Do you like Tom Cruise? Are you a fan of watching the 54-year-old actor play lovably arrogant and charming? Do you love watching him run weird and do his own action stunts? Well, you’ll get all of that in Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy,” with an added dose of Cruise looking confused and zoning-out.
Cruise plays Nick Morton, a military operative who also steals treasure and prized artifacts from around the world to sell on the black market. While in Iraq he stumbles upon an ancient tomb belonging to disgraced Egyptian princess Ahmanent (Sofia Boutella). Ahmanent is furious, ready to wreak havoc on the world and plans on using Nick ‘s body to bring Set, the Egyptian god of war, to life. Can Nick and ancient artifact protector Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) stop the vengeful princess? Not if Cruise keeps zoning out and looking confused.
Seriously, about fifty percent of Cruise’s performance is acting bewildered. Ahmanent penetrates Nick’s psyche, manipulating his behavior and freaking him out. Not a bad tactic, by the way. However, after about the fiftieth or sixtieth (only a slight exaggeration) close up of Cruise squinting his eyes in a daze, like he just took a long hit off a joint (as Ahamanent calls to him in a soft, seductive tone) you begin to silently groan from fatigue. We get it he’s under a curse. Perhaps if Cruise had more of a character to play, that we could be come emotionally invested in, I wouldn’t be so hung up on this. Sadly that’s not the case — Nick is the effortless Cruise persona slapped onto a limp piece of cardboard and dipped in a vat of befuddlement.
In fact the film overall often resembles a limp piece of cardboard. It fluctuates between wildly over-the-top monster movie cheese and an excruciatingly dull, muddled action movie. The action itself is mostly underwhelming (a CGI sandstorm enveloping London, a plane crash scene that feels like a reject from a “Mission: Impossible” picture) while the screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman drowns from too much exposition.
From the first frame, when we’re given Ahament’s backstory via bland narration, to the end, when the movie’s themes and flaccid character arcs (Nick learns to be good and selfless instead of conceited!) are bluntly sounded out via bland voice over, every square inch of this movie is explained and explained again. The supporting characters are empty vessels to convey said exposition. Jenny should be a strong co lead but instead she’s reduced to a one note Ancient Egyptian encyclopedia and accessory to Cruise.
On top of that, the film is overstuffed and needlessly convoluted: Ahament is an Egyptian Princess who was buried in Mesopotamia, and the special dagger she needs to kill Nick and in turn summon Set was taken by Crusaders and buried in another ancient tomb under London. Just keep it in Egypt, okay? Making matters worse, the film has to take on the burden of setting up a brand new cinematic universe, which will involve all the classic Universal Studios monsters subtitled: Dark Universe. Yes, you read that right. This means the action comes to a halt midway through where we’re introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe, having a ball) who runs a shadowy organization that specializes in investigating monsters. Needlessly convoluted, a brand new cinematic universe being teased (in the vein of Marvel or DC) and aggressive spoon-feeding--Is that the cinematic equivalent of hell?
Thankfully, the picture never takes itself seriously in the least. It eschews any kind of terror or tension in favor of sheer loopiness. We’re talking about Tom Cruise making out with gross mummies, fighting Crusader mummies under water, Jake Johnson as a snarky zombie communicating with Cruise in his mind and Russell Crowe delivering eloquent but goofy as hell monologues about the nature of evil and unearthing the past. Simply put, it goes ham and this lunacy can be entertaining at times but it never entirely distracts you from the picture’s glaring flaws. Ultimately, silliness and Tom Cruise can’t save this mess of a movie.