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The Mummy •1/2

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: June 9, 2017

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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Scott, I’m all wrapped up in this new Tom Cruise film.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, you sound all wound up. I’d switch to de-coffin-ated coffee if I were you. Let’s recap.


We’re introduced to two travellers on horseback in the sandy dunes of Iraq. Government contractor Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) encourages his sidekick friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) to ride into the town below and steal some religious artifacts to sell on the black market. Vail is dubious, especially considering that the town is overrun with Iraqi insurgents. They race into the town and are immediately surrounded by gunfire. Vail calls in an airstrike that scares away the militants. But it also reveals a giant Egyptian tomb buried under the town.


Morton’s recent love interest, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) is an archeologist on the scene. She’s excited to discover the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) along with the sarcophagus. It is priceless.  Morton makes the mistake of making eye contact with the sarcophagus, as it causes a curse to be passed from Ahmanet to Morton. The sarcophagus is transported out of Iraq by plane but the curse of Ahmanet leads to the evil possession of Vail and causes the plane to crash, killing Morton. Or so we think.

 


Scott, The Mummy is the first in a potential series of films in the Dark Universe franchise from Universal Films. It’s an attempt by Universal to cash in on the latest trend of extended universes as seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe. Universal is tying together such classics as The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, and others. This incarnation of The Mummy is an origin story for the Tom Cruise character to become the main character on a quest to seek out and destroy evil monsters who live amongst us.


Exactly, Greg. Only Universal’s plans are a universal failure. This movie simply doesn’t work, and the reasons for the failure are numerous. We just reviewed Wonder Woman, which falls roughly in the same genre making it impossible not to compare the two films. WW told a good story and didn’t rely on the CGI effects to be the main attraction.The Mummy, on the other hand, is solely about placing Tom Cruise in scary situations and then watching zombies, rats, or birds wreak havoc on him. There are numerous chase scenes that we simply don’t need to see. The story felt flat and lifeless to me.

Other problems abound. Morton’s sidekick Vail becomes possessed and goes on a stabbing spree on a plane, bringing it down and killing many people. Yet afterward this still-possessed sidekick regains his normal personality and kids around with Morton as if nothing had happened. We also have an unfortunate regression to the days when women constantly needed to be rescued by men. We witness Morton save Jenny’s life over and over again, which causes her to fall in love with him (insert gag reaction here). I was left completely disappointed by the film’s end.


I agree, this was a complete waste of celluloid – if only it were on film. There were so many problems with this film. At the core the biggest problem is that we don’t know what anyone wants in this film. Morton saves Jenny, wakes up cursed, and he doesn’t want to do anything about it. He doesn’t want to cure himself. He doesn’t want to find the mummy. He doesn’t seem to want or need to get back to his job. WIthout a main goal for each character, the story is pointless. And so it meanders – as you point out – from chase scene to chase scene.

Another problem with this story is Morton’s relationship with Jenny. In the end of the story Morton gives his life to save Jenny. But the filmmakers never establish a strong relationship between the two. We know they had a one night stand, but otherwise, there is no strong feelings between them. So his sacrifice is an empty one.


Well, I suspect the filmmakers were hoping to create a believable love story, the kind where two attractive people start out on shaky ground and then bond through adversity. We talk about romantic duos in our latest book Reel Heroes & Villains. So our two heroes are destined to undergo an emotional transformation, with each helping the other grow. Jenny helps Morton become a better person and see the value of things beyond monetary profit. In turn, Morton’s good deeds win Jenny’s heart. I found neither of these transformations to be authentic or believable. They are based on insulting gender stereotypes from yesteryear.


As a hero Morton comes up short. He’s not very honest or courageous. He does occasionally do something good – like saving Jenny. But overall, he’s not someone we think of as a model citizen. He’s selfish and self-serving. In the end he gives up his life to save Jenny. As you point out, it’s not a believable transformation.

There are other transformations, however. We see the goddess Ahmanet going from a high priestess, to a murderer, to a mummy and ultimately dispatched into nothingness. We see Vail go from a headstrong (albeit reluctant) profiteer, to a ghost, back to living sidekick to Morton. None of these transformations are particularly interesting as The Mummy isn’t really about characters and their transformations, it’s about creating ghastly images. And frankly, I’ve seen better quality scary stuff on HBO and Starz this year. The Mummy is pretty dull.


Enough said. The Mummy is a film that disappoints on many levels. At the center of this disheveled story is poor Tom Cruise being pulverized by various objects and creatures. His reputation as an actor takes the biggest hit, however. If this movie’s goal was to kickstart Universal Films’ new franchise of monster movies, well, I’m sorry to report that the franchise is off to a bad start. The Mummy earns only 1 Reel out of 5.

Our two heroes’ love story never rings true, with Jenny being a damsel in constant distress and Norton saving her repeatedly despite having the moral center of a sea-slug. Yes, there is a hero’s journey here but it is “forced” and anachronistic. As mentioned earlier, I also had a problem with Norton’s sidekick Vail who one moment is a possessed killer and the next moment is a wisecracking buddy. The hero rating here is 2 Heroes out of 5.

The emotional transformations of Norton and Vail never ring true, and in fact they are irrelevant in a movie whose main goal is to incessantly throw bats, ravens, and zombies at our two heroes. A rating of 2 transformational Deltas out of 5 seems about right to me.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:


That’s a nice “wrap” up Scott. The Mummy is a dull, uninteresting monster thriller that deserves only 2 Reels out of 5 for its lackluster story. The hero’s journey is likewise dull and forced. I give Morton just 2 Heroes out of 5. And while there are several transformations in this story, I can only muster 2 Deltas out of 5. It seems Universal is off to a slow start in its new franchise. If The Mummy is any indication, Dark Universe will also be dank and disappointing. Let’s hope things get better.

Movie: Transformations: Heroes:

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