The primary objective of “The Mummy,” Universal’s latest reboot of its 85-year-old horror property, is to establish an Avengers-style “shared universe” with the other monsters the studio owns. The secondary objective seems to be an experiment: will audiences turn out for a Tom Cruise movie even when he’s woefully miscast and the movie is a mess?
Cruise plays Nick Morton, a cocky, irresponsible Army guy who’s evidently supposed to be about 20 years younger than Cruise is. Nick and his comic-relief buddy, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), are looting antiquities in Iraq when they get in over their heads and call in an airstrike. The crater caused by the airstrike reveals an ancient Egyptian tomb, which was planted there because it contained an evil too great to be buried in Egypt (the ancient Egyptians were NIMBYs).
Against common sense, professionalism, and the advice of an archeologist named Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) — with whom Nick had a one-night stand that he now keeps referencing in a douchy way — Nick disturbs the tomb and awakens Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a cursed Egyptian princess who now imprints on Nick and wants him to become host body for the death-god Set. Jenny’s function in the movie is to scold Nick repeatedly and correctly for his reckless, ignorant behavior; Chris’ job is to yell things like “We’re gonna die!” and “I never should have agreed to this!” Oh, and Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll. Really! I told you Universal was serious about this!
6/9/2017: The Pitch Meeting for ‘The Mummy’ [Crooked Scoreboard]
Well, “serious” in the sense that they really, REALLY want to start a new franchise. Oh, man, they want it so hard. They already have a name (“Dark Universe”) and a logo and everything. But that seriousness of purpose did not extend to the creative side of things, for “The Mummy” is a hasty, tepid effort. The main character is explicitly established as NOT having a good heart beneath his outer selfishness, making him a shallow choice to lead a franchise no matter who played him (though it should have been someone younger and more insouciant, like Jason Sudeikis). Cruise is just flat-out wrong for the role of a cocky, cavalier one-night-stander with no moral compass and a streak of anti-intellectualism. (When Nick talks about the “writing on the box” and Jenny says it’s actually “hieroglyphics” and “sarcophagus,” Nick sputters objections like an “I don’t need no book-learnin'” Fox News commentator.)
First-time big-budget director Alex Kurtzman delivers a few entertaining action sequences in Cruise’s wheelhouse, including a breathless zero-gravity airplane plummet and some fights with crumbly corpse warriors. So Cruise gets to play his hits — you get the feeling he had a wishlist — but the film is glib, charmless, written-by-committee piffle with no character. Better stake this idea in the heart (or whatever you do to mummies) before it gets too far.
C- (1 hr., 50 min.; )