Director: Alex Kurtzman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Russell Crowe
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: June 9
Tom Cruise is our last great movie star.
The case is there to be made that he’s also a terrifically underrated actor, but you understand why such an argument, and indeed, his general presence, is rather divisive. Some people cannot separate the art from the artist and where Cruise is concerned, there are many who see his megawatt grin and recoil. Those who appreciate his familiar, relentless charm look forward to seeing what adventure he’ll sprint through next, but nothing lasts forever and The Mummy may well be remembered as the vehicle in which Cruise finally lost control.
Positioned as the real headline act over the titular villain, his presence is as cynical as the workmanlike blockbuster he’s propping up. The Mummy represents the first in Universal’s attempt to create the ‘Dark Universe’ – a crosscutting collective of famed movie monsters of yore in the form of The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Invisible Man et al. Though we’ve had recent possible candidates in The Wolfman and Dracula Untold, it appears that Benicio del Toro and Luke Evans haven’t been invited to play in this calculated attempt to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
So it’s another universe-building two-hour trailer, hooray! To be fair to The Mummy, it at least has a self-contained narrative, but that’s the least you should expect when you part with your money, so it’s alarming that it’s a plus point. As noted, Cruise really has no business being here other than to hopefully generate profits. Bizarrely miscast as a military expert of some sort who is also an Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter, he rolls the same dice as previously seen in the likes of Jerry Maguire and Edge of Tomorrow, where he’s introduced as a cocky dickhead who will then get torn down and has to rebuild. In and of itself, that’s fine as that’s arguably the best, most relatable Tom Cruise cinematic experience and he’s really very good with that arc, but his Nick Morton here is as generic and listless as the name suggests.
Alongside Jake Johnson (irritating) and Annabelle Wallis (boring), he sets the plot in motion, unleashing the antagonist and acquiring a curse in the process. Said hex requires the resurrected Mummy to chase him across the ends of the earth like a scorned obsessive ex-girlfriend. Throw in Cruise’s palpable lack of chemistry with Wallis, a woman 22 years his junior, and it all starts to feel a touch awkward in 2017. As the eponymous evil, Sofia Boutella is superb, building on scene-stealing work in the risible Kingsman: The Secret Service and the enjoyable Star Trek Beyond to deliver a tremendous physical performance that mostly overcomes the limitations of the script. She’s a star, and The Mummy is lucky to have her.
Elsewhere, Russell Crowe has fun hamming it up as Dr. Henry Jekyll in what is clearly this world’s answer to Nick Fury. Though he’s mostly a softly spoken exposition machine, his flirtation with Jekyll’s troubled alter ego allows for a stab at what it might have been like if Crowe wound up playing Alex DeLarge in a different era. Sounds ridiculous, and it is, but at least it’s fun. The tone in The Mummy is all over the map, particularly its tribute to An American Werewolf in London, which might have worked if the dialogue didn’t feel like a first draft.
As seems to be the increasing grim norm with these things, it’s a case of too many cooks with their attention focused on the future and not the immediate, essential point of satisfying the audience. This is the part where, as with King Arthur: Born On The Streets, I’d wish them luck next time around, but let’s not kid ourselves.