ReelBob: ‘The Mummy’ ★ out of ★★★★
By Bob Bloom
If “The Mummy” is any indication, then the lights should be turned off immediately on Universal Pictures’ “Dark Universe” series.
For years, Universal has been trying — unsuccessfully — to reboot its classic monsters franchise of the 1930s and ’40s.
The studio is trying again with “The Mummy.”
This movie is the first in a series in which all future reincarnations will be grouped under the banner of “Dark Universe.”
Basically, this new world of gods and monsters will fall under the aegis of Prodigium, an organization that tracks and studies monsters in the world. Think of it as a S.H.I.E.L.D. against menacing creatures.
Universal has tried before to bring its monsters back to life. Movies such as “Van Helsing,” “Dracula Untold” and “The Wolf Man” were critical and commercial flops for Universal.
My take on why the studio’s various attempts have failed is clear: Universal has forgotten what made these classic creature features popular — simplicity.
Take the original “The Mummy” from 1932 with Boris Karloff. His Im-Ho-Tep is accidentally brought back to life through an ancient spell. All he wants to do is find the reincarnation of his lost love and reunite with her.
He has a few, basic supernatural powers, and the plot is confined to various locales in Egypt.
At the end, another ancient spell leads to his destruction.
What the classic monster series had in common — for the most part — was a bond — an underlining empathy — with its audiences. Karloff’s Creature in “Frankenstein” sought acceptance and his mummy pursued a connection to his past; Lon Chaney Jr’s Wolf Man yearned for death to break his curse; Kharis in the 1940s reboots of the “Mummy” series, went from film to film seeking his princess.
Even Henry Hull in the inferior “Werewolf of London” was a victim, battling time to cultivate a rare flower that would keep him from transforming.
In “The Mummy’s” newest incarnation, Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet is evil for evil’s sake. She is a bitter, spoiled brat who, in ancient Egypt, murdered her family so she could rule.
Ahmanet wanted more and embraced the darkness of the Set, the god of death. She was thwarted, entombed and buried alive in a secret place in Mesopotamia —known today as Iraq.
Arriving on the scene is archaeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), and the three of them, along with the mummy, are airborne for England.
En route, the plane crashes, Ahmanet is set free and all hell breaks loose.
This “The Mummy” is a disjointed mess. It lacks horror and suspense. It is very generic and formulaic, as if written by rote, with a fill-in-the-monster-blank antagonist.
It’s obvious that Cruise was cast simply for marquee value, as he really is more of a human prop than a protagonist.
Admittedly, you do get your money’s worth from him. Cruise’s Morton survives a plane crash, car crash, several beatings and much physical abuse — but bounces back with his hair still in place.
His character is so bland and stereotypical that it seems anyone could have played the part. Substitute Chris Pine, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling — hell, any good-looking leading man — and you would not have noticed the difference.
Wallis is rather ordinary, too. But Russell Crowe, as Dr. Henry Jekyll, head of Prodigium, adds some spark, though it is strange that a man who had to shoot himself hourly with a secret formula to keep him from altering to the evil Edward Hyde, would be put in charge of such a vast organization.
“The Mummy’s” special effects are routine, the 3-D work is below par, and the entire effort feels like a very long trailer for future “Dark Universe” efforts.
The series — if it continues — has nowhere to go but up. My guess is that “The Mummy” will do well at the box office its first weekend, then be re-interred in the cinematic crypt that it so richly deserves.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
1 star out of 4
(PG-13), disturbing images and violent action, language, partial nudity, suggestive content