The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Mummy

The Mummy is the perfect movie if you love mindless big-budget special effects extravaganzas but absolutely hate having fun. This may go down as one of the most notorious major studio flops of modern times. It deserves to. The picture contains neither the novelty of the 1932 Boris Karloff original, nor the Indiana Jones-y fun of the 1999 Brendan Fraser version. It doesn't even have the laughs of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Nothing about the film works. Nothing.

A prologue explains the story of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella of Star Trek Beyond), an ancient princess who believed she was screwed out of her birthright, and therefore embraced pure evil. Ahmanet was mummified to prevent her from carrying out any more nasty deeds. Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, an Army sergeant who enjoys pilfering valuable antiques from the Iraqi locations where he and his pal Vail (Jake Johnson) are stationed. In so doing, he unleashes Ahmanet and therefore must stop her, with the help of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis).

The biggest problem with The Mummy can be found in the two words that fill up the screen immediately following the Universal Pictures logo: Dark Universe. This is the debut film in the studio's planned attempt to create a “shared universe,” similar to what Marvel has done onscreen with its superheroes. The Dark Universe will feature modern updates of classic Universal monsters, with characters living in the same world and appearing in one another's stories. The Mummy gets that off to a rocky start. It fundamentally feels like a piece of corporate product rather than a creative endeavor. You can sense it checking off the boxes of what it wants the shared universe to contain, right down to the Oh, please! moment when the presumed central figure from a future installment is pointlessly revealed.

Because the movie's basic interest seems to be establishing a template, you end up with a colossal mess. The requisite big star is here, but Cruise seems too old to play Nick Morton. He could have nailed the cocky, lustful character in his twenties – and did, in films like Cocktail, Top Gun and The Color of Money – but in his fifties, he inadvertently makes Nick seem kind of pathetic. None of the other players are interesting either. That's a problem, because if you're making a movie called The Mummy and the mummy is boring, you are up a very particular creek without a paddle.

The story, meanwhile, is all “business.” Even if you didn't know about the shared universe idea, you'd suspect something was up. Everything about the screenplay feels disconcertingly prefabricated. It's somehow overstuffed and underdeveloped at the same time. There are no twists that take you by surprise, no moments of ingenuity, no scenes that evoke any emotion other than boredom. What Ahmanet's purpose is remains unclear throughout. She seems to enjoy blowing sand around. How that translates into anything bigger is a question the film largely ignores.

Visually, The Mummy is dark and ugly. If you see it in 3D, the images are even worse. Nothing in the movie appears to have been designed to take advantage of the format. All of it is one big eye strain. I can't imagine things looking any better in 2D, because the design is simply ugly at its core level. Director Alex Kurtzman stages the action scenes with a complete lack of style, making the drab visuals seem that much more prominent.

The Mummy could – and should – have been an enjoyable horror thrill ride. The title alone promises that. Instead, the film delivers horror that isn't scary, and a ride that isn't thrilling. It tries to be everything a big summer movie is supposed to be and fails across the board.

( out of four)

The Mummy is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

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