This review contains some very minor spoilers for “The Mummy.”
Kicking off Universal’s Dark Universe movies is “The Mummy” remake no one asked for. The film fares better than expected (which is still a pretty low bar) and it tries to have its own flair and be indicative of the time period in which it exists. It also tries to setup the world of monsters for the movies that will follow in its footsteps. However, besides having some great action, “The Mummy” lacks anything resembling good characters, pulls a double standard regarding treatment of male vs. female monsters that becomes the nail in the coffin for a film that isn’t necessarily atrocious, but is completely forgettable and far from good.
Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a master thief who steals ancient artifacts for profit. After stealing from Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), he and his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) find themselves in northern Iraq, in the middle of a war torn village (because of course the only portrayal of Arabs in the film is as terrorists or a one-dimensional villain). It’s there they discover a tomb for an ancient Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). She’s been erased from history after having struck a deal with the god of death and later killing her father after it was clear she would no longer be the heir to the throne. A few curses later and Nick and Jenny, in typical fashion, must stop Ahmanet. But things become complicated when Nick stumbles upon an ancient society whose purpose is to stop monsters.
The biggest problem is that there’s little imagination behind “The Mummy.” Not only is it a run-of-the-mill adventure, but it’s one sorely lacking in drive, wit, and charm. It’s becoming exhausting to watch soulless action movies that don’t carry the weight they’d like to pretend they do. It’s also very hard to sit through a film called “The Mummy” and not think about the 1999 film starring Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser, which had style, charm, and great characters. The struggle with the updated movie is that they’ve completely sidelined and stripped the female characters of any sense of self besides being plot vehicles.
This isn’t to say that the male characters are actually any better, but just because there’s a female villain doesn’t give the film a pass regarding their treatment. Here’s why: there’s a clear double standard with how the society of monster hunters treat Ahmanet, Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, and later, another male monster (spoilers). They chain Ahmanet up in a way that looks submissive while Dr. Jekyll gets to meander around headquarters in charge of everything despite the fact that he can turn into Mr. Hyde at any moment. Later, when another male monster enters the fray, arguably far more dangerous than Ahmanet, everyone just lets him go. Finally, the image of Nick holding Ahmanet down and forcefully kissing her until she stops struggling and the life is sucked out of her looks too much like a sexual assault scene. Annabelle Wallis isn’t necessarily treated any better, relegated to the sidelines without much of a voice. The film’s shoddy attempts at romance fail miserably and the selling point of the ending is believing that Wallis and Cruise’s characters truly care about each other, but that’s a lost cause and it falls incredibly flat.
“The Mummy” isn’t the most terrible film you’ll see all year, but it’s not good either. A week after having seen it, you’ll forget it existed and even worse, it’s not worthy of its title. No matter your opinion on 1999’s version, it at least had some grace and moved effortlessly through its plot. This updated version is mostly boring and even Tom Cruise’s heroics are mediocre at best. Overall, the film feels empty, devoid of any real urgency, intensity, and lacking in any likable characters. The action is the best part, but it isn’t enough to hold the crumbling pieces of the film together.
Overall, "The Mummy" feels empty, devoid of any real urgency, intensity, and lacking in any likable characters. The action is the best part, but it isn't enough to hold the crumbling pieces of the film together.