Opening with a scrawl speaking of Egyptian resurrection rituals and the impermanence of death, The Mummy braced me for disaster early on. Shy of “once upon a time” and “lights, camera, action,” I am very opposed to films beginning with exposition text. What could be so complicated that an audience needs it literally spelled out for them?
When it comes to the newest Tom Cruise action vehicle, The Mummy, the answer is in fact nothing; there isn’t a single moment that one could consider confusing or complex. It is exactly as it seems, and it usually seems incredibly simple.
Simplicity was guaranteed to audiences by a slew of promotional materials that came out ahead of the film’s release. Turning its back on a beloved franchise that it shares a name with, The Mummy faced an uphill battle from the beginning when it came to audience expectations. Already low, opinions only plummeted when trailers began to be released, with an embarrassingly bad version released shortly before the premiere. In a curious way, the trailer is the film’s best ally as much as it is a weakness. My expectations were inverse, and my hopes for an epic return to goofy monster movies were dashed.
Instead of an excruciating slog, The Mummy was in reality far more fun than it is getting credit for. Shy of the grim occasional combat scene where Sofia Boutella’s genuinely eerie mummy shows off a grim display of power, the tone is light, enjoyable, and gloriously hammy.
Cruise, despite his questionable (at best) religious practices, has always been a personal favourite actor for me; reliably charismatic in performance and film purist in approach, he has never disappointed. Known for his ridiculously determined approach to performing his own stunts, no matter how dangerous or easily mimicked by CGI, Cruise is physical and emotive with most actions. Tasked with selling The Mummy, Cruise has a large weight on his shoulders. As the first of a planned “Dark Universe” of continuous monster movies, the film has a lot of projects relying on it to succeed.
Accompanied by the equally likable Annabelle Wallis as Dr. Jennifer Halsey and Russell Crowe’s creepy Dr. Henry Jekyll, Cruise and co. make the most out of their script. While situations veer rapidly towards the absurd and the introduction into the larger potential world of the “Dark Universe” is hamfisted, there are multiple legitimately impressive set-pieces and an overall enjoyable film.
Now for the gripes, warranted and many; the film is tonally deaf, in many cases. Jake Johnson’s Corporal Vail serves as comic relief for much of the film, regardless of how inappropriate a snappy zinger is at the time. In poor taste and poor execution, his lines are ill-fitted to the desiccated corpses they accompany. There are additional standout moments throughout that seem to swerve madly from normalcy to the ill-conceived, ruining a sense of continuity or consistency. The script, as noted, seems as though it was in desperate need of bloating where possible, as lines and scenes are repeated, at times shot-for-shot.
Flawed as a film but enjoyable as a campy experience, The Mummy is far from the best movie out right now. It is not the best monster movie, or even the best movie in the the “Mummy” franchise. It is, however, enjoyable in its own right, and not nearly deserving of the criticism leveled in its direction.
Better than: Alien Covenant
Not As Good As: Wonder Woman — seriously, go see Wonder Woman
You may also like: Edge Of Tomorrow, a much better Tom Cruise action
Featured image: Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis star in The Mummy (2017). Courtesy Universal Pictures.