The Wheel and Axle

I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Cruise

by on Jun.13, 2017, under Film & TV

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I don’t always agree with film critics. I like what I like. I loved Batman v Superman and quite enjoyed Suicide Squad despite a number of bad reviews, and conversely I was in sync with the majority of critics when it came to Wonder Woman, The Dark Knight, and Logan being awesome.

Now, after the ultra-failed Fantastic Four reboot, comes another time that I agree with critics when it comes to a terrible movie. This time, the offender is a new version of The Mummy. It is not really a reboot or remake of the Brendan Fraser trilogy that I loved, though producers hint it’s within the same universe. The new movie stars Tom Cruise and is set in the modern times; it has none of the charm and sense of wondrous adventure of the Fraser films nor does it have the chilling horror of the original Karloff film.

The problem with the film is that it focuses way too much on building the cinematic universe (“Dark Universe”) that Universal Studios wants for its classic monster properties. Yes, the studio wants to try and get in on the shared universe franchise craze that DC, Marvel, Fox (X-Men), and Sony (Spider-Man) have going for them. Universal has a lot in their back catalogue, including the Mummy, Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and more; as a fan of these monsters, I am actually excited tor what they have planned.

However, kicking it off with The Mummy, they failed in that rather than have an organic introduction of their universe, it was shoehorned in. Now, having Russel Crowe’s Dr. Jeckyll basically be the Nick Fury of this universe is actually a genius idea (as I initially thought the character would be a Van Helsing, which in hindsight would be too overused and predictable). However, the execution is just forced and takes away from the film. The result is a disjointed story that is a lot of noise but without depth and with a thin plot that brings in very limited character development, if any. What a waste of Russell Crowe.

Moreover, this felt more like a Tom Cruise vehicle rather than an actual mummy movie. The director practically confirms this when, being defensive over the overwhelming negative reviews, he admitted that his goal was to deconstruct Tom Cruise movies. He seems to think this is a good thing, but it is not. Instead of focusing on, I don’t know, the goddamn mummy, the director wanted to deconstruct Tom Cruise tropes. He should have done that elsewhere instead of co-opting the Universal Monsters, which are a goldmine of fantasy and horror stories in and of themselves.

What makes it worse is how much unlikeable Tom Cruise’s character is, so it kind of defeats the purpose of making it a deconstructed Tom Cruise movie. And it is not the “adorable jerk” kind of unlikeability that some protagonists have in adventure movies. The character Nick – whose name I keep on forgetting unless I google it, that’s how irrelevant the lead is – is just completely unlikeable and someone you can’t really root for. And it’s even more jarring given that they constantly tout through the film that he’s somehow the “Chosen.” I actually wanted the life-sucking evil mummy princess to win.

She finally gets to kiss Tom Cruise, and somehow it’s all about him yet again. Seriously, based on the premise of the curse, she could have chosen anyone else to fulfill her goal the moment Tom Cruise resisted, but no, for some reason, she becomes one-track minded and keeps on chasing Tom Cruise. Perhaps if this were 1988. However, it’s 2017, and Tom Cruise with an overabundance of botox is just not attractive; he looks so unreal that I had a greater uncanny valley feeling with him than I did with the talking furniture in Beauty and the Beast.

The “romance” between Tom Cruise and the human leading lady is also chemistry-free and completely unearned. There is no organic reason why things changed through the film, and the character of whatsername could’ve been a badass and strong woman (as she was being developed in the beginning) but instead became your typical damsel in distress whose fate you couldn’t really care about. Nothing in that ending between them rang true.

The only good thing in the movie, other than Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail (woefully underused and would’ve been a way better focus for humor), is the mummy herself, played by Sofia Boutella. I’ve been a fan of Sofia since her assassin role in Kingsmanand I realized she used to be Madonna backup dancer in the mid-2000s. She also shone in last year’s Star Trek Beyond. She is perfectly suited this time around to portray Ahmanet because she truly has the badass woman going for her. The unfortunate thing is that what she was given is too thin to begin with, and she is relegated to a mere plot device in her own movie in order prop up and hail! Saint Tom Cruise. That said, she did fantastic with the crap that she was given and thus made the film still somewhat watchable. Just by a smidge.

I am still looking forward to the rest of Dark Universe. Bride of Frankenstein is up next for a 2019 release, with Javier Bardem rumored to be in the film (if he’s the bride, well, deconstruction indeed), potentially followed with an Invisible Man project rumored to star Johnny Depp. The Creature of the Black Lagoon is also said to be among the first wave. Why Dracula and the Wolfman aren’t priorities – if they aren’t – would be a mystery for me. What I hope is that these films focus more on horror than action-adventure, as these are intrinsically horror properties and making them Mission Impossible just doesn’t fit.

The franchise needs to spectacularly rebound from this misguided start with The Mummy if they want to succeed. They need to do a major course correction. Hopefully, they do – and that they do it soon. Because if that ending is any indication, we’ll get to see more of this Tom Cruise, and so far, that is just not a very good idea.

My Rating: 4 out of 10 Stars

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, and Russell Crowe. Plus a bunch of plenty of actors portraying even more expendable characters.

Directed By: Alex Kurtzman

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Since June 2016