I’m here to talk to you about the Monster’s Initiative…
Yeah I already did that joke, but considering this film ripped everything else off from every single damn cinematic universe out there, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Yes people we have yet another studio that wants to create it’s own series of spin-offs vaguely connected to each other, and much like that Guy Ritchie King Arthur joint, it falls flat on its face. I’m harping on the fact Universal plans to make a slew of movies out of classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame (two of those aren’t even “monsters”) with this reboot of The Mummy serving as the Man of Steel or Iron Man-esque jumping off point for a series of films. Unfortunately, the filmmakers allowed the business side to dictate the artistic side of a film and it leads to some baffling decisions that make me resent this film far more than it should have.
Our protagonist is Tom Cruise as…the Tom Cruise character he plays in the majority of his filmography, a fast-talking coward who has to learn to be selfless for one minute to save the world and get the girl. Cruise plays a…mercenary? Soldier? White boy jackass hanging out in the Middle East? The film isn’t entirely clear but let’s just call him a grave robber that stumbles upon an ancient Egyptian tomb in modern day Iraq and accidentally awakens the mummified Ahmanet, a princess who sold her soul to the God of Death in exchange for power but got buried alive 5000 years ago before she went upon her world tour. Anywho, clumsy Cruise gets cursed with invincibility (I think the filmmakers are a little behind the curve as to what “cursed” means) because Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella from Star Trek Beyond) sees this 54-year-old man that looks like he’s in his thirties as the ideal vessel for the God of Death himself, Set (no not Scottish one). The only people who can help him are a token blond girl who I can’t be arsed to remember her name (played by Annabelle Wallis) and Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), members of an elite organization dedicated to fighting monsters called
S.H.E.I.L.D., I mean Monarch, I mean Task Force X, I mean…oh fuck it, let me look it up…Prodigium? Seriously?!
Oh Christ, this movie’s a damn mess. Okay, let me first start off with what I liked before I take a shovel to the knee caps of this film. Because this film isn’t bad per se, it’s just intensely frustrating given that the first half is entertaining enough. It wasn’t sucking me in completely because I was given half-baked stock characters I didn’t give a shit about, but the locales and action scenes were filmed pretty well to hold my interest. But as I’m sitting wondering about positives I’m left going back to a couple of decent stunts and nothing much else because this script has a massive tone problem.
Now, people think that when someone critiques wavering tone in a film, they think these critics are boring as they want something static for the entire run time. That’s not my critique, hell I think it’s perfectly fine to mix and match tones if it serves a purpose for the filmmakers whether it’d be to subvert expectations (like The Evil Dead films), lull you into a false sense of security, giving audiences a brief moment of respite from an otherwise heavy proceeding, or to make some grand revelation about character motivation. My problem with The Mummy is that it has no ulterior motive besides to give the filmmakers a new yacht and so it’s four different tones serve no freaking purpose besides to highlight massive incompetence. You swing wildly between swashbuckling action, jump scare horror, gallows humor, and self-serious pondering about the nature of good and evil for the two hour run time, and each shift occurs with the grace and subtlety of a Hummer navigating a narrow corridor line with fine China. One or two of these kinds of tonal moods can work well with each other if you have a decent storyteller at the helm. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when you have SIX different screenwriters writing dialogue and guiding the plot.
It’d be one thing that I could chalk up this “too many cooks in the mentality” affecting the story so I wouldn’t be bothered by everything else, but sadly it seemed to affect the writing of characters as well. Like I said, Tom Cruise isn’t playing a character here, he’s just Tom Cruise doing his shtick. To this ageless vampire’s credit, he’s quite good at playing this character, so he’s able to inject plenty of charisma into a role that is bereft of any personality whatsoever. If Cruise wasn’t the protagonist, I’d be far more pissed off than I am about this movie because I would have been bored to tears hanging around a bunch of useless cardboard cutouts who have no discernible goals, interests, fears or anything else you need to develop a personality. Hell, Cruise has a sidekick in the beginning played by Jake Johnson that pops in every now and again to remind Cruise that he exists and nothing further.
The “love interest” (and best put those quotation marks in flashing neon) is something of a holdover from the 90s-age of cinema in which every action movie and their dog needed a forced romance that served no purpose but to give the big, strong hero a literal trophy wife as a reward for saving the world. But there’s a reason we’ve mercifully dropped that aspect from most action films these days, it’s distracting, sexist, and overall just useless. So imagine my lack of surprise to find one such useless love interest in Annabelle Wallis. Now, I do not fault this woman’s acting at all because this movie gave her absolutely nothing to do than serve as a damsel in distress for Cruise and to expunge exposition at the audience. However, a big glaring fault this film has is that several major developments in the latter of the film depend on the fact Cruise and Wallis’ characters care about each other, and they have as much chemistry as well, the other couple who are as intimate as dog shit on toast. I didn’t buy any of these events because I didn’t believe for one second these two would even give each other the time, so when the big climax occurs I felt it was completely fake and uninteresting.
It also didn’t help that this love interest was supposed to serve as some kind of “rival” to our main antagonist in Ahmanet. See, I think making The Mummy a woman would have been an interesting subversion of antagonist stereotypes…if the filmmakers did anything interesting at all. As it stands, she appears to have only been a woman so she can suck the life out of guys by making out with them to death (could chalk it up something akin to vampires targeting necks, but it just looks kind of silly and wrong) and to try to seduce our protagonist into “giving in” to her plan. Yeah about that…if you’re going to do a temptation kind of tale, you need to actually have the protagonist grapple with making that choice. Otherwise it’s just boring and you don’t care what choice your hero makes. We’re only told that Cruise will be offered eternal life and power, but he rejects it solely because the method to get everything he’s offered would hurt a little bit. That’s not a moral dilemma, that’s wondering if you should study for tomorrow’s final exam or go drinking with your friends so you can flirt with that guy you’ve been macking on.
But crucially, nothing of what I’ve talked about was of any importance to the director, Alex Kurtzman (a scumbag 9/11 truther responsible for Star Trek Into Darkness, Transformers 2, and the awful Amazing Spider-Man films), because he wanted to make his very own Marvel universe since Disney wouldn’t take his calls. Enter Dr. Jekyll into the mix as Kurtzman’s very own Nick Fury. Now, the idea of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde working with a team of monsters sounds like an amazing idea, because it was ALREADY done with Alan Moore’s pretty solid League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (no not that piece of shit film adaptation). However, Jekyll and Hyde’s introduction into this film gave me flashbacks of that pointless Wolverine scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, it was only shoved in there to feature this character in order to set up a future sequel and it could be taken out of the movie completely with no effect to the plot or story. Mercifully, Rusell Crowe is here to ham it the fuck up and he practically saved this film from a worse rating because of how silly and ridiculous it was. And I call his performance weird in the most loving way imaginable, because he actually fucking had a damn personality I could latch on to, however brief his appearance was.
I walked out of this movie not hating it, because I did think the first half was…not good, just passable. Average. Run of the mill. Because it’s just generic fodder, the way these late YA adaptations became at the end of the genre’s lifetime. It barely has anything unique to stand on its own two feet besides utilizing classic monsters, and as I have pointed out, there are far better sources to get your kick out of this idea with a more well thought out story. But the cinematic universe ideas are so poorly hamfisted into this movie, that my opinion of the film has plummeted dramatically in the days since I’ve seen it. Writing out my thoughts has made me turn against it in all the nastiest ways.
What sealed this movie’s fate was when I recalled my Tarzan review from last year, a film that wasn’t the worst thing I saw in 2016 but I slapped with a dismal rating because of how cynically it was designed to set up a franchise. And I had way more problems with this new Mummy then I did with that film. Honestly, skip watching this and just watch those first two Brendan Fraser films because they got what The Mummy was supposed to be, a pulpy action spectacle that could use a few horror elements to serve as a unique threat against charming heroes. Really, that’s all I needed and this new Mummy failed to give me anything new to enjoy. This is…
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT