Welcomed to the world under a super-storm of critical ire, The Mummy is most certainly no landmark in cinema but it’s nowhere near as bad as made out to be. It’s a case of the written page being meddled with left, right and centre from all and sundry, thus leaving the final product with no identity. It just has no idea what it wants to be.
Alex Kurtzman sophomore directorial effort which came with a massive leap in budget than what he’s directed previously, The Mummy has a reported $190m price tag before publicity and advertising, and a massive leap in in-front of camera talent. The inclusion of Tom Cruise forever curtailing any chance that this would ever be a direct horror film, The Mummy also boasts Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson and Sofia Boutella.
Tom Cruise is just as much a brand as he is a film maker. When his name appears in a movie, there’s much that comes along with it such as script approval, release date, editing and production sign off. For The Mummy, the distinct advantage Cruise has is that he is a blockbuster film making veteran where pretty much none of the production crew (especially a very green director) have ever worked in that environment. What that also means is Cruise can assert his influence over the production. He’ll get the show in on time, but it’ll be ostensibly on his terms. This is not necessarily a bad thing and for The Mummy it works in the action set pieces. Problems arise in the narrative side of things.
It’s well publicised that The Mummy’s script, which had no less than 6 handlers during its production (Cruise brought in his Mission: Impossible alum Christopher McQuarrie to work on it), was problematic to begin with. With so many writers and their presence on the production varying, it creates a vacuum in the story where character coherence and purpose get thrown out the window just to keep the movie rolling. Therefore the movie has no identity, it doesn’t know what it is supposed to be, it doesn’t know who its characters really are and none of them have any real purpose or consequence in being on screen.
The most succinct way I can put this is as follows: for a film called The Mummy, the actual Mummy (Sofia Boutella) has less screen time than Cruise himself (by about half) yet she’s the whole reason the movie exists. Add to that, the film is cursed with the Marvel Villain brush as The Mummy actually doesn’t have anything to do or pose much of a threat to anyone bar a sand storm in London.
Left in Kurtzman’s hands, the director cannot navigate the balance of light and shade, of action and comedy, of horror and drama. Jokes misfire, action seems disjointed and uneven. But in the husk of a script that has no idea what it wants to be – what can you do?
To its credit, The Mummy is a thrift experience at 110 minutes. It does keep moving and the opening set piece of the tomb and the following plane sequence are pretty impressive.
Left wide open for the next installment in the Dark Universe moniker for Universal Pictures, The Mummy is a stumbling out of the blocks entry. By no means is it utterly unwatchable, it’s lacking emotional resonance or narrative coherence to really leave an impression.
THE MUMMY is in CINEMAS NOW!