It’s rather puzzling what Tom Cruise saw in this project. Frankly, it’s just as confusing what the powers that be at Universal saw in casting Cruise to lead this start to their Dark Universe. “The Mummy” is an anonymous and bland misfire that misuses Cruise and barely qualifies as a Mummy flick. The film is too concerned with setting up their interconnected monster movie universe, and while it gets where it needs to be at the end, the trip there is rough. Cruise does his best, but CGI negates his effectiveness. Instead of letting him cheat death via stunts, they strand him in a computer generated world that’s honestly just not interesting at all.
“The Mummy” wastes opportunity after opportunity. Director and co-writer Alex Kurtzman, making an inauspicious debut behind the camera, seems to have no idea what he wants this movie to be. Is it a horror film? Is it an action tale? A summer blockbuster? A straight up adventure? Sometimes, it wants to be all of the above, yet never tries to do anything to bring those elements out. Giving Cruise something supernatural to run from seemed like a great idea. If nothing else, Cruise always entertains when saving the day, right? How wrong those assumptions turned out to be. This is a complete and utter mess from start to finish.
The problems start with the often nonsensical plot. We’re told about an ancient princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), one who’s hunger for power drove her to evil. Then, we’re introduced to military man Nick Morton (Cruise), who, along with partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), have a side hustle of selling valuables on the black market. Having stolen a tip about buried treasure from Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), they duck insurgents in Iraq looking for a score. They inadvertently find it, though never consider why an Egyptian crypt was placed all the way in Mesopotamia. Halsey catches up to Morton and the three of them open up the tomb. Bad idea. Not only has Ahmanet been awakened, she’s somehow chosen Morton as her human concubine, one who will help give her the power to rule the world.
From there, things just become generic summer blockbuster stuff. Morton, cursed with a connection to Ahmanet, has to fend her advances off while trying to save the world. A connection to a larger supernatural universe is made when Halsey’s boss is revealed to be Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), a man with a secret of his own…one named Edward Hyde. If this all sounds like it could have been made fun, rest assured that it’s disappointingly generic.
Tom Cruise does what he can, but for the first time, a film swallows him up. Even in other CGI heavy flicks like “Edge of Tomorrow,” he rises above the effects. Here, that’s not the case. His attempts are levity are fine, but his action hero moments never feel earned. Again, it’s the effects taking away all of his star power. It’s not even that he’s miscast, just that he’s not needed. It’s a shame to see. You really find yourself wishing that Cruise had seen the light and passed on this one. Hopefully whatever project Universal green lit for him as payment for signing on was worth it.
Aside from Cruise, the cast is just unforgivably wasted. Sofia Boutella fares the best, but even she is given so little to do as the villain. Aside from the novelty of a female Mummy, not much is there. Jake Johnson is treated so poorly by the script, you have to wonder why he even bothered to sign on. Annabelle Wallis ends up just being a damsel in distress, which the film didn’t even need. As for Russell Crowe, he’s still a work in progress as Jekyll and Hyde. Had this been just a cameo, that might have whetted the appetite. However, his extended appearance just overstuffs an already misguided picture. Also on hand are Parker Sawyers (blink and you’ll miss him) and Courtney B. Vance, among others, but they’re ignored just like everyone else.
Alex Kurtzman makes his directorial debut here and gives no indication that he should continue as a director. To be fair, the script he co-wrote with David Koepp, Dylan Kussman, Jenny Lumet, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jon Spaihts is a mess. Too many cooks definitively spoil the broth. Still, nothing about his filmmaking style suggests anything that sets him apart. He doesn’t support his star, the visuals are muddled, torpedoing whatever vision cinematographer Ben Seresin had, and the score from Brian Tyler is forgettable. Kurtzman took far too much from his time with the “Transformers” franchise and translated it here. It’s a shame too, as this idea had a ton of potential.
All in all, “The Mummy” gets where it wants to get by the time the picture is over with, but it does it inelegantly and with minimal thought for what the audience might want. There’s potential still for this universe, which continues next with “Bride of Frankenstein,” and even for Cruise to go forward into an inevitable monster movie team up down the line. This just wasn’t the ideal start. Maybe hindsight will help this one, but it seems for all the world just like bungled execution. “The Mummy” doesn’t work and traps Cruise in a coffin he can’t escape from.
“The Mummy” is distributed by Universal Pictures and opens in theaters on June 9.