The Mummy (2017)
★ / ★★★★
In an attempt to establish roots of a potential franchise, those in charge of “The Mummy,” directed by Alex Kurtzman, neglected to create a picture that stands strong on its own first and foremost. What results, for the most part, is an underwritten near-disaster, devoid of entertainment value beyond marginally impressive special and visual effects. Mere CGI should not satiate anybody. Take a look at Stephen Sommers’ 1999 interpretation of “The Mummy.” At the time, it boasts striking use of computer graphic imagery but at the same time effort is put into its characters and storytelling. Sommers’ picture is entertaining in all ways that Kurtzman’s film is not.
I would even go as far as to say that the leads are miscast entirely. Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis play a former military officer turned treasure hunter who sells stolen artifacts on the Black Market and an archeologist working for a man named Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), respectively. While Cruise excels, as expected, during the more kinetic action pieces, notice a significant lack of magnetism and effusive energy when his character, Nick Morton, is required to make a romantic connection with his co-star. Wallis, on the other hand, might as well have been played by a plank with one facial expression drawn on it because she is deathly one-note. Whether it be discovering the find of the century or running away from ghouls, Wallis fails to emote as a regular person would in such situations. We fail to identify with these characters.
The attempts at humor are misguided and misplaced. Perhaps this is due to the the lack of ability to balance conflicting tones. Instead, it relies on a person yelling constantly during action sequences (I found Jake Johnson as the motormouth sidekick to be especially annoying) and employing awkward pauses after punchlines are supposedly delivered. But in order for something to be even mildly amusing, there must be convincing energy behind its efforts. Here, it comes across as though the would-be comical situations and so-called jokes have been plastered on as opposed to something that might occur naturally in this universe.
While the picture has an eye for how an action scene should unfold, dialogues that come before and after are mind-numbingly dull, one-dimensional, almost soporific. We are supposed to be watching characters who have travelled all over the world, who are educated, who have met all sorts of people, experienced or at least have been exposed to different lifestyles. And yet notice how they speak, exchange, and challenge ideas. It were as if they’ve never left the vanilla town they were born and raised in.
Perhaps the most important crime this “Mummy” commits is not showcasing exotic locales. Because Sommers’ films “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” are retroactively beloved, especially the former, people are likely to come in to this picture expecting to see deserts, camels, pyramids, outdoor markets, people from faraway lands, cultures entirely different compared to their own. Instead, the majority of the film takes place either at night, indoors, or underground. It has this dark studio look about it—as if it’s something to boast about. There is really little to no fun to be had here. Notice how I didn’t even provide a synopsis of the plot because it’s entirely trivial.