To this day I have never seen the Boris Karloff original The Mummy. My only experience with The Mummy is, as I’m it is with many these days, with the Brendan Fraser trilogy of films. To quickly summarise my feelings on that series, The Mummy is a film I adore, despite its many, many stupid moments and a questionable script. The Mummy Returns is a huge guilty pleasure for me, it’s not good not at all, but I still find it to be a very fun film. As for Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, while it’s not devoid of fun I do think that it’s just bad, and truth be told I can’t really remember it very well. But one thing I always thought about them was that none of these films really required a remake. But we got one anyway, because Hollywood has brought us yet another cinematic universe! They must really like money, mustn’t they.
So, the plot to this new The Mummy film is…you know, I can’t be bothered. The writers here didn’t try with this plot, so why should I. Basically mix the story of The Mummy, with Egyptian undead brought back to life and looking for a human sacrifice to bring their love to life, with that of Iron Man 2, just a series of Easter-eggs, references and characters to set up this new universe, and you have your story. Tom Cruise is in the middle of all of this and must take on a now female mummy to save the world. All the while we have our secret organisation for the film teasing the return of Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dr Jekyll to the big screen.
I’m not going to hide this fact. I did not like this film. At all! This is because of how cynical this whole thing feels. Despite what you may think, I’m not entirely against a connected universe between the Universal Monsters. Simply because there already is one, back when Karloff was Frankenstein’s monster and Lugosi was Dracula. But this new Dark Universe is going at it all wrong, to the point where all they have accomplished is an advertisement for whatever they are going to make next. And, as such this just means that the story is a complete and utter failure; in pacing, tone and just general story telling it’s a complete failure. Adding onto that, that this film makes one minor change (with its villain being a woman) and keeps everything else as pretty much the same film we have seen before. The plot and motivations of characters are just copy and pasted from the Fraser film, while given a more modern setting.
And everything that is otherwise different to The Mummy we’ve seen in other films. Our hero has the humorous ghost of his friend following him and giving bad advice, just like in An American Werewolf in London. The villain is a black-haired woman who was killed for doing unspeakable things, and then kills those who are connected to her vessel to the mortal world by draining their life. That sounds a lot like The Ring to me. Tom Cruise is doing stunts I swear I’ve seen in his Mission Impossible series. And there is even a scene that reminded me of Avengers Assemble half way through. It’s just so blatant.
I could have forgiven it if the characters were interesting, but they weren’t. A big part of that is with the focus being forced mainly on Tom Cruise. I do understand that, he is the main character and is played by a high-calibre actor. But it does make everyone else suffer for it. That’s not to say that the acting is bad. I actually have nothing bad to say about the acting, it’s not great but everyone does a good job. Cruise may be on cruise-control, but he does an okay job as the action hero. I’ve never been a fan of Tom Cruise, and to this day he has never really won me over, but credit where credit is due. Annabelle Wallis does a decent job as the lead woman. Even if her character is one of the worst female characters I have seen since Bella in Twilight. Never does she do anything for herself, and is constantly relying on others to save her. It’s just embarrassing to watch. A lot of characters in this film do suffer from the same problem, only being there for the hero to rescue them. But her having the most screen time made it more noticeable for her.
It is Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella who are the saving graces of this film. Crowe plays the mild-mannered Dr Jekyll and the volatile Mr Hyde. Whenever he was on screen, particularly when donning the Cockney accent as Hyde, the film came to life and actually resembled entertainment. I was almost sad when he was gone towards the end. Boutella on the other hand is The Mummy herself. Not only is the make-up great on her but she is actually really good as the mummy. She was clearly enjoying the role and brought so much energy to it, making for an entertaining villain. Although, while Boutella herself is nicer to look at than Arnold Vosloo, I did find the design to be pretty lacking. I don’t know, maybe I’m being sentimental but I prefer the rotting corpse followed by a costume I could believe belonged to ancient Egypt than a woman in rags and covered by tattoos.
As for the horror and action that was promised…it’s not there. The film is not scary in the least, even when it does try. The action scenes are surprisingly practical based and with clearly hard-worked choreography, so I should like it right? Nope. Because every action scene, and every practical set-piece is shot so horribly that I couldn’t enjoy these scenes for what they are. The film might have been poorly written, but so were the Frazer ones. It was the directing of those films that made them fun and alive and just gorgeous to look at (when the effects weren’t beyond horrible). This film has no sense of style to it. It’s as corporate looking as they come. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was just the producers who made this film. It’s just a dull, grey and ugly mess to look at.
Maybe I’m just a bit bitter because the last five films I saw at the cinema have just felt like been-there-done-that deals. If you like those Brendan Fraser films, or even that Scorpion King film with Dwayne Johnson, then I can almost guarantee that you will hate this film. It’s also depressing that we have now got five cinematic universes, and yet only the MCU and arguably that Godzilla/King Kong one have been worth their salt. The irony to me for this Dark Universe is that Dracula Untold would have been the better start. And anyone who has seen Dracula Untold knows that isn’t a complement. In the end all The Mummy was, was nearly two hours of build-up and no pay off. I would say don’t waste your money on it, but were you really going to see it anyway?
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