2 July 2017

Review: The Mummy

(Dir: Alex Kurtzman, 2017)

In this day and age where studios only appear to be interested in acquiring well known intellectual property to turn into the latest franchise cash cow, Universal Studios are sitting on one of the most potentially interesting. Many decades ago it was the studio renowned for the classic monster movie, and although it has dabbled with these over recent years (Dracula Untold, The Wolfman, Brendan Fraser's The Mummy series), it has decided to resurrect these with a new determination. That new determination means we will be seeing a regular stream of films under the newly created 'Dark Universe' banner featuring a number of these well-known characters, which is great news if the quality is there, but they're also angling for the interconnected universe approach that studios seem to believe everyone wants (maybe because the Marvel films are so successful – lest we forget that's mostly because they got the characters right in their first phase they've been fooled into thinking this is what we the audience actually want?). And with The Mummy, the first of these features is unwrapped for us.

The problem with the The Mummy is that it's torn between it's thematic roots as a horror film and the reality that it's played as more of a straight forward mystery/action/adventure. It's lack of firm commitment to any one of these ideals makes it all rather bland. It's not remotely scary, or even threatening, with the over-reliance on cgi creating uninspiring horrorish visuals. The few action scenes are perfunctory but it's the mystery angle that seems ripe for deeper exploration, yet the promise of which is never wholly delivered upon. It's telling that the most interesting moments in the whole film are the flashes back a few thousand years to the genesis of the titular character (Sofia Boutella) in Egypt, but this is all too brief. 

Similarly there's great potential in the secretive monster-fighting organisation Prodigium, headed up by Russell Crowe's 'is he good/bad' polymath character, but it comes off as an awkward setup (presumably) for how the connected universe will start linking together. Perhaps going full bore focusing on them, rather than distracting with Tom Cruise's character Nick Morton, would've made for a more satisfying introduction. There's nothing inherently wrong with the Morton character, with Cruise essentially playing Cruise as a roguish explorer type – something I'm on board with as I like watching him on screen – but he's not always the right fit for this film. Or perhaps that's to say he's not what the film needs, and so it bears the weight of his involvement. The action moments and him running around stopping something catastrophic are his bread and butter now, but he stands out a little too much when the film decides to focus back on its horror roots. At least the fun comments back and forth with Annabelle Wallis' character Jenny Halsey work, adding a touch of humour, particularly as her character is otherwise hardly memorable. It seems both Boutella and Crowe got to have a little more fun with their roles, and that comes across with both feeling like good casting choices.

All of this is to say that The Mummy is a distinctly average film. It offers shallow entertainment for an hour and three quarters and is almost entirely forgettable. If such a generic approach is indicative of what to expect from how The Dark Universe is reviving these monsters then we'll be looking at an utterly wasted opportunity (especially considering the next two that have been announced – Javier Bardem in The Bride of Frankenstein and Johnny Depp in The Invisible Man). But time will tell.

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