia Boutella is largely wasted and the filmmakers squander a provocative backstory. Adding to the confusion is the inconsistent plot. 2017’s The Mummy was directed and co-written by Alex Kurtzman, whose filmmaking career has primarily been as a screenwriter on movies like Transformers and the reboot of Star Trek. As might be expected from Kurtzman’s other work, the story of The Mummy is scattershot. The film establishes certain supernatural rules and then abandons those rules in its confusing mess of a climax.

Bottom Line: The Mummy is so thoroughly compromised that it fails in virtually every way. It’s not exciting and it’s not scary. There are some promising elements in the background of this film but they aren’t assembled in a way that makes any sort of narrative or dramatic sense.

Episode: #652 (June 18, 2017)