Well, the good news is that The Mummy is not a remake of the 1999 Stephen Sommers film starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz (itself a remake of the 1932 film by Karl Freund starring Boris Karloff).
The bad news is, well, everything else. Where the 1999 film was self-serious and knowingly preposterous in equal measure, with a clear understanding of the experience it offered to audiences, there is no central idea at work in Alex Kurtzman’s Tom Cruise vehicle, so much so that the titular mummy is essentially a side plot in her own movie.
PG-13, 110 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, Violet Crown Cinema
The story centers around the discovery of a tomb containing the body of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess whose place as heir to her father’s kingdom was disrupted by the birth of a son. In anger, she turned to dark magic and killed those who stood in her way, including her own family. As punishment, she was mummified alive in Mesopotamia, far away from Egypt. Flash forward to the modern day: Soldiers-cum- treasure hunters Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) have abandoned post to explore a location they believe contains immense riches. When a simple in-and-out operation leads to gunfire, Chris calls in an air strike, which alerts their superiors to their position while opening the long-buried tomb of Ahmanet, who then curses Nick and Chris while seeking to complete the dark ritual she began thousands of years ago.
They are so eager to get this franchise off the ground that Ahmanet ends up with an extended cameo in a movie where she is the main villain.
That’s what sets the plot in motion, but strangely, the bulk of the film is centered on the institute started by Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) who seeks to discover evil, and contain, analyze and destroy it. Yes, this is the same Jekyll who turns into the monstrous Hyde, and one of the best scenes in The Mummy is based on that fact. It’s so much fun, in fact, that it ought to have been its own movie, because when Kurtzman finally brings things back to the main plot, it ends up being a disappointment. They are so eager to get this franchise off the ground that Ahmanet ends up with an extended cameo in a movie where she is the main villain.
This brings us to Cruise as Nick, a man with no personality or motivation, whose sole characteristic is that he is played by Tom Cruise. He is ostensibly an adventure seeker, a fact that is dropped after the first scene. His role in the military is unclear in that he’s free to run around Iraq with nothing but a slap on the wrist, his appeal to Ahmanet is based on nothing, and for most of the movie he’s reduced to having the backstory explained to him, like a glorified version of the priest in Amadeus. This is not a person worth following around on adventures, particularly ones that don’t make much sense themselves.
The idea is that The Mummy is going to launch the Dark Universe franchise, Universal’s shared universe (please rebrand this so we can all stop typing “universe” so often). Dracula, the Wolfman and the Invisible Man will all be in each other’s films as they were so many decades ago. The thing everyone seems to be forgetting about this new glut of shared universes is that Marvel kicked things off with a good movie, Iron Man, which people would have enjoyed and remembered even if the Marvel Cinematic Universe had fallen flat on its face. There’s no secret to a successful shared universe. It’s not some magical combination of bankable movie stars with underexploited franchises. It’s good movies, pure and simple.
Playing this week
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
Alien: Covenant, Baywatch, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Everything, Everything, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, It Comes at Night, My Cousin Rachel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Wonder Woman
Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000
A Quiet Passion, Black Butler: Book of the Atlantic, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Churchill, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, It Comes at Night, Megan Leavey, My Cousin Rachel, The Wizard of Oz, Wonder Woman