Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are soldiers of fortune. They scour ancient sites in the Middle East, plundering artefacts and selling them on the black market. During a firefight in a small village in Iraq, Nick and Chris unwittingly stumble upon the burial chamber of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a cursed Egyptian princess who was intentionally written out of the history books by her contemporaries.
They wake up her, because that’s how these things have worked since as far back as Boris Karloff played Imhotep in 1932 (Arnold Vosloo’s incarnation will always have a special place in my heart. “Thebes. City of the Living.”), and she promptly embarks on a murderous spree in the pursuit of absolute power.
At the Melbourne preview screening of Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy that I attended, the film included a preamble by Tom Cruise, welcoming the screening attendees to ‘a new world of gods and monsters’. He was paraphrasing the film’s tagline, which has furbished the posters and trailers in the lead up to this release. But many movie goers may miss that he was also quoting James Whale’s classic Bride of Frankenstein.
That film was the result of a golden age for the production studio Universal, an era that saw the release of films like Dracula, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and of course, The Mummy. For a couple of decades, Universal more or less had a monopoly on every renown on-screen monster.
Are the real gods Hollywood executives? And their monsters the ridiculously and unnecessarily incorporated properties, conceived as franchises before a first film is even a hit? The recent King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is one such monster, although a sequel is unlikely given the lacklustre critical and commercial success that film was met. The upcoming Robin Hood and Jungle Book films are two more examples. It’s a new world of gods and monsters. I’m reminded again of Dr. Ian Malcom’s suggestion in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that the ‘scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.’
Universal’s recent confidence in announcing their “Dark Universe” is curious, considering the state in which they must have known The Mummy was, and is, in. The film is an example of how filmmaking is done in a scenario in which the filmmakers have the budget but not the capacity and understanding that the medium requires. Kurtzman is principally employed as a writer in the Hollywood community and his rawness as a director is pronounced in this film. The Mummy is crammed with shot choices that haven’t been considered and edits with no purpose, the images bouncing from one to the other in such disarray that it’s difficult to imagine Kurtzman bothered to reflect on how they ought to be assembled, which is sort of the whole idea of film.
The Mummy is bad in almost every way a film can be bad but it commits the worst offence a blockbuster can commit, which is that it is boring. In the absence of enjoyment and stimulation, it’s as easy as it is depressing to begin to lament the tremendous sums of money that go into these sort of films. This particular film was made with tremendous sums of money in mind, and perhaps not much else. Filmmaking is a business, and it always has been. But are you going to go and check out Johnny Depp playing The Invisible Man after watching this stinker?
This review has been very negative. Sofia Boutella is quite good as the Mummy.