The Mummy (2017)

Rating: **
Review Date: 6/10/17
Cast: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe

Universal Studio's desperate attempt to revive their classic monster catalog as a Dark Universe franchise backfires spectacularly. Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) was an Egyptian princess who made a pact with evil and killed her family in order to claim her father's throne. As punishment for her sins, she was cursed and buried alive to suffer for all eternity, until a cocky treasure hunter named Nick (Tom Cruise) discovers her prison a thousand years later and unwittingly frees her from damnation. Nick becomes Ahmanet's chosen vessel to bring the god Set into the human realm, while a secret society led by Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) tries to concoct a plan for dealing with this supernatural turn of events. A confused and ineffective Annabelle Wallis seems to exist only to get in everyone's way.

Despite the astounding visual effects, the film is a cinematic disaster. Much like "Batman V Superman" (2016), it spends way too much time focusing on world building, and not enough on the story at hand. The plot is weak and uninspired, the writing is insulting, and the characters are inexcusably offensive and unlikable. The only character that generates any sympathy is Ahmanet, who also happens to be the ultimate incarnation of evil. While I don't find Sofia Boutella attractive, she's a remarkably expressive actress who moves with intoxicating grace, and her overwhelming intensity and sensuality are extremely captivating. You simply can't take your eyes off of her when she's onscreen. The film seems like a tailor-made Tom Cruise action vehicle more than a supernatural monster movie, and while Cruise hits all the right marks, he's difficult to watch because Nick is such a detestable character. Russell Crowe's role as the head of Prodigium provides the connective tissue for the extended Dark Universe, but it's an absurd throwaway performance. Annabelle Wallis's Jenny is a smart and pretty archeologist with a mysteriously dark agenda, but the sexist and misogynistic tone of the film reduces her to a damsel-in-distress of no significance. She's emotionally flat and has no chemistry with Cruise, which is fine because his character is a total asshole.

The film looks pretty and is well made, apart from some glaringly out of focus shots. The sets are gorgeous, the stuntwork is excellent, and the visual effects are superb. Unfortunately, there's no substance to back up the film's style, and the whole thing comes off as a hollow and pointless exercise in excess. In this regard, it reminded me a lot of "Van Helsing" (2004), which was another attempt to resurrect the classic Universal monsters. The references to other Dark Universe elements are awkwardly forced and blatantly tasteless, like an annoying friend whose favorite pastime is pretentious name-dropping. The film is one big set-up for multiple spin-off projects, and Cruise's character could be replaced by anyone if he's not interested in continuing with the series. As a flagship for the fledgling Dark Universe franchise, "The Mummy" comes across like a bloated corpse - unpleasant and dead on arrival.