Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2017. Universal Pictures, Dark Universe, Dentsu, Perfect World Pictures (Beijing), Sean Daniel Company, Secret Hideout. Screen story by Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet, Screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman. Cinematography by Ben Seresin. Produced by Sarah Bradshaw, Sean Daniel, Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan. Music by Brian Tyler. Production Design by Jon Hutman, Dominic Watkins. Costume Design by Hayley Carreira, Andrew Hunt. Film Editing by Gina Hirsch, Paul Hirsch, Andrew Mondshein.
The reboot that no one needed, this adventure film is never scary and is not particularly smart, but it’s easy enough to sit through. A miscast Tom Cruise and a wonderfully charming Jake Johnson are roguish army men and relic hunters who find an Egyptian burial site in modern day Iraq (and all the complications that that entails) and, along with a rival archaeologist (and spurned woman, that old trope, played by Annabelle Wallis) explore its contents. In taking home the giant sarcophagus they discover soaking in centuries of mercury, they awaken a centuries-old mummy (Sofia Boutella) who was buried alive after her plan to merge her body with the spirit of the underworld god Set was thwarted by priests in ancient Egypt. Now she is awake and has her sights trained on Cruise as the human sacrifice that will help her achieve her goals, initiating an adventure that will take the crew to London where they will search for a magically-empowered jeweled dagger buried by Crusade Knights. A few fun sequences don’t make up for the lack of chemistry between the stars and a whole mess of a plot that never comes together thanks to too many shifts in tone (sometimes it’s a genuine attempt at horror and others it’s self aware in its silliness). The whole thing feels like it was made by too many focus group meetings (the mummies feed the zombie craze, the success of Mad Max means using more women but in this case not really giving them much personality), but said meetings ignored the one most crucial bit of information: The Mummy and monsters from the Universal vault are not much of a craze these days, and this movie is well out of step with the times. It’s made in an age when superhero films capture the public’s imagination because they allow the viewer to live an adventure while also being morally superior (what person who spreads their insistent comments on a Facebook post doesn’t love the idea of being able to fly or control the weather?), not in the Depression when audiences couldn’t travel abroad and had no problem believing that there were higher powers out there that they could do absolutely nothing to protect themselves against. This one’s more like the plots of the lesser sequels that Boris Karloff did later in the forties than the 1931 original or the Brendan Fraser remake in 1999, but even those had a sense of their own B-ness and didn’t indulge in such stupidity as the Russell Crowe side plot here (which is hinting at franchise that really should not happen) and the self-important ending (ditto). Forgiving such flaws, however, still leaves us with a film whose star is far too mature and self-consciously well put together to be believable as a rascal, which saps a great deal of adventurous feeling right from the start.