Monday, June 12, 2017

Monster Mash Mess: The Mummy

The Good: Some funny lines, Decent special effects
The Bad: Lousy character development, Predictable plot arc, No truly memorable performances, Ridiculous issues with suspension of disbelief
The Basics: Even if the preview trailers hadn't spoiled most of it, The Mummy was legitimately terrible.

One of the worst aspects of the last few Summer Blockbuster Seasons is that the preview trailers for some of the biggest films have been so revealing that the viewer has essentially seen the film by sitting through the preview before another movie. When I sat down to The Mummy, there was very little that I felt I had not already seen in the movie. Sadly, it did not take long for that idea to be borne out. The only major aspects of The Mummy not ruined by the preview trailer was the inclusion of actor Jake Johnson in the role of Tom Cruise's sidekick and the identity and obvious complications that result from Russell Crowe playing Dr. Jekyll.

Unfortunately, neither revelation truly makes The Mummy better or even worth watching. Jake Johnson plays the rogue Chris Vail and the initial fun of seeing him in The Mummy wears off quickly. In addition to his character being the first major casualty of the film, given the opportunity, Johnson plays to his strengths with a sarcastic delivery that is entirely familiar to those who enjoy his character on New Girl. Sadly, despite playing a zombie for the bulk of the film, Johnson shows off no real new skills or acting range in the movie.

Crowe's role as Dr. Jekyll opens up a disturbing failure in the suspension of disbelief. While The Mummy asks viewers to accept a number of supernatural elements, the protagonist Jenny Halsey is a scientifically literate character who is ethically-guided and smart. As she dominates much of the first third of The Mummy before Jekyll and his organization are introduced, she instantly lends credibility to the shadowy organization that is engaged in studying and stopping supernatural creatures on Earth. The problem, however, comes in when Dr. Jekyll is introduced and his alter-ego, Hyde, surfaces and is recognized as a separate entity by the computer system. It absolutely stymies believability that a powerful organization with an immense financial backing and no accountability would be led by someone suffering from such a dangerous, unstable, and predictably destructive condition as Dr. Jekyll.

In ancient times, a woman kills her husband before she is entombed herself. In modern Iraq, Nick Morton and Chris Vail are using their military intelligence connections to gain access to antiquities to steal. On the hunt for treasure, Nick sleeps with Jenny Halsey to get a map from her. After stealing her map, Nick and Chris end up in a combat zone where they inadvertently discover a tomb. Exploring the tomb with Halsey, the scientist recognizes that the ancient location - in addition to being about a thousand miles out of place - is designed to keep in something, as opposed to keep the dead buried. Nick, however, is determined and he convinces Colonel Greenway to exhume the sarcophagus. On the plane with the sarcophagus, Chris falls asleep and becomes possessed, attempting to cut loose the sarcophagus. Between the gunplay in the cargo hold and a swarm of crows, the plane goes down with only Halsey surviving.

Despite dying in the plane crash, Nick wakes up in a morgue in England. Halsey is shocked that he appears to have survived, while Nick is unsettled by seeing Chris various places. The two head in the direction of the plane's wreckage, though Nick seems to be psychically linked with the occupant of the sarcophagus and brings them to her current resting place. What follows is a long chase wherein Ahmanet, the mummy who was in the sarcophagus and is now resurrected, kills and takes control of people, hunts Nick and Jenny and is then captured by Halsey's organization. While Dr. Jekyll wants to put Ahmanet down permanently, his mechanism for doing so means that Nick, too, must die.

The Mummy is not a particularly compelling film as the emotional investment the viewers might have in the characters on screen is entirely lacking. Nick is not inherently interesting, in fact, he seems very much like a half-baked version of Indiana Jones without the charisma of Harrison Ford (doesn't Indiana Jones sleep with a woman to steal her map, too?). Halsey is generically presented as both the dupe (she slept with Nick, though as he points out, they hadn't intended to have a relationship) and a scientist. Halsey, however, is not credibly written as she does not seem particularly smart or resourceful. Despite beginning The Mummy with a sense of authority, Halsey spends much of The Mummy being dragged along like a traditional damsel in distress.

Dr. Jekyll is included in The Mummy as a ridiculous conceit. The idea of the organization that Jekyll runs is an attempt to build a franchise - his laboratory has a vampire skull, the arm of what appears to be the Creature From The Black Lagoon, etc. - but his character is a poor choice for running the organization. Add to that, The Mummy pops the cork early on Dr. Jekyll by revealing Hyde right away, leaving no real surprise for future films in the same shared universe.

Sofia Boutella is fine as Ahmanet, exhibiting no real traces of the character she played in Star Trek Beyond (reviewed here!), but the role is not a particularly complex one. Similarly, Tom Cruise has done the "action hero" thing so much that there is not truly anything left for him to mine in the genre. Cruise's role of Nick Morton adds nothing to his portfolio; he shows us nothing we have not seen from him before many, many, many times. In fact, it was not long into The Mummy that I started thinking, "No wonder all Cruise was talking about in the week The Mummy came out was the sequel to Top Gun!" Cruise is given some objectively funny lines to deliver, but he is upstaged on the humor front by Jake Johnson and his jokes tend to fall flat.

Ultimately, The Mummy is an action-horror movie without any real spark. Viewers can save their time and money by simply watching the preview trailer; there is not much substance to the film beyond that, just long sequences of more of the same and ridiculous conceits that fail to land.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Alien: Covenant
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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