Review: THE MUMMY

A basic blockbuster offering measured entertainment, but not enough weirdness

Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy is a mildly entertaining, if unambitious, blockbuster. Almost exclusively buoyed by the persistent and welcome presence of Tom Cruise, the movie finds itself in between a place of being just weird enough to feel engaging and being too inoffensive and competent to be bad. It’s often entertaining, moving between action set pieces, some genuinely scary bits, and healthy doses of comedy, all while never quite congealing into a cohesive package.

(Mild spoilers to follow)

Cruise plays Nick Morton (and sorry friends, that’s his real name), a roguish, thieving soldier who starts the movie only wanting to scavenge artifacts in the Iraqi desert for his own personal ends. It’s actually refreshing to see Cruise playing a cowardly scoundrel, something he does quite well, and he uses the character and his frequent bumbling and general incompetence to great comedic effect. While people have been clamoring for a Nathan Drake Uncharted movie, Cruise and company sort of went and ahead and made one themselves, just one that happened to have a bevy of supernatural elements.

The plot is fairly straight forward: there is a mummified Egyptian princess, full of malice and a desire for power she lost in her own time. She plans to manipulate Cruise into first releasing her and then becoming her earthly sacrifice to the Egyptian God of Death, Set, so that Set can enter his body as a vessel. 1 Complicating matters are the presence of The Prodigium, an organization lead by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe, whose Jekyll seems like a twitchy, cold-hearted madman, barely keeping his demons at bay. The glimpse of Edward Hyde we get is kind of blast) whose mission in the world is to combat the presence of darkness and evil which, according to Jekyll, is constantly battering down the doors of humanity in order to corrupt them.

Along for the ride are Prodigium archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and Army corporal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson). Halsey acquits herself well enough as a put-upon scientist who is surrounded by legitimate numbskulls like Morton and Vail, while not having much of an arc herself beyond attempting to keep everyone else on the straight and narrow. Not only does she have to deal with Vail and Morton trying to steal everything that’s not nailed down in an ancient tomb, but also fends off an angry army commander (a sadly small Courtney B. Vance performance), and an amoral pragmatist in her boss, Henry Jekyll. Meanwhile, Jake Johnson continues the 2017 trend of comedic actors stealing their scenes in movies, particularly once he becomes a Cursed Zombie Ghost and shows up at inopportune times in Nick Morton’s life.

Sofia Boutella, as the titular mummy, aka Princess Ahmanet, is given moments to scream and be evil and wicked, while also having a deep anger and vulnerability in her eyes. When Nick curtly remarks to Ahmanet that she killed her father and baby brother, she dismisses his remarks. “It was a different time”. It certainly was, although it’s doubtful everyone who committed regicide in those days also made a pact with an evil god. Boutella is at her best when she gets to use her remarkable physicality to slink and creep around the the other characters, providing several genuinely shocking and scary moments during the course of the film.

The movie is never full-on scary, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t yelp in surprise several times. In between a few movie-stopping bouts of exposition, there are a good handful of perfectly Cruisian set pieces, ones including running, swimming, driving, and a few instances of dying. The movie also finds more than a few opportunities to be quite funny. Most of those moments come from Cursed Zombie Ghost Jake Johnson, but Cruise himself uses Nick’s selfish attitude and behavior to great comedic effect throughout the picture. There’s a fairly hilarious gag involving Nick being forced to shoot someone, but being so pumped with nerves and adrenaline that he shoots a third, completely unnecessary time, to the chagrin of everyone else present.

There are moments in The Mummy where it genuinely feels like a rollicking adventure, with a scoundrel main character, a put-upon female lead, and an implacable monster. The DNA of Indiana Jones is present, if faintly so, in the movie. But despite the ballistic and intricate stunt work that Cruise always brings to the table, the movie feels too careful to really be the kind of ambitious or dangerous-feeling adventure movie that would elevate it to greater heights. The moments of humor, fright, and action are welcome, but never feel like they congeal in a cohesive experience. Like a casual afternoon movie you mildly enjoyed, but can’t grasp the details of, The Mummy is entertaining enough, but it’s also nothing extraordinary.

  1. I’ll post a big spoiler about this in the comments…the movie gets genuinely nuts near the end.
  • Something

    Look, I’m just in for Tom Cruise as Satan

    • Andrew Clark

      “Come for The Mummy, stay for The Satan.”

  • Greg Ramirez

    Sounds alright to me. I’m game, if only to catch some easter eggs for the other monsters and Jake Johnson ghost.

    “The movie is never full-on scary, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t yelp in surprise several times.”
    I vote that you should become Lewton’s Official Horror Movie Critic.

    • Andrew Clark

      Haha, I am so bad with horror movies! I’m such an easy mark!

  • YayMayorBee

    So it’s a future TNT/TBS mainstay? That’s good enough for me. Not every movie has to reinvent the wheel or be some kind of transcendent genre experience. Simply being competent and entertaining in the moment is sufficient.

    I’m puzzled by one thing though: why is Crowe not Van Helsing? Is it because a traditional monster-hunting character would have been too obvious as the monster hunter here? It’s weird, right?

    • Andrew Clark

      It’s very deliberate that the dichotomy of the world, as he sees it, is reflected in his own self between Jekyll and Hyde as Good vs. Evil. Considering how amoral Jekyll is, though, I’m curious if they explore the idea of shades of grey being far more of a reality than that more stark juxtaposition he espouses.

      • YayMayorBee

        I’m going to go ahead and guess that Hyde will be the villain of the eventual cross-over movie–an evil Incredible Hulk-like monster.

        • Andrew Clark

          Hyde isn’t as a dramatic shift in physicality that we’ve become used to in stuff like LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. It’s closer to the BBC’s JEKYLL series (which is mostly quite good).

          Probably the most clever bit with Hyde is that when he emerges, Cruise tries to use his hand on the fingerprint scanner so he can escape, but Hyde and Jekyll have different fingerprints, so it doesn’t work. Hyde laughs at him “They don’t want me gettin’ out, sweetheart.”

          • YayMayorBee

            That moment is cute, but as for the rest? UGH.

          • I really liked BBC’s Jekyll. Especially the first episode

          • Andrew Clark

            Me too! I recommend it a lot, even if it gets a little…lost, I suppose.

            I’m really interested in this Chris Evans-American version they’re planning.

          • It really weirdly meandered toward the end, didn’t it? James Nesbitt did some amazing work when he’d transform.

          • Andrew Clark

            Definitely meandering, which is surprising given its short amount of episodes. Still a pretty wild last few moments, though.

          • Something

            Okay, I have just been double-sold on the potential of Crowe hamming it out of the park as Jekyll.

  • Alex the DC & Marvel fan

    The premise of evil being a separate entity from humanity really bugs me. Especially after Penny Dreadful, a wildly inconsistent, but also remarkable show that tackled the classic monster universe idea before this movie, conveyed the idea that even with all the horror happening around us, some of the worst demons are inside us.

    • I don’t know the level you mean when you say it “bugs” you, but can I ask you what makes you latch onto that particular idea as so “not right” that it’s your first take-away, instead of just dismissing it as a facet of the fictitious world of the movie?

      I ask because recently I was talking with someone at BMD about Baby Driver, and how they felt the movie was wrong/irresponsible for not portraying criminals as “desperate and mean” people, which made me think of the time there were people legitimately mad at Interstellar for pushing the idea of “abandoning the planet” and considered the film irresponsible for not pushing other alternative methods of dealing with climate change.

      Granted, you might not be in the same category as those two examples, I could just be lumping you in with them, but because I’ve seen this pop up lately, and found the response to be strangely unreasonable, now I’m curious about the thought process.

      I apologize if this is unclear, I’m still forming the issue in my head.

      • Alex the DC & Marvel fan

        Perhaps I’m asking a little too much from a weekend afternoon killer with not very ambitious pretensions. But the premise of monsters fighting with and against each other has enormous possibilities that go beyond the cool factor. Vampires, Frankenstein, ghosts, Jekyll, etc. are rich thematic soil regarding a number of human fears and anxieties, so seeing them used simply as generic one-dimensional CGI villains is a disappointment.

        • So, you’re just saying it from a disappointment in missed story potential, then? Not because the film failed in some moral duty to the audience?

        • Andrew Clark

          The movie deals with this in-so-much that Nick starts out as a selfish prick and learns to, well, be selfless by the end. It’s actually implied that this selflessness is what allows him to have a measure of control over his new body-guest.

          • Alex the DC & Marvel fan

            So basically, a less good Edge of Tomorrow?

          • Andrew Clark

            Kind of!

    • Andrew Clark

      You’re spot on that this movie gets into territory that the remarkable PENNY DREADFUL dealt with a lot better, right down to the Devil looking for a host body on the human plane.

      I don’t hold it against THE MUMMY, though, since I consider PD (despite its faults) to be one of the best shows put on television in the last several years. That’s a tall order to live up to.

      • Alex the DC & Marvel fan

        So basically… a less good Edge of Tomorrow?

  • So, it sounds like Universal’s cart-before-horse approach to its shared universe is probably going to go as well as DC, especially when heavily sanitized with family-friendly bleach. Years from now, they’ll look back and see that Marvel had two clear reasons why it succeeded: Likable characters, and patience.

    • Andrew Clark

      Also, Marvel never got ahead of itself. I’m sure they hoped for success but The Avengers was never a given when they started out. Hell, I’m sure people were second guessing as soon as TIH fell a little flat. But they persevered and here we are!

      • Right? Succeed with the Mummy FIRST. Then succeed with at least one other, preferably two, franchises. THEN start talking about shared universes

        • Greg Ramirez

          Same goes for sequels. King Arthur failed in that regard and Fantastic Beasts, while making a decent amount, wasn’t that good of a film. But they both announced close to half a dozen sequels that probably won’t see production.

          • It used to be that they didn’t have any time for scripts, now they don’t even have time to wait for the franchise to establish itself

          • Greg Ramirez

            I remember when hoping for a sequel was like hoping to win the lottery. Now when any type of action movie comes out, I expect to hear how it’s a the first in a series/shared universe.

  • Andrew Clark

    So this movie ends with Tom Cruise purposefully sacrificing himself to Set so that the god can enter his body and then he can use Set’s powers to defeat Ahmunet and also resurrect Jenny. However, to be clear about something, Dr. Jekyll makes sure to mention that the God Set is actually just the name the Egyptians had for the God of Evil…other religions called it something else. For instance, the Bible calls it Satan.

    So this is a movie that ends with TOM CRUISE BECOMING THE EARTHLY VESSEL FOR SATAN.

  • jeves23

    This sounds like more than enough for me and my wife to check it out, and is about what I was expecting (actually, maybe a bit better).

    • Andrew Clark

      It’s definitely better than expected, and certainly better than I’m seeing a lot of other reviews coming out making it seem.