Much has been made, in the last few weeks of the marketing, of the fact that The Mummy is the film that’s meant to kick off Universal’s latest attempt at a shared cinematic universe featuring all their classic monsters. On this evidence, it’s a universe that deserves to be left on the scrapheap (as it very nearly was after the dreadful Dracula Untold), as not only is The Mummy a simply terrible film, it’s made far, far worse by its need to set up this ‘new world of gods and monsters’. A flavourless lump of exposition and repetition, it lacks all the charms of the ‘30s originals and the Brendan Fraser-led 1999 Mummy.
Tom Cruise, doing a slightly darker version of his usual Tom Cruise performance, plays Nick Morton, a treasure hunting soldier who explores Iraq in search of valuable antiquities. Stumbling upon an ancient tomb, he and his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) accidentally awaken Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a long-buried Egyptian princess who once made a vaguely explained but mainly nonsensical deal with god of death Set to be evil and powerful. Striking up a strange affinity with the monster, it’s up to Nick to put an end to her plans.
Elsewhere, a shadowy organisation led by Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) of ‘and Hyde’ fame has an equally absurd scheme to rid the world of evil. There is a ridiculous amount of table-setting here, explaining every last detail of this world’s mythology, all the while forgetting to tell a standalone story that works. Almost nothing that happens makes any sense if you think about it for more than three seconds, and it’s amazing that a script this bad came from a team that contains frequent Cruise collaborator and Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie. Then again, six writers are credited on the final product, which goes some way to explain the constant story gaps and wild tonal swings.
Cruise, almost always so reliable, really looks like he doesn’t want to be here, and while Crowe is definitely having fun, his role is too exposition heavy for him to make a real impact. Boutella makes for a striking villain (the Mummy’s design is one of the few highlights), but Annabelle Wallis as the other female character is truly abysmal. It’s a hideous part, to be fair, with half her dialogue just yelling the male characters’ names, but Wallis brings exactly zero emotion or range.
A few set-pieces, like the much-trailed plane crash and an underwater zombie chase, come close to raising the pulse, but any fun is swamped by the sledgehammer exposition. Characters say exactly the same thing over and over again, with constant flashbacks to sequences we’ve already seen, reminiscent of the abhorrently poor editing of last year’s Suicide Squad. The Mummy is a fundamentally stupid movie, that squanders all its campy fun potential in favour of a muddy colour palette, bouts of leaden self-seriousness, and a complete wasting of Cruise and Crowe. Another in a long line of studio films designed to emulate Marvel’s shared universe model without actually realizing why it works, this is very much one to miss.