“Chicken soup and a good night’s sleep will not make it go away.”
To start a universe, some may prescribe the services of an old man in a flowing white robe. When you don’t have one of those handy, Tom Cruise isn’t a bad alternative.
This month sees Cruise breathing life into Universal’s Dark Universe – evil’s hottest vacay spot. The first nastie to drop in is Ahmanet, a millennia-old princess who made a pact with the God of Death to secure the Egyptian throne. She obviously hadn’t seen Ghost Rider.
After killing her father and infant brother and attempting to unleash further evil upon the world, she was mummified alive – bandaging but no organ removal. Ahmanet lies undisturbed in an underground tomb for a couple thousand years until Cruise drops by to see what’s what. This isn’t the reckless and brave Cruise whom we have come to love, but a hot-headed Cruise who doesn’t taste so sweet. He releases the mummy from her resting place and gets himself cursed in the process. Easily done – especially when trying to impress a supermodel/archaeologist/former-lover diligently trying to do her job.
This sets up a race to beat the undead meanie before she summons the God of Death to her side – a race that’s importance fails to dawn on Tom until he’s finished confirming his sexual prowess. By that time, the flashbacks he’s having, in which Ahmanet seductively informs him that he’s the one for her, have actually started to unnerve the outrageously-heterosexual army sergeant.
The apple of his eye, Jenny, is obviously set out to be an independent woman with noble aspirations, but she reflects Cruise’s adolescent behaviour for far too brief a period to be taken seriously. She is written simply to infuriate – she is utterly useless in moments of conflict or drama. She plays an old-school damsel in distress for an audience who is surely moving past such archetypes. Whilst in The Force Awakens, Rey actively rallies against Finn grabbing her hand in moments of threat, it really feels like Jenny would die if Tom doesn’t grab hers. Rachel Weiss, she certainly is not.
The film is credited with having three writers and it really shows. It’s as if Christopher McQuarrie wrote it, before two others went to town with the red pen. The dialogue is hammier than a croque monsieur and the combat never threatens to reach the levels of previous McQuarrie/Cruise collaborations. The two have worked on several impressive features together (Edge of Tomorrow, the Jack Reachers) and McQuarrie’s influence can be felt throughout – from Tom’s perfected jolt awake action to the underwater combat – but it is all diluted and ruined by a terrible central relationship and an awful mishmash of ideas.
What surely was, at some stage, a fun monster movie is now just Frankenstein’s Monster, bumbling around from one sexualised scene of a mummified corpse to another of Cruise looking worried before third where something smashes.
Besides the titular baddie and the novel charm of a big budget monster movie, The Mummy is remarkably forgettable, falling through your memory like sand through an hourglass. A universe may have begun here, but it is has made a bumpy start. Universal will just be hoping the supreme novelty of having Brendan Fraser’s golden hour revived will be enough to keep it’s planet turning.
Images courtesy of Universal respectfully.