Tom Cruise is the king of summer movies. Just look at “Risky Business,” “Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder,” “Far & Away,” “The Firm,” “Minority Report,” “Collateral, “War of the Worlds,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Mission Impossible 1-5” if you don’t believe me. His image as an action hero movie star has overshadowed what a great, risk-taking actor he can be. I’ve been a lifelong fan and had movie posters for “Born on the Fourth of July” and “A Few Good Men” in my bedroom throughout my teen years. It gives me no joy to report that this is, the new Cruise-starring remake of “The Mummy” is shockingly bad.
Cruise and Jake Johnson play an unlikable pair of opportunists who uncover an Egyptian tomb after blasting away at enemy soldiers in Iraq (yes, this is set in modern day and shoe horns the Middle Eastern conflict into the story. It gets worse). Once the mummified, supernatural Ahmanet (played by Sophia Boutella, very good under the circumstances) reawakens, she places a curse on our “heroes” and sucks the life out of victims by kissing them to death. Also, Dr. Henry Jekyll (played by Russell Crowe) has a secret fortress full of monsters he’s collecting, dissecting and resurrecting. At one point, Cruise actually tells the Mummy that he’s just not that into her, literally.
Behold, the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, the screenwriter responsible for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Cowboys and Aliens” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Imagine a “Transformers” movie without any Transformers but all the hammy acting, terrible dialog, indifferent ‘splosions, hollow CGI and nonsensical plotting intact. Kurtzman’s rushed action sequences whisk by and barely register.
The opening scenes are extremely clumsy, as flashbacks are narrated by Crowe and shown repeatedly, as though the filmmakers feared we couldn’t keep up. Key bits from “An American Werewolf in London,” “Life Force,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Unbreakable” are stolen and badly duplicated.
Here is Universal Studios’ highly publicized bid at franchise building, their so-called “Dark Universe.” The only universe this seems to take place in is one where Cruise’ career took a horrible wrong turn. Imagine if Cruise had skipped making “Rain Man” and took over for Steve Guttenberg as the star of the “Police Academy” sequels. That is the Tom Cruise of this movie, tossing out awful one-liners, literally throwing himself into an unending train of fight scenes and coming off as alarmingly foolish. Cruise is always game but here, he comes across like one of those musicians on the Titanic who kept playing as the ship sank. You admire his total professionalism but wonder, what the hell are you doing here? The last time I saw a mega-movie star in such an amusingly ill-chosen project, it featured Matt Damon sporting Fabio hair and battling giant lizard monsters. This is by far the lousiest movie Cruise has ever been in (and yes, I’ve seen “Cocktail”).
Far worse is Crowe, in an overly self satisfied turn. Crowe’s Hyde isn’t terrifying, nor is anything else in this scare-free horror film. Johnston apparently studied at the Charlie Day School of Annoying Sidekicks and gives arguably the most grating performance. The credits reveal three editors and six screenwriters, a tell tale sign of too many cooks setting the kitchen aflame. Meanwhile, Brian Tyler’s snooze-inducing score mutes the impact of the big set pieces.
The one great scene is an elaborate plane crash, with its Zero-G acrobatics and the sight of a terrified Cruise plummeting to the ground (a sharp contrast from his jet dangle in the most recent “Mission: Impossible”).
Among the dozens of countless unintentionally funny scenes, my favorite is a chase where Cruise out-swims an army of the undead, who pursue him underwater. I’d like to suggest that the filmmakers knew how funny much of this is but the intentional comedy bits are cringe worthy.
Yes, the Brendan Fraser 1999-2008 trilogy of the same name are all better Mummy movies, but so is “The Monster Squad.” In fact, the troubled but enjoyable Benicio Del Toro starring “The Wolf Man” from 2010 is also far superior example of what this movie should have been.
The attempt at making “The Mummy” a sequel factory movie seems as unlikely as last summer’s botch of a “Ghostbusters” remake. The best thing about this is that it’d make a hilarious double feature with “The Great Wall.” Cruise and Damon need to fire their agents.
–originally published in Maui Time Weekly